Best Career Advice That Nobody In Music Takes Seriously

4While much of the advice that is dispensed to those looking to develop their music industry career emphasizes the importance of the hustle and maintaining forward momentum at all times, but new evidence is emerging that such a mentality is actually harmful to artist's mental and physical health.


Guest post by James Shotwell of Haulix

The best advice for avoiding burnout and developing your career requires the least amount of work.

We live in the ‘motivation age.’ Whether it be in books, on podcasts, or plastered throughout social media, there is no shortage of people shouting into the void about maintaining forward momentum. They tell us to sleep eight hours a night, exercise daily, eat clean, and hustle — always hustle. 

Want to get your dream job? Hustle. Want to get ahead in your career after landing that great gig? Hustle. Want to have a spouse and a family? Well, you better hustle so hard that you can afford the time away from hustling required to do all those goals that have nothing to do with work.

If you’re working in entertainment today, you have probably spent a Saturday morning or Sunday evening checking emails when you should have been doing something with family and friends. You have likely worked ten or twelve-hour days when you’re only required to do eight. You have chased the approval of superiors to a fault because you fear something bad will happen if you take even one day for yourself. 

I have been this person more times than I would like to admit. My partner has been this way, too. We are always struggling to balance work and life outside of work. More often than not, work takes priority.

There is a growing body of scientific evidence that tells us such thinking is bad for our mental and physical health. You can push your brain pretty far, but eventually, your brain starts to push back. The creativity that once flowed like water becomes a slow drip. The spreadsheets that once felt straightforward suddenly feel complicated. What is easy feels exhaustingly difficult.

“There is a lot of research that says we have a limited pool of cognitive resources,” says Allison Gabriel, an assistant professor of management at Virginia Commonwealth University who studies job demands and employee motivation. “When you are constantly draining your resources, you are not being as productive as you can be. If you get depleted, we see performance decline. You’re able to persist less and have trouble solving tasks.”

The law of diminishing returns is a phrase used to refer to a point at which the level of profits or benefits gained is less than the amount of money or energy invested. All humans have this point, and most of us are doing all the wrong things to increase the longevity of our productivity. We do more and more when we should be doing less. We fear asking for time off because we feel to do so is admitting weakness. We tell ourselves we are undeserving of rest because there is more to be done.

Everyone’s story is different. The vacation time afforded to one person may be far greater or less than the next. Whatever your case happens to be, use these steps to get ahead by getting away:

Experience life outside work:

When Scooter Ward of the rock band Cold finished his last album cycle, the legendary musician had the opportunity to record something new. Ward chose instead to take some time to experience life. In an interview on the Inside Music Podcast he explained his decision by recognizing the role everyday life plays in creative pursuits. “My music is inspired by what is happening in my life. You can grind it out on the road or in the studio nonstop, but eventually, all you’re doing is writing music for other musicians stuck in that situation.”

Sometimes people lose sight of why we work. You don’t have a job because it’s the cool thing to do. Careers can be exciting, but they are not (usually) the main source of joy in our lives. People work so that they can afford to spend time with friends, care for a family, and travel the world. Living life without feeling tethered to work is key to our longterm happiness. Don’t lose sight of what really matters.

Take a vacation.

You do not need to visit another country or spend a ton of money to take a vacation. For some, vacations take place in the homes they otherwise never see because they are working around the clock. Others may use time off to try new hobbies. Find what fits your budget, set an away message on emails, and do your best to do as little as possible that puts a strain on your brain.

Set boundaries with your job by setting aside at least one day or evening a week that is work-free. 

The wheels of business never stop turning, but you should. You are legally afforded time off.  However, it is on you to take full advantage of that allowance. If you do not draw a line with work it will follow you everywhere you go. You should be able to eat dinner without keeping your phone on the table. You should be able to wake up and not immediately check your emails. You have to separate your life from your career because, in time, the job will pass and the business will roll on without you. When that day comes, what will you have left? Will there be people in your life? Animals? Will you have an existence that continues without the tether of work or will you have given your precious time on this planet to help someone make more money?

Take short play breaks during the week.

Sometimes the break your brain needs does not require time off or hours away from your work. Sometimes all you need is five minutes to grab a cup of coffee without checking your phone or go one a walk. If you want to check your social media or play a mobile game, that’s fine too. Take a few moments to yourself whenever you feel brain strain setting in and you will be amazed at how fast you recover.

If you don’t feel like you can take five minutes to do something without checking your work emails or answering a text, please reconsider the boundaries you have set at work. There are very few jobs where every message is a life or death scenario that needs immediate attention. I’m not encouraging you to slack off, but you have to take care of yourself.

Take naps

Finding time to rest in the middle of the day is harder for some than others, but it is a worthwhile affair for all. Carve out time when you’re working through the weekend to decompress on your couch or in your bed. Take thirty minutes to rest and recover. Your body will thank you.

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.

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1 Comment

  1. I love everything about this article. It’s easy to forget that a dream job is still very much a job. Further, creative work often requires more rest to replenish resources for optimal performance. So often I hear of a kind of guilt and fear that it will all fall away if one isn’t hustling constantly. This article is important reminder that self-care preserves your mental wellbeing and often your creative work as well.

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