This Is Not The Work: Confessions of a Former Lifehacker


Being a professional musician is fun, but it’s also a lot of hard work. But what does that work look like?

For a long time, I’ve been confused on what the work is. I thought I knew what it was. The problem is, a lot of things feel like the work. They feel like they’re the important thing, but they’re not.

Reading Tips Is Not The Work

Put a title like “The 8 Productivity Tips That The World’s Most Effecient People Do” on an article and I would have to read it. I have to know what the 8 tips are! Maybe I’m doing everything in my life wrong! Maybe there’s a better way! I can’t tell you how much time I’ve wasted reading through in search of the ultimate tip.

Apps Are Not The Work

I’ve spent countless hours searching through the iPhone app store, looking at productivity apps, downloading them, spending a lot of time setting them up, wondering, “is this the app I’ve been looking for? Maybe this is the one! Maybe this time I’ll finally get organized!” only to delete it in disappointment a week later. In the meantime, I’ve wasted $1.99 and 3 hours setting it up.

The search for the ULTIMATE productivity method, process, hack, tip, or app, is like an unquenchable thirst. The more productivity tips I read, the more processes I try, the more I wonder, “is this it? Am I doing it? Am I the most productive I can be? Or is there something else out there that I haven’t tried yet?”

Productivity Is Not The Work

The productivity process is not the work. For a long time it has distracted me from the work, and ironically, made me less productive. My obsession with finding the BEST and most efficient way to do work has made me do less, not more. I get too distracted by the process of doing the work to actually do the work itself.

Other People’s Approval Is Not The Work

Another thing that I confuse for the work is other people’s reaction to the work. A great example of this is posting a video or picture on social media, and then spending the rest of the day checking likes, retweets, and comments. This then dictates how I feel about myself and my career for the rest of the day. Do you need to be engaged on social media? Sure, but I have a tendency to think that the social media is the work. It’s not. It’s a tool.

This Blog Is Not The Work

If you’re searching for the ultimate tip, the best hack, the silver bullet of how to make it as a professional musician… you won’t find that here. Because there isn’t one. This blog is not your work.

Sure, I try to be as helpful as possible and truly hope that you get a lot out of this blog, podcast, and This is How We Do It, but there’s no magic hack. Just the work. You just have to keep going, keep your head down in your work, and keep moving forward.

What Is The Work?

All of these things are not the work. Here’s how to find what the work is. It’s usually:

  1. Passive: it’s not something that is immediately demanding your attention.
  2. Hard: takes a lot of time, energy, effort, or willpower to do.
  3. The thing you have to do: you know deep down that this is the thing you need to be spending your time on.

Even though I often confuse the work, I can point to several points in my life where I’ve kept my head down in the work and have just kept doing it. No obsessing over the process. No looking over my shoulder, desperately searching for other people’s approval. Just me, sitting down and focusing on learning songs, or working on having great time and great feel, or learning how to be a better player or a better teacher. Working on how to be as professional as possible. Doing the hard, passive stuff that I know I need to do.

(And then I probably browsed lifehacker for an hour after that.)

For you, maybe it’s songwriting, working on your feel, soloing, composing, getting your music software chops up, or something else entirely.

Regardless, the work isn’t glamorous. It’s not easy, and it’s not instagrammable. It’s boring, long, tedious, and the most important thing you can do.

Go Do The Work

Go focus on becoming the best professional musician you can possibly be. It’ll look slightly different for each person, but that’s the work. Keep your focus on your work, and do a damn good job. Make stuff that you can point to and be proud of.

“There are no shortcuts to any place worth going”

- Beverly Sills

Along with that, yeah go network and be good to people. Build a website for yourself. Use social media to connect with other musicians. These are all tools you can use to help your work, but don’t confuse them for the work itself.

Tools don’t build things. People do.

Instruments don’t make music. You do.

So close this window, log out of facebook, and go do the work.