The Self-Made Musician: Fact or Fiction?

What happens for you when you hear about a “self-made” success story?

You’ve probably heard stories of legendary musicians, educators, business people, leaders, entertainers, authors, and others who “pulled themselves up by the bootstraps” and then “took the world by storm.” Do you wonder when or how that could ever happen to you? Or do you end up feeling confused and even discouraged?

And how true are those stories, anyway? How realistic is it to reach a level of success without help and support?

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D., CT), in his address to the 2012 graduating class of the University of Hartford, bashed the idea of the “self-made” man or woman, stating that “we all stand on the shoulders of others.”

Author and leadership advisor, Mike Myatt, does the same in a piece published in Forbes in November, 2011. He bases the “self-made” theory on pride, ego and arrogance, as well as insecurity and ignorance. He points to myriad ways in which successful people have been helped and supported by the “significant investments and contributions of…family, friends, associates, protagonists, antagonists, advisors, teachers, authors, mentors, coaches.”

More interesting, however, is Myatt’s take on what makes a person easy vs. difficult to help. While his examples and comparisons refer to successful business people, they are easy to relate to musicians and those coming up the pipeline.

Myatt offers five suggestions for showing up as receptive to the kind of support that will facilitate success:

  • Don’t be a jerk — he says that “nice guys and gals do in fact finish first.”
  • Give credit where credit is due.
  • Go out of your way to help others — this breeds good karma!
  • Know what you want and focus your efforts to that end.
  • Make your goals known to those who can help you.

Prospective and current music majors: What do you need to change in order to be the person others will want to assist as you reach toward your goals?

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