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Don’t make a plan to achieve success; plan to stumble

2013 July 25

In many narratives about successful artists or musicians, the person admits they found success by accident.

They stumbled upon it.

I’m rereading The World is Flat by Friedman. Halfway through the book, Friedman describes the story of Bill Greer, a freelance graphic designer with 30 years experience, whose job changed because of technology.

The emergence of Photoshop and Illustrator made his design work competition increase, and the pay decrease. So Greer adapted. He learned new design software, and stumbled upon brand new types of work, one design style coincidentally called “morphing. “

We hear this theme a lot: Technology advances can make high paying work a low-paying commodity; and we must adapt to find the new markets of upper end, specialized work that will appear.

But I want to emphasize this: We often find those new markets by accident.

Greer admits the new work he does in design now wasn’t found intentionally. “I was just available for the work and got lucky,” he says. (Friedman 299)

This story happened to cover bands in the music business.

Cover bands could make a livable wage in the 70s, 80s, and early 90s playing top-40 songs in bars. Nowadays, some cover gigs for bands are available, but usually pay half of what they used to pay.  DJs have taken that market. Story over.

But new markets are emerging for musicians that never existed: teaching guitar lessons online; offering specialized training on Protools; voice-over work; Stage-it concerts; Kickstarter campaigns for unique, endeavors, tribute acts for cult bands.

The point is we often need to trust that our adapting, our constant learning, our continual exploration in our craft, will lead us to the new markets.

A symbol for adapting, found in Kensington Market, Toronto.


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