Staying Tough & Moving Sideways

If we are lucky, both our careers and ourselves will change and grow for the better. Life has a funny way of evolving and taking us on a different path than we might have ever expected. When I reflect on the dreams I had as a teenager, for example, there have been some that were smashed and excitedly crossed off the bucket list, and others that teenage me could never have foreseen from a reminiscent time of analogue study and scoring notation by pencil.

Working in most industries, but particularly music comes with its share of setbacks and rejection as par for the course, and we learn early on to be thick-skinned and roll with the punches. Some years I’ve been fulfilling my teenage and adult dreams, whilst others I’ve felt like I have been starring in a low-budget female remake of ‘Withnail & I.’ Jobs, people and projects come and go naturally, and stagnation is a dirty word. But what do we do when making a change feels like it’s out of our hands, and has been forced upon us?


Through a very dark, frustrating and seemingly endless limbo period of fruitless auditions and interviews following illness, injury and the subsequent closure of my business, I lacked an obvious answer to the question of what to do next. During this time, I was aware of a steady stream of media that kept bombarding me online, on TV and radio about Rick Allen, drummer of Def Leppard. Here was a man who overcame the most unthinkable adversity losing his left arm in an accident aged just 21, who personified the qualities of strength, adaptability and creativity to find a solution and continue working as a drummer in a mere matter of weeks following his hospital release, and become even more successful in the years that followed.

We can gain both perspective and a reminder that things are not as hopeless as they seem when we look at the success stories of inspirational people such as Allen and can resolve to model the qualities they possess in attitude and action.

Aristotle’s Golden Mean is a theory relating to character and discipline of the mind that highlights a need for balance in whatever we strive for. We all have needs to be met as individuals that will be relative to each of us. Aristotle proposed that equilibrium in our actions and reactions was the path to virtue and that this is found on a sliding scale between two vices, e.g., between cowardice and foolhardiness. Similarly, ‘The Middle Way’ is a Buddhist practice of ‘non-extremism that leads to liberation,’ an ideal of ‘bravely confronting life’s challenges by identifying the root causes and seeking means of resolution while summoning the transformative strength and wisdom of Buddhahood from within one’s life to create harmony.’ Put very simply; these ideals remind us of the importance of knowing when to yield and when to take action, learning to accept the things we cannot change and change the things we cannot accept.

They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and so it’s up to us to find comfort and a Plan B that feels right, and sometimes we must move sideways to move forward. In reality, then, we must embrace change in whatever form when it befalls us, and look at what existing skills we have that can be improved, honed and adapted to work for our futures.

Often a different area of expertise is not a million miles away, however much it may feel so whilst in the midst of watching a previous life crumble. The difficulty can be figuring out exactly what we do next, as we embark on the uncertain tightrope of virtuous equilibrium, shakily imitating the monks, great minds and super-humans who’ve gone before us.

Business gurus and industry experts are unanimous that research/asking for guidance is one of the most important parts of building anew. Had Rick Allen not asked for help from his friend involved with an electronics business, his bespoke adapted drum kit may never have come into being, and the story may have been a very different one. Chances are, there’s a plethora of friends, colleagues, and acquaintances from previous work that are an untapped potential of alliances sitting in your smartphone right now.  Set up that meeting to pick their brains over coffee, start shadowing and get informed – this is as useful for finding what doesn’t work as much as what does, and often chatting through ideas and experiences will be invaluable to planning your next move.

The second point of monophony from experts is that great things sometimes take time. There’s no shame in taking a break to work behind the scenes making things happen, whether that be retraining or attaining the funds and proficiency to set up a new business model. Nobody wants to launch a sub-standard product or service, so the cliché of building on a solid foundation rings true, and the world can wait until all the kinks have been ironed out, and the new venture is a strong one.

Ultimately, the only thing we can control in life our thoughts, so it is important to take inspiration and learn from those who have examined the parameters of happiness and our human potential. Unexpected changes are inevitable for us all at some point. With a hopeful mindset, a balanced attitude and the determination to work towards a clear, well-planned goal, alchemy can and does happen.




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