How do you know if you'll get better?

Times are tough. Sometimes, it has nothing to do with the times - it's me. It's my own private struggle.

Like right now. My business, my school, has been growing at a good clip for the past couple of years, but each phase of growth brings new challenges. There have been so many times when it felt like I couldn't keep going, that it wasn't worth it. Now is one of those times.

In my former studio at Virginia-Highland Church, January 2007Every time I've come to what seemed like a dead end, I decided to keep on pushing through. It's been painful, grueling, exhilarating, and I still can't say whether it's been worth it. I still don't know how it will turn out. I do know that I'm learning a lot, and that every time I think I can't work harder than I'm already working, I discover grimly that it is possible.

This business experience definitely parallels my musical experience. A student recently asked me, "How do I know if I'll improve?" He was working on songwriting. I had told him, "keep writing songs, and eventually you'll write good ones."

"But how can I be sure my songs will actually get better?"

"That's a very good question," I said. "But, I mean, how can you not get better? You're working so hard on this in a focused way. It's inevitable that you'll succeed."

I pointed out to him that by coming to a music lesson each week, he is opening himself up to input from another person. Without that input, his songs might stay the same, but being open to the influence of an outside perspective will allow his work to change and progress.

I do the same in my career - I consult with trusted advisors (of which I'm fortunate to have many), read The Dip and other brilliant books over and over again, and listen a little harder to what my business is telling me. And I keep going.

Be open to the wisdom of others, and keep at it. You can't help but get better, in music and in life.

As for me: I'm going to continue pushing through my discouragement, fear, resentment, and confusion. I'll follow some good advice and visualize a desirable outcome for myself. A better existence is in my crosshairs, and I do have the tools to get there. I'll let you know how it goes.