by Brian Allen
One of the most obvious characteristics separating the successful and the unsuccessful is perspective – how they see the world and their place in it. I have been very fortunate throughout my career to observe success and failure at close range. The majority of successful artists seem to be very aware of their contextual place in the industry, respect how much effort it took to achieve their level and are very mindful of the effort it will take to stay there. They constantly audit themselves and are very diligent with reality checks, using an ambitiously high set of standards to measure themselves. You won’t hear many of the most successful artists say “that’s good enough”. A surprising contingent of high achievers is also very respectful of the efforts of other successful artists, and you will seldom hear them express anything other than praise and appreciation for others.
Conversely, the vast majority of losers seem to find it easy to be critical of successful artists, and very critical of those who do not support them. We’ve all been exposed to this set of behaviours. I find it amazing and ironic that so many people at the bottom seem to find it so easy to look down on others above them. It’s almost a contradiction of physics! We have all witnessed the emotional outburst from the rejected Idol contender – the accusations that the judges are dead wrong and the insistence that the reject has talents that no one is smart enough to see. Bizarre scene? Nope. Familiar… very familiar – to us all. We are looking at ourselves when we witness this commitment to a flawed perspective, because we’ve all been wrong at one point or another and guess what – we’ll be wrong again. Even the most successful songwriters have a near bottomless bin of songs that didn’t work. One the most beautiful things about the entertainment business is: failure, by its very nature, is largely invisible. We hardly hear about the artists and songs that don’t work because they don’t get supported by industrial and popular momentum. However, there is boundless growth potential in processing our flaws properly.
Interestingly, it has been suggested by more than one author of a self-help book that one should evaluate one’s circle of regular social contacts by categorizing each person as either dominantly positive or negative. Then, the suggestion is to dump the negatives and increase interaction with the positives. One author goes so far as to suggest that if you wish to be a millionaire, you should be hanging out with more millionaires. The big picture message in all of that is “maintain a positive growth perspective”.
So, let’s summarize – the majority of successful artists find it easy to look up to others, and the majority of losers seem to spend more time looking down on others. So, if you were trying to climb a ladder successfully, which way should you be looking?