The Key to Success is Failure

One of my favorite mantras, which can and should be applied to an indie musician’s music pursuits, is “Fail Faster“. I came across this idea in a book by Robert Kiyosaki, the well-known author of Rich Dad Poor Dad. In his book “Before You Quit Your Job” he explains that starting a business entails doing a lot of things wrong and learning from your mistakes along the way. Given that mistakes are an intrinsic part of the growth process, the faster you make mistakes, the more quickly you will find the correct path to success.

The idea of “failing faster” has direct implications for the indie musician, who is in effect starting a small business:

  • Get used to rejection, and develop a thicker skin
  • Learn which songs move people and which ones fall flat
  • Improve your skills as a musician and performer faster
  • Get quick feedback on how well your marketing efforts are going

To me, the most important promise of “failing faster” is that you will get used to rejection and develop a thicker skin. It’s often said that the most persistent, not the most talented, succeeds. The music industry is proof of this: how many mediocre bands do you see selling music and getting gigs, while you sit in your basement refining your masterpiece tracks, which a total of one person will hear?

It’s hard to be persistent in the face of criticism and indifference, but the better you can adapt to these, the better shot you have. For me personally, I have at times been way too afraid of people’s reactions, and thus avoided performance situations and telling people about my music. The more I accept that there will be poor performances, under-attended gigs, and a lot of rejection, the easier it is to handle. And when it doesn’t hurt so bad, the more energy I will put into finding success.

Some artists seem born this way: I can’t imagine Axl Rose or Shakira, for example, ever feeling less than 100% confident in what they do. Perhaps their strong personalities were what carried them to the limelight. For the rest of it, it’s trial and error, building our resistance to rejection.