Sometimes, we want something to come to fruition so badly, we push so hard it hurts us. Sometimes, even with all the pushing, the drive and the effort, we don't even get what we set out to achieve.
Why is that so?
I was brought up to think that if you work hard you can make anything happen; that if you put in the required effort, and you stay focused on your end goals, everything will happen.
When we set out to do what we want to do as artists in the entertainment business, many artists feel that they cannot let anything get in their way of achieving their desires, ambitiously keeping to their life purpose . Actually music business representatives (labels, managers, producers, etc.,) tell them they need to be like this too. Then, they take on a pit bull like determination, with a "never give up" attitude, often sacrificing personal joy. I know that many have seen me this way in my life. I'm always seen as joyous, but certainly with a determined streak! They notice my unsurpassable resolve to stride forth, take on many challenges, and make mountains out of mole hills. I've always seen myself as highly ambitious, determined and a super achiever. I remember being told by quite a few "know-it-alls" in the business that I had to "choose" what I focused on for my career. I had to be totally dedicated and committed to being a music artist, and not let anything get in the way, including personal life (that cut out relationships or having a family), or other career options. "You gotta be in it to win it," they would say.
For the last ten years, I dedicated my life, every day, to my music career. I have been extremely committed, changing continents, moving to the heart and center of the music industry, L.A, to achieve my dreams. I have conquered so many hurdles to be here, including immigration papers, making money, getting to know the right people, everything. I won't say that I "sacrificed" alternate options of life (leading a quiet life on the beach could have been one of them), but I certainly remained focused on my mission in life. True - this is always what I've wanted to do. I was never the type to do a nine to five job or marry young. For me, performing, entertaining and making albums was everything , and I took on a ruthless, "go get 'em" mentality to achieve my dreams.
I have achieved my dreams and I continue to live my dreams on a daily basis. But I have expended a lot of energy in my past that quite frankly could have been better served if I had understood my intentions more, if I was more clear on my mission. I have done a lot, tried many things, achieved much, Mostly with trial by error. But many things I did was because I didn't know what I truly wanted. I knew the overall idea, but no specifics, and I often focused on a big picture outcome (the big dream), based on some idea of commercial success that the industry has drummed into me as being the only way, rather than building blocks one step at a time on my own terms.
There are no complaints from me though. I certainly have achieved many things and continue to. But more recently I've begun to believe that it's not about the work nor the effort, and definitely not the push. It is more about intent. It is about dreaming, about thought, about visualizing and about surrendering to (and enjoying) the journey. I have learned to define success by my own terms and live more in the moment: connected to my journey as an artist.
I remember watching the movie, American Beauty, starring Kevin Spacey, where the boy next door filmed his favorite home video and he showed it to his girlfriend. The video was of a plastic bag, just a bag, floating in the wind. It drifted here, then there, and up, down and over. It drifted with ease, it was light and in his mind, the most poetic and visually pleasing subject.
Be the bag.
There is much to read into this simple, small piece. In my mind, being the bag is about surrendering to the journey. Letting the wind, and the universe, provide our path, and trusting that path. It means that the outcome, the goal, is not so important. Yes, it can be a guide, and sure, stay ambitious, but if we are attached only to our end destination, and not about the journey, then we may only be disappointed. You see, life delivers us amazing things, but the most amazing are along the way, not necessarily at the end of a long hard journey, nor should we work ourselves into the ground along the way.
I notice that the more I am in touch with my inner intention, that indefinable force that attaches to my dreams and thoughts, things come to fruition more quickly and effectively. Large efforts or hard work are certainly great personal growth processes, but not necessarily goal realizing. While it's important to have a strong work ethic on the outside, it's the work I'm doing on the inside that is really allowing me to master my Art and my life, with freedom and joy. This all comes down to the powerful word of "intention".
Whatever I focus on, whatever I give attention to, whether I want it or not, I will create. This is where is gets really awesome for artists. As we are creative more often than not, our thoughts, desires and dreams build most of what will happen artistically and opportunistically in our lives. You get what you think. So if we focus on doing a lot of "hard work", we get a lot of "hard", a lot of "work" and a lot of "hard work" back. If we focus on a positive action or creative outcome, it will occur positively. But more accurately, if we focus on something we want... and then let go of it... and surrender to the universal forces.... it will definitely occur, and with great results, because not only are you giving power to your thought, you are also allowing the universe to share the power and help realize your dreams, plus provide you more freedom to truly create what you want and who you want to be.
Remember that saying, "if you love someone, set them free". Well, this is true also for your art. If you love your art, set it free. Don't cling onto it, push it, force it. Surrender to the universe and let it be. It will feed you abundantly if you find the freedom. This all starts with intention.
Dr. Wayne W. Dyer, author of "The Power of Intention", and whom I mentioned briefly before, has dedicated a book about intention, about how to make your dreams come true, about freedom and about surrendering. His writings are one of the new approaches and philosophies that has brought me to a new attention about fulfilling lifelong dreams. Ever since I saw the movie "American Beauty", and since reading many Toltec philosophy books, some by Carlos Castenada, Dyer's books and Don Miguel Ruiz books, I have come to a better understanding about the art of "letting go" and allowing the universe to show me my true path.
Dyer, like Castenada before him, sees intent as "not something you do but a force that exists in the universe as an invisible field of energy". It means, in a nutshell, that we don't have to do anything to create intention and any action and goals following that, but instead "allow" it to happen, almost as if there is an invisible force field manifesting our dreams for us. It means connecting to our natural selves and letting go of total ego identification. Dyer expresses four steps to intention:
1. Discipline - training ourselves to perform as our thoughts desire. When our bodies are healthy and connected to our mind, the whole body can take on anything.
2. Wisdom - wisdom combined with discipline fosters our ability to focus and be patient as our thoughts, intellect and feelings work with our body.
3. Love - loving what you do and doing what you love. I have always believed that you need to be passionate about your art for it to come to fruition.
4. Surrender - my favorite part, for the exercise of this chapter: your mind and body let go of being in charge, and you move more into intent. When you surrender, you lighten up and be more in touch with your inner truth, and it will take you wherever you feel destined to go.
I am fascinated with Wayne Dyer's words and although he focuses on life development, it is equally fitting as a focus for you as an artist. I'm sure I will touch more about intention as we move forward in this book.
What is the opposite of surrendering? Clinging on. Attachment. If you are attached to the outcomes of something, so much so that you push for it, you will only meet with resistance.
So in summary, as we navigate through this book discussing all the cool ways to "just get out there", remember that it all starts with your intent, your intentions: what you really want. From there, everything is possible.
When I say "just get out there" what I really mean is "go within." Ooh, now we are really getting somewhere!