Every February, I take a large group of Boy Scouts from Manhattan on their annual Winter Camp event.  For those who have not done it before, winter camping is everything that you would imagine it to be (and probably more), but it always ends up being a great time, despite the cold and (usually) wet conditions.

I don’t know how many years I have done this now, but this particular year, as I sat in front of the fire watching the 50-or-so boys do what teenage boys do when they are liberated from the concrete and chaos that is everyday life in New York City, I realized that there are generally three types of people that one finds at these camp-outs:

  • The Perpetually Positive–These people come prepared for the weather and the cold, not just with warm clothes and sleeping bags, but also with mentally preparation necessary to face the elements.  They are aware of the dangers and challenges, but still remain enthusiastic and excited about learning new things and having adventures as they prove that they can take on Mother Nature and the bitter Northeastern chill.  They take advantage of the planned activities and learning opportunities and return home raving about the experience, better people for having attending.
  • The Unprepared–Despite coming to an event called “Winter Camp,” and despite the fact that many of them have attended the year previously, those in this group still don’t think to bring a hat or gloves or a coat a sleeping bag.  They fail to learn from the experience of years past, and thus suffer from making the same mistakes over and over and over again.
  • The Impossible to Please–As leaders, we get it–sleeping outside in the middle of winter is difficult and not for everyone, so we also rent several heated cabins for those who choose not to sleep out in tents.  Yet, even with a heated cabin (that comes with both electricity and a cot!), the people in this group still complain about being stuck at winter camp.  They complain about the wind; they complain about the cold; they complain about the cots; they complain about the activities. They complain about everything that makes camping (in a cabin nonetheless!!) in the winter a challenge and adventure, and they can’t understand how others could be enjoying themselves under such conditions. Thus, they let the entire experience pass them by, while others are learning and growing and indeed, thriving.

Having just read that, I want you now to ask yourself: which of the above groups describes you with regards to your music career?

  • Do you have all of the tools and opportunities sitting right there in front of you, but find yourself so busy complaining that you fail to use them?
  • Are you still working under assumptions from the 1990s, blaming file sharing and unresponsive record labels for your lack of a fan-base and success?
  • Or are you ready for the challenge, always excited about new opportunities and new technology, using all of the tools at your disposal to grow your fan base and spread the word about your music?

I don’t need to say which group today’s most successful independent musicians fall into, but if you find yourself in one of the other groups, all is not lost.

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” – Thomas Alva Edison

Not all of the “Perpetually Positive” boy scouts and leaders were as upbeat at past winter camps (one swore to me on his life that he would never attend another winter camp after confronting the sub-zero temperatures two years ago, but there he was, again!).  However, they learned from the past and applied the lessons that they had learned in order to make the event a positive experience.

For those musicians feeling stuck in one of the other less-desirable groups, here is some recommended reading:

Of course, there is much more advice out there than we can include in a single blog post, so now I open the floor to you:

How do you stay positive and upbeat and thrive in today’s challenging marketplace as an independent musician?

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