Why are you pursuing a career in music? What do you value? What gives you energy — and infuses your life with purpose and meaning?
These are big questions. If you don't have the answers — you're not alone. It can take a lifetime to discover your why. But just asking these questions can be immensely helpful on your journey as a singer.
In this blog post, you'll discover why it's important to have an inner compass, and how it can help your singing career. You’ll also learn how to find your North Star.
Purpose and Meaning: For the Sake of What?
Doug Silsbee, the founder of Presence Based Coaching and one of my favorite teachers, writes about the importance of figuring out your why:
"The question, "For the sake of what?”, lives constantly in us, whether we pay attention to it or not. Most often, we do not. We forget to ask the question and get so wrapped up in activity that we don't remember why we're doing something in the first place.
Purpose is within us rather than something "out there" to be pursued. It's as if we had an inner compass needle that allows us to orient ourselves and set a course in life. When our inner compass needle is aligned, we act in purposeful, directed, energized ways.
— Doug Silsbee
Aligning your inner compass:
It took a long time for me to develop my inner compass. If I had known what mattered most earlier in my career, it would have been easier to decide what direction to go in when I reached a crossroad. Your north star can help you answer the questions that come up in a singer’s life: Is this project right for me? What’s the most important thing for me to focus on right now? How do I respond to this request? I’m a mother now. How do I create a life that supports both my child and my singing? Am I ready to make the leap from my day job to a full-time singing career?
Clarity around your why can help you to:
Reorient yourself when you lose your way.
Figure out what is the most important thing to do in the present moment.
Respond to requests knowing that your answer is grounded in your own sense of direction and purpose, rather than out of a fear of missing out.
Make important decisions in your life and career that are in alignment with your values.
Your why can also help you with routine, everyday aspects of being a musician and solopreneur. Practice sessions become more powerful and productive, and your branding, social media, and P.R. will resonate more clearly and authentically.
The Journey from What to Why
My search for why began when I watched Simon Sinek’s TED Talk, "Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Action."
I highly recommend you watch Simon. His phrase, "People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it," might sound like something that only big companies are interested in. But as a singer, musician and artist — it's totally applicable. Not only are you your own business, but people are drawn to you because of how you make them feel. This is the why behind the music you make.
Do you play music because you value freedom from convention? Do you value experimental forms of performance art, stripped-down instrumentation, and a driving, uptempo beat that moves bodies on the dance floor? Or do you value story-telling in your lyrics, three-part harmonies and acoustic instruments that move people emotionally and keep them glued to their seats listening to every note and word?
When people ask “What do you do?” and you reply that you're a punk musician or an acoustic singer-songwriter — what does that tell them? It tells them what you do.
But, if you're a punk musician and love blasting the status quo to smithereens, then that’s your why. If you’re a singer-songwriter and you live to take people on an intimate journey through words and imagery, then that’s your why. If you filter everything you create through your why — images, website copy, the way you show up on social-media, and how you answer the age-old question, “What do you do?” — those who value the same things will be drawn to you, and potentially become lifelong fans.
Do you feel resistance to clarifying your why? That's OK. Asking yourself questions about what you value and what motivates you can take you into murky territory. Putting feelings into words is not an easy task.
But I'd like to encourage you to try.
Because the journey of a musician is challenging. When you lose your way in the crush of the day-to-day stuff or when all the work you're doing to "make it" seems futile, it helps to remember why you're doing it all in the first place.
When you know what infuses your life with purpose, heart, and meaning, the path to "making it" in music becomes a different kind of journey — one that gives voice to who you are, and who you would like to become.
Finding Your North Star
Ready to explore your why? I've created a discovery-sheet just for singers to help you get started. Just click on the button below.
As always, I appreciate your feedback. Please let me know what you think in the comments section below. And if you know a singer who would be interested in this post, please share. Thanks!