I Have a Wait Problem, or What To Do ‘Til Your Ship Comes In

Summary: What you do while you’re waiting to make it big will dramatically effect your success later on.

I know a wonderful musician who recently vented his frustration about having yet made it big in the music biz. He is extremely talented. His band has a good following. And he’s always true to himself and his music.

Logically speaking, it is only a matter of time before his ship comes in.

Unfortunately, this logic is shaped by the very reality shows that fuel his frustrations. Modern media have implied that all one needs to make it big is that “one big break,” and that break comes instantly and is irrespective of talent and skill.  After all, if Kim Kardashian can make it big, so too can I. Right?

Sort of.

The thing is that the breaks reality shows offer are like the lottery. They take that one special person and hold them up as the rule, when in fact they are the exception. After all, if your state lottery gives away countless millions of dollars every month, year, etc. and still turns a profit, then a lot of people must not be winning that lottery. Correct?

Still, that does not change the fact that anyone who plays has a chance of winning.

That leads to us to our first question:

1. Are Your Participating?

You can’t win if you don’t play- and, by extension, if you don’t play you can’t complain about not winning, unless you hope to finding the winning lottery ticket in a gutter somewhere Willy Wonka-style.

There are far too many artists hoping to make it big even though they haven’t composed a single script, book, CD, painting, etc. In 99.9% of cases, people don’t just come to you and say, “Gee. Are you an artist? I was wondering because I’m looking for an artist to give money too.” You have to have something to show if you want to get the dough.

Even the contest winners on those reality shows aren’t just given money. Within the context of the contest, they have to earn it. Yes, William Hung made it to the first round of American Idol, but he did not take home the grand prize that year. (Yes, he made a cover CD that faired decently well on the charts, and I’ll yield that point to you. But I digress…) The winner, Fantasia Barrino, was ruled by a panel of judges as having professional grade- or at least, marketable- skills, and went on to find success as a recording artist. The proof was in the pudding, not just the packaging.

Now, you may say, well what about people like Kim Kardashian or Paris Hilton? What did they do to deserve fame and fortune?

Well, for one, I hear tell that Ms. Kardashian is quite the businesswoman in her own right. She puts a lot of effort into keeping herself relevant and in the public eye. What is more: she had good fortune of being born into fame and becoming fast friends with famous people. Her father was OJ Simpson’s defense attorney, she is friends with Paris Hilton, and she has had a series of high profile relationships, such the one with her husband, Kanye West.

It all goes back to the old adage, “it’s not what you know, but who.”

2. Who Do You Know?  

Everyone knows somebody. That fact is most properly illustrated by the game, “Seven Degrees From Kevin Bacon.” (A game where you try your best to find seven people you know, through personal or business ties, to connect yourself to actor, Kevin Bacon.) Now, even if you don’t know anybody famous, you probably know people of influence. They can either be in charge of a store, a venue, a skill set, something that connects you with the community at large.

Even you have to volunteer your skills or do favors to win that person over, it would be a wise idea to do it. Don’t use people, and don’t let yourself be used either. Still, it is common practice to give of yourself to get ahead. I hear stories, for example, of aspiring chefs who work grueling hours at top restaurant for free just to gain the experience that will open doors for them later on.

Once you have established yourself as a competent voice in whatever skill set you possess, it is easier for people to trust you enough to pay you for it- or to refer you to someone who could pay you for it.

Important note: References are both valuable and extremely delicate. They are hard to come by, because they require trust; and, if you break that trust, you embarrass both yourself and the one who gave the referral. However, without that referral, it is hard to get ahead. So, treat any referrals you do get with thankfulness, assertiveness*, and respect.

*Remember that some opportunities are limited time offers, so be sure not to wait to long to follow up with them, lest you seem ungrateful, unwilling, or too slow to compete.

All that said, even if you have the skills and the people necessary to go big, there will still be times where business lags. Life is all about highs and lows. How you manage those lows says a lot about you, your character, and your future in the industry.

Which leads us to the final question…

3. Do You Use Your Downtime Wisely?

Many people usually fall into two traps when it comes to this area: 1. Underachievement or 2. Overachievement.

Some people waste downtime like it was trash. When you could be using time to research market trends, new techniques, or brushing up on fundamentals, you’re off playing video games or spending your hard-earned cash.

There is a great line in Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, concerning waiting:

Molly Mahoney: …Now we wait.

Mr. Edward Magorium: No. We breathe. We pulse. We regenerate. Our hearts beat. Our minds create. Our souls ingest. 37 seconds, well used, is a lifetime.

So, make the most of the time given, even if it does not seem like much.

Conversely, others spend their downtime with worry and wheel-spinning. They never shut off, and their overdrive drives them and those around them crazy. My suggestion is to devote the necessary time to perfecting your skill, do research, and expand your reach, and then give yourself a reward by sleeping, meditating, eating a tasty snack, having a little goof-off time, whatever you want.

You never know what storm lies ahead, so stay alert and stay energized for the days to come.

It’s all about balance and initiative. Even when you do make it big, keep these principles in mind. You are a multi-dimensional creature. You have financial, physical, social, emotional, and spiritual needs. You would do well to make sure all of those needs do not go neglected. After all, the body can take a certain amount of deprivation, but too much of it will take its toll before long.

Thank you for listening. May it serve you well in fulfilling all your wildest dreams.

Blessings to you in Christ,





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