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The Cost of Opportunity -And Why the Dollars Don’t Always Make Sense-

By Justin Gray (Songwriter/Producer/Founder MDIIO)

Money is cool. You can buy stuff. You can impress your friends with all of your cool gadgets. That’s true. But a friend once said to me "if you chase after money, you’ll be chasing your whole life. If you chase excellence, the money will come."

It’s true!

It took me too many years to realize the truth behind that statement. There were times when I had lost the plot, relied on my credentials, and took on paid projects that had no longevity…no backend.

Several years ago after a conversation with a dear mentor, he reminded me why I started doing this, and how I had veered from my path. It was hard to hear, but he was absolutely right. I’d been too consumed with trying to chase money. That's all it became. I hope for you, you have that truth teller.

So what did I do?

I simplified my lifestyle. I reduced my expenses, fired my manager, fired my business manager, and in effect pressed reset on my ambitions in order to rediscover, and recalibrate my intention…and passion.

I stopped doing things because I had to, and really focused on doing things that I "wanted to."

It didn’t take too long to start seeing the benefits of that decision. I realized that when making the decision to trade your time for money, you’re effectively limiting your time and it’s availability to take on opportunities that can truly change your path. I used to overbook myself on sessions thinking that the more work I did the more opportunities I would create. But that was just limiting my bandwidth and my availability to accept and recognize opportunities as they presented themselves.

I used to hyper schedule my days thinking that the harder I work, the luckier I’ll get. 8 sessions a week only watered down my creativity, and left my tank empty for when the real opportunities came around. Writing less allows my creativity to explode, as my inspiration tank is refilled daily.

Anybody that knows me knows that my days are beyond packed typically from 6 AM till about 11 PM. But you’d be surprised to know that despite how busy I am, my next week is scheduled only with standing meetings. I try to leave as much space as possible to allow for the flexibility of being able to not only recognize opportunities, but be able to pursue those opportunities. If I was over obligated, I would never have the time. Those opportunities might pass me by. So maintaining some fluidity in my schedule has actually been a huge benefit.

It’s not always easy to reevaluate and force yourself to see the truth. In fact, I probably waited a couple years too long. But having really great friends and mentors who are willing to be brutally honest with me to my face was a gift that I will NEVER not appreciate. I pay that forward to everyone I know.

So let me be that friend to you.

Here are 5 hard earned life skills for creatives that will tell the truth, drop the honesty bombs and gas up your jet!

Re-evaluate - "Life is a journey, not a destination." It’s OK if you started out loving one thing, and then found something else entirely that touched your heart and moved your soul. Reevaluating your goals and your dreams and your ambitions are completely healthy. Think about all of us as children. I would venture to say that at one point or another we all wanted to be astronauts or movie stars. Or in my case, an astronaut movie star. But as we grow up and live life, we reevaluate what is really best for us. Sometimes we lose our vision and then get stuck in one place. I’m not suggesting that that place is bad, I’m just saying maybe it’s time to reevaluate. Personally, I love where I am, but I know this version of me today is not going to be the same version of me in two years from now. Learn, grow, and go!

Re-calibrate - You’ve been doing it your way for so long, and your way works for you. But your way might not be the best way to keep your dream fire lit. Have you considered someone else’s way? Recalibrating how you do things is a part of evolution and growth. It could be hard. It’s almost a little bit like embracing new technology that challenges your ability to adopt new things. New Things + New Ways = New Opportunities. Every day should be an opportunity for you to make slight re-calibrations in order to move your sailboat across the water. Adjusting your sails to match the wind is the only way that you can get where you want to go.

Re-focus - You have started to make these life altering changes. Good for you! This step may be the hardest step. There’s something called a "break and repair method." What that means break old habits, repair your behaviors, and re-create new habits. This is an excellent way of refocusing. Think of it like a diet. If you’re overweight, you make modifications so that you lose some weight in order to hit your goal. If you keep doing what you’re doing, you won’t lose weight, you won’t hit your goal. So think of this like a creative diet. If your habits are not yielding the results that you want, break, repair, and re-establish new habits. Put your thing down…flip it and reverse it.

Rediscover - Why did you pick up that guitar in the first place? Or write that poem? Or play the piano? Or sing that song? Because you had to? No! Because you HAD TO! You were born with this creativity. It’s in your DNA. Rediscover what it is that made you fall in love with what you do. There’s nothing worse than waking up every day and feeling forced to do something that is antithetical to your happiness and well-being. There are plenty of rich and miserable people. But there are probably more poor and happy ones. Maybe one day we can all be rich and happy!

Refresh - I personally love the feeling of waking up every day thinking that a miracle can happen. Plant all the seeds you can. Focus on the ones that grow and become fruitful. You will come to see that you really won’t think twice about the ones that don’t. Refreshing your energy will help you maintain the positive flow of intention that you’ll need to make every day amazing. Something I’ve been talking about recently to friends and colleagues is that it’s taking me 40+ years to be able to go to sleep at night knowing that I squeezed every bit of juice out of every day. And when you do that, you become so creatively refreshed and rejuvenated that you will become addicted to wanting to do that again tomorrow and the next day. So if you’re not feeling refreshed, look at different ways to shake things up.

The Coda: My experiences are not your experiences. My goals are not your goals. Everybody is on their own journey on their own path to whatever Nirvana it is that they seek. I tell my children all the time "don’t be concerned about other people." Run your own race. Eventually we all get to the finish line. Some faster and some slower. That’s OK. The important thing is that you’re lined up waiting to hear that starter pistol. So here is that starter pistol. On your marks, get set, grow!

See you next week, and keep writing those hits!


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