I Was Voted "Most Inspirational Professor" but Left Academics to Pursue My Dream as a Rock Star

I Was Voted "Most Inspirational Professor" but Left Academics to Pursue My Dream as a Rock Star
From Lifehack - November 7, 2017

What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail? Robert Schuller

This is a terrific question to ask yourself to find out what you really want in life. But it doesnt help much when you go after your dreams and fall flat on your face. Its painful to be told that youre not good enough. Its embarrassing to fail in front of others. How do you bounce back after suffering a setback? You can make your dreams come true as long as you possess the right mindset to overcome obstacles. Let me show you how I created my hearts desire so that you can overcome failure and reach your dreams, too.

Years ago when I was a psychology professor at Santa Clara University, students used to line up outside my office to ask me what they should major in or where they should go to graduate school. It turns out I was offering radically different advice from their parents and other professors. One of our brightest seniors came to my office in tears. My colleague across the hall had told her to go to the best graduate school she could, even though it meant moving to the east coast and leaving her fiance behind. A miserable electrical engineering major told me his father wouldnt let him major in psychology because there was no money in it.

My advice was simple. I always told my students to follow their hearts.

That was my favorite part of the job. Even though I got terrific teaching evaluations and published articles in the best journals in my field, I wasnt happy. I didnt know it yet, but academics wasnt the right path for me.

I started playing the guitar to unwind from work, a hobby I hadnt engaged in since my teens. Late in the evenings after grading papers, I wrote little songs. I sang at a couple of open mic events on the weekends. I was so nervous I forgot my own lyrics but I received decent applause anyway. Eventually, I joined a band and performed at a few cool nightclubs. Several of my students attended my shows and the line to my office grew longer.

One afternoon as I watched yet another relieved face disappear out my office door, I felt deeply empty. I realized I wasnt following my own heart. What did I really want to be when I grew up? A rock n roll star!

Ridiculous, a voice that sounded a lot like my mothers screamed inside my head. For one, it would mean I had wasted four years at Princeton getting my Ph.D. in psychology. For another, I was too old. How could I change now? Wasnt it too late?

I kept thinking about how happy my students appeared whenever I gave them permission to be their true selves. Despite being called crazy by my mom and many of my colleagues, I left my solid teaching position to follow my childhood dream. Id only written a handful of songs at the time, but I knew if I didnt do it then, I never would.

One week after I packed up my office to start my new career as a rock star, my band broke up and I had to cancel a summers worth of gigs. I curled up into a fetal position on the couch and ate nothing but peanut butter and crackers for two days. I repeatedly listened to the song wed recorded that was getting the most traction in LA. Why did we have to stop NOW?

Then I had an a ha moment. That tune featured my voice and guitar playing, not my bandmates. Perhaps my sound was stronger as a singer-songwriter than it had been as the lead singer of a pop act. This setback was a clue for what I needed to do to succeed.

I started a duo with a new guitarist. We soon developed a following and Rick drove down to LA to pitch my songs to a record label with which he had ties. The A&R representative listened to the first tune all the way to the end (a rare event). Excited to hear more, he asked Rick a million questions about me, including my age. Rick casually mentioned that I was 30 years old and the rep ended the meeting on the spot.

Luckily, I was too naive to understand that my blossoming career had already been crushed. I didnt buy into the theory that I was past my prime. I looked young for my age and I didnt know any better, so I kept playing music. I supported myself by lecturing at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where I was voted Most Inspirational Professor by the students.

I attended local songwriting events to take my game up a level. I cant tell you how many times I cried in my car after receiving harsh critiques. Still, I listened and learned. For a couple of years, dozens of my songs got picked up by publishers and record labels in LA and Nashville.

But nothing came of it.

I looked for fresh ways to get my music out. My manager was South African. Why not put all my best songs in an album and take it to his country? Within a handful of months my debut CD got distributed through Polygram Records and produced a top 10 hit. Eleven songs received radio airplay. I was 35 years old.

Since then my tunes have topped South Africa, Europe, and U.S. college radio charts, and appeared on ABC, HBO, Encore, and Showtime. As a teacher of creativity workshops for the past 20 years, Ive helped thousands of people break through their self-limiting beliefs and live crazy beautiful lives, too.

Here are eight ways to overcome failure and reach your dreams.

1. What People Think of You is None of Your Business

Not everyone will applaud you for going after your dream. Listen to the tiny voice within you instead. Its constantly telling you what you need to do to realize your potential.

It may be just a whisper now, but the more you pay attention to it, the louder it will get. Give yourself permission to follow it and find like-minded people to support you.

2. Think of Obstacles as a Test

3. Persist Through Setbacks

4. View Failure as Feedback

5. Find Alternative Pathways to your Goals

6. Bombard Your Inner Critic with Positive Affirmations

7. Relabel Fear as Excitement

8. Make a Vision Statement to Guide You


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