Screw The Finish Line

Keep Going
From the March 17th, 2017 issue of The Load In:

In 2007, I ran the LA marathon. Yes, really. Me. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. A marathon is 26.2 miles. I had trained up to 20. They tell you that the first half of the race is the first 20 miles, and the real challenge begins after that. It’s only 6.2 miles, but it feels running another 30. That’s what they say anyway. I wasn’t really buying it. I mean, I knew it would be hard, but how could 6.2 miles feel like 20?

During the race, I felt pretty good. I was pacing well, staying hydrated, and feeling pretty good. When I reached mile 20 it was amazing. My Dad was there waiting to root me on, my friends cheered as I ran past, people are handing you food and water, and I ran through the “Target Motivational Tunnel.”

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It’s basically a big tunnel that sprays mist on your while blasting Lenny Kravitz. It was amazing.

Then as soon as mile 21 hit, everything disappeared.

There were no people cheering, no friends and family, and no Lenny Kravitz. Instead you’re surrounded by concrete, chain link fences, and a view of the LA river.

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I honestly felt like I was in the chase scene from Terminator 2, but one where you’re more exhausted.

It was the most discouraging thing. Those last few miles were the hardest thing I’ve ever done. The only thing that kept me going was knowing that the finish line was coming up. I eventually (very slowly) made it to the finish line and completed the race.

But imagine if right when I hit the finish line, they moved it back another mile.

And then when I hit that finish line, they moved it again. I would probably tough it out the first couple of times, but after a while I would give up. It’s too frustrating and discouraging to keep going.

If you want a career as a freelance musician, your finish line is ambiguous. Once you get to where you think the finish line is, it seems to have moved. You thought that when you played with that one musician or played on the Jimmy Kimmel show that THEN you’d be set. Your career would feel real. But once you got there, you felt… the same. The finish line wasn’t there after all.

This is frustrating when it happens once, but when happens over and over and over again, it can be exhausting and discouraging. When will you finally get there? Will you ever get there?

Certainly not if you're trying to RUN IN A TUX WHILE PLAYING. Freaking moron. 

Certainly not if you’re trying to RUN IN A TUX WHILE PLAYING. Freaking moron.

If you’re going to have any sort of lasting career, you’ve got to change your mindset. There’s two things I’ve learned through these frustrating experiences.

  1. With your freelance career, there’s never a feeling of arrival. This is something I’ve talked to many other musicians about and they agree. You don’t realize you’re doing it until you’re in the middle of it and go, “yeah, I guess I’m doing it”
  2. Screw the idea of the finish line. Your career as a musician isn’t a race. But you are just continually running.

You know how many other races I’ve run after the 2007 LA Marathon?

Zero. Cuz I hate running. I was running that race just to get to the finish line.

If you want a lasting career as a musician, fall in love with the work of being a musician, not the finish line.