Goal setting, and how to keep going when everything seems shit

Tonight I watched a new podcast and live stream, by my friends Nicholas and Bobby. I've known both these guys for quite a few years, followed them through several bands they've been in and supported them as a fan, as well as being part of Down For Life Music, their management team in their current band Our Hollow, Our Home. They've experienced all of the trials and tribulations that come with being in a growing band - and that's not just about writing and playing music, it's also about developing and improving as musicians, as well as a whole host of other things like marketing and organisation, managing finances, juggling real life and relationships and work, and the list goes on and on. 

So in the live stream they talked about goal setting, and yes, went off on many tangents, as is the way when you're talking about something that links in so many ways to other things you also do, but the main message was about how to set your own goals - not to look at others' and try to follow theirs, and to not give up. Consistent learning is the key. Choose your goal, reverse engineer the way there,  write out those steps and follow the map. Which makes so much sense. Nick also talked about inevitably hitting walls and failing, and using that failure as a positive step towards learning how to not fail at that particular thing again. That failure is essentially a necessary step to learning and success. To not give up because of a failure but to use it to make you stronger (and wiser) and to keep pushing. Because ultimately unless you do this all you've achieved is to fail.   

See that part particularly resonated quite soundly with me. As a creative working in a specific area of music, and the scene that I'm part of, I can relate almost exactly to the path musicians/bands (and other creatives) need to take. The obstacles and learning curves are similar in so many ways. There have been multiple occasions in my career as a photographer where I've definitely felt like I've hit a brick wall, or like I've failed, and just wanted to say 'fuck it' and give it all up. Perhaps it's been part stubbornness, or the fact that when I'm happy and things are going right it's the best feeling in the world and THAT'S what I live for, or that thankfully there are people around me who do believe in me...sometimes more than I've believed in myself..and helped pick me up, I don't know...but each time I've pushed through. A bit wiser, and hopefully somehow a bit better at my job. 

Currently I'm going through a bit of a tough time. One of THOSE times. It's not something I've openly talked about til now, but it feels so familiar. Work is slow, the competition is rife, finding motivation is difficult and I'm questioning a lot of things. The brick wall has been looming for a long while now, making me feel quite rubbish really. I don't doubt my abilities though. I know I'm capable. Some times it's just difficult to see the goal with obstacles in the way. So do I change the goal? It's not an idea I'm adverse to to be fair. I've been a published photographer for 13 years, and ticked off way more bucket list items than I ever even imagined I'd have all those years ago standing in my local venue with a shitty digital camera, taking photos as a means to get into gigs for free. Sure, I have a few 'aspirations' left, but honestly I can live with never achieving those. I think.

I've consistently insisted that I care little about photography because it's the music that inspires and drives me...and I KNOW that's a weird thing for an established and accomplished photographer to say...but the truth is that I do love photography. I'm sorry for lying about that. I will never tire of the amazing way it makes me feel to be standing with my camera, soaking up that incredible atmosphere that just can't be replicated anywhere else for me, in a venue in front of a band who plays music that I fucking love. Or to be asked to shoot portraits of musicians I admire. Or not really knowing exactly how a video I've planned and shot is going to truly turn out until I sit in front of my pc and actually edit it. Having to teach myself how to edit visual content or create new grading presets. I love it all. I love meeting people, getting to hear new music first, seeing my photos appear in editorial pieces and on cd artwork and tour posters and merchandise. I love hanging out backstage at shows, and hearing music news first hand. I love festival wristbands that say 'press' or 'artist' on them. Being there during soundchecks. Going to band practice. I love travelling to shows in vans with guys restringing their guitars and the banter, carrying gear into venues, picking up knocked over mics mid set or sitting on bass drums that won't sit still whilst the headlining band's drummer is bashing seven bails of shit out of the kit as 300 people are crashing around at their show. (Yep, that actually happened). 

Basically I'd really REALLY bloody miss it if I hung up my camera. But there are lots of other things that I could do that would feed my hunger for everything 'music'. I already can and do most of them. I manage bands I like a lot and believe in, I help organise music events, tour and stage manage, run street teams, support bands with marketing and PR, pass on knowledge and experience offering advice, create social media assets, design tour posters and cd artwork, write press releases and artist bios, create and manage websites and manage social media pages. It turns out that you learn a lot of useful skills over a 13 year period of, well.. observation. And from just jumping right in and doing something for the first time based on your head telling you you can do it if you try. The biggest problem though is that the majority of the extra-curricular music things I lend my hand to I don't really, or rarely, get paid to do. Which sucks a bit as I'm pretty awesome at all of them.

So to get back to the goal setting. I've been sitting here thinking about goals, and trying to remember when I first set myself any. Early on in my career my goals were more like a wish list - things like getting photo access to shoot bigger bands, to go to a festival as an accredited photographer and to get a photo published in a magazine.  These all happened pretty swiftly as it turned out, and the ones after that, and after that, so my 'goals' were constantly changing. And there were a heck of a lot to choose from. I never had a plan though really, most of the goals I had weren't at the time viewed by me as goals ...more like things I just really wanted to happen...although perhaps it's the same thing... seemingly achieved by as much a mixture of chance and opportunity as hard work. I think maybe the time is right to stop relying on and waiting for chance, and to actually start consciously setting myself some proper goals. My absolute dream job would be to travel the world as a tour manager, or to work full time as an event organiser. That can happen, right? Believe in yourself. Plan it out. Achieve your goals.