Gardening is one of my favorite non-musical pastimes. I love being outside and getting my hands in the dirt. Time in the garden is also time to free my mind and very often, to find the solutions that have been eluding me. As a songwriter, I find working in the garden to be a magical cure for writer’s block! Many of the guiding principles I apply to building and growing my musical career – and the career’s of other singers and musicians – come from what I’ve learned working in my garden (and vice versa!)
So grab a cool drink, sit back, relax and get ready to ride the metaphor train!
7 Career Building Principles I Learned From Gardening
1. Gardens take time
This one is courtesy of my Mom.
Creating a beautiful, lasting garden takes many things including: a creative eye, an understanding of plants and soil, proper maintenance and hard work. More than almost anything else though, creating a garden takes time. It’s not a one-day or even a one-season project, but rather an ongoing labor of love that needs to be worked on bit by bit, everyday. A garden will grow, evolve and change over time (sometimes in surprising ways) and if you do it right, those plants and flowers will be there for years to come. If you ever feel overwhelmed or discouraged with your singing career, take a deep breath and know that sometimes, what’s really needed is just a bit more time.
2. A little planning saves a LOT of work later
My Dad is really big on planning out his gardens. Whenever he is putting in a new garden (or an area of a garden) he draws it out first. This gives him an idea of which plants and shrubs might go where, allowing room for them to grow and spread and also takes into consideration which plants and shrubs will bloom when, so there is always some color in the garden. He works it all out on paper before he digs the first hole. More times than I’d like to admit, in my zeal to get going in my garden I’ve skipped this step. And guess what?!? I’ve ended up having to dig up and move things later on. Likewise, while I’m a big fan of the “just do it” approach to my career, I also recognize the importance in spending some time planning it out – even if it’s just a rough sketch.
3. There’s no way around it, you’re going to get dirty
The only way a garden happens is when someone goes outside and starts digging in the dirt. Like gardening, building a career can be sweaty, messy work. We might like to think that being successful is about strategy and being smart, savvy, talented, creative people however, while these attributes are important, more times than not success comes about as a result of the “roll up your sleeves and get sweaty” kind of work.
4. Weeding stinks but you have to do it
Ask any gardener and they’ll probably tell you that their least favorite part of gardening is weeding. It’s never ending, tough on the back and the knees and (unfortunately) essential. Unattended, weeds can take over and literally choke the life out of your garden. The weeds have to go. This may, sometimes, even include something you planted purposefully which for various reasons just isn’t working.
Q: Do you have any “weeds” in your professional life?
One more comment about weeding. Not all things that grow wild are weeds. Despite our most careful planning, you never know what wild flowers (or opportunities) may appear and often, they’re worth keeping.
5. The right tools can make all the difference in the world
If you’ve ever tried to plant flowers using a wooden kitchen spoon (I have!) then you know that the right tools make the work infinitely easier. As a professional singer you will want and need to have the right tools, including knowledge, in your toolbox. **This principle applies to people as well. Having the right people working with you not only makes the job easier, but way more fun!**
6. No two gardens are exactly the same
Even if you plant two gardens with the exact same flowers in the the exact same layout, they won’t ever be exactly the same. Careers, like plants and flowers grow in their own unique ways. Try not to compare yours to anyone else’s, but rather let it flourish in it’s own beautiful way.
7. It’s o.k. to admire your handy-work
There may be lots more work to do, but from time to time give yourself a moment to step back and enjoy your creation!