A couple of years ago, I wrote a post about the importance of having a back-up plan if something disrupts your career. I shared about a past client of mine who was a recording artist with a unique story. His former career as a high school social studies teacher was disrupted by stardom in the music industry.
I’ve been thinking a lot about him lately, especially how the pandemic has disrupted his and other performing artists’ careers. But even if he can’t work right now due to COVID restrictions on live performances, I know he’ll be okay. Why? Because he had a plan B, which most recording artists don’t have.
What about you? Do you have a plan B if some event disrupts your current career? It’s a question you need to consider. As a result, I’m re-sharing my post from a couple of years ago to help you start thinking about a plan B (or C, or D) for your career.
My client’s story (originally published August 29, 2018)
It was 2011 and I was waiting for my new client in his publicist’s conference room. We were beginning the process of preparing him for his upcoming radio interviews.
In our first session he told me his life story, how he got to where he was, and what his future looked like. He was different from most of the other recording artists I’d worked with. His values and priorities were on a whole other level.
What was typical
He told me about how he grew up poor with humble beginnings, and how he’d always been passionate about music, with goals to pursue it as a career. Not an uncommon story among most musicians who eventually make their way to Nashville.
He was the first person in his family to finish not just college, but also high school. This inspired him to become a high school social studies teacher, something else he was very passionate about.
After college, he pursued teaching to support his music career goals. He did both until he couldn’t any longer.
His music caught on like wildfire. In fact, he was getting so many bookings and selling out so many venues, his music career completely disrupted his teaching career. He had to leave his students to fulfill his new obligations to his fans.
Again, this is not an unusual story or scenario for most recording artists as they begin their careers. Most start off doing something else to make a living until they’re able to afford to pursue music full-time.
What was different
But here’s where it gets different with this particular artist: he said to me,
“When this whole music thing dries up, which it probably will eventually, my plan is to go back to teaching social studies.”
I had never heard a recording artist talk like this. Most get so caught up in their rise to fame and fortune they think it will never come to an end. They don’t think long-term.
In fact, most of them believe, and are also told by numerous music industry executives, if you truly want to make it in the music business you can’t have a Plan B.
The music executives’ theory is, if you have a Plan B, you’ll never be fully motivated to pursue the Plan A of a music career. They believe you’ll give up too soon and default to your Plan B before Plan A gets off the ground.
This client was the only artist I knew who didn’t fall for this mindset. He strongly disagreed and felt it was totally irresponsible not to have a Plan B. Like everything else, he knew Plan A will eventually come to an end.
He also told me something else I’ll never forget. In describing a recently sold-out show, one where Brantley Gilbert and the Zac Brown Band were opening for him, he said to me,
“To this day, there’s not been one stage I’ve walked onto that didn’t beat the feeling I got the first day I walked into a classroom.”
Talk about a mic drop!
Whether he realizes it or not, this musician is still teaching others in his role as an artist. There are so many lessons from this interaction and his statements I almost don’t know where to begin.
But let’s try to unpack as much as we can here.
1. It can’t be all about the money
It’s obvious he wasn’t doing any of this for the money. Everyone knows there’s very little money in education. And for someone willing to go back to education after a more lucrative career in music shows money isn’t a top priority.
As a career coach specializing in helping people pursue their passions, I can tell you if you’re pursuing something only for money with no passion behind it, it’s likely to fail. All the experts will tell you this. This includes business experts, successful entrepreneurs, other career coaches, and the ones who learned this lesson the hard way.
And not only is it likely to fail, you’re also likely to be miserable. If you’re not passionate about what you do and you find no meaning in it besides earning a paycheck, you’re likely to dread going to work everyday. This will wear on you over time.
2. You have to think long-term
Nothing lasts forever. You could be laid off tomorrow from your current job. Your business idea could take off like a rocket and then just as quickly crash and burn. My former client’s bookings could easily dry up since music fans’ tastes are fickle.
So then what?
While it’s important to learn to live in the moment, there needs to be a balance between living in the moment and considering the future.
One of the things I work with my coaching clients on is establishing long-term goals and helping them figure out how their passions can evolve with those goals.
Sometimes this requires re-evaluating and altering their short-term goals. And sometimes it may require them to alter their long-term goals.
3. It’s not a bad idea to have a back-up plan
As a result, you may need a Plan B to your Plan A, or even a Plan C to your Plan B.
These plans don’t have to be completely different from each other like they were for my former client. They could be something in the same industry but in a different role or function. Or something in the same role but in a different industry.
Back-up plans can be a great solution when you’re feeling stuck in your current career situation. I’ve helped many clients brainstorm and test potential back-up plans which eventually got them unstuck.
Do you see any other lessons here I missed? (If so, please comment below!)
What if something disrupts your career?
My former client had two very different careers he was equally passionate about. One disrupted the other much more quickly than he expected. And it could happen again some day. This happens to almost all of us, including myself.
What will you do if something disrupts your career? What will happen if you don’t have a Plan B to fall back on?
If you don’t have an answer to these questions, it may be time to consider the lessons outlined above, or even some career coaching for yourself.
To find out if career coaching is your next best step, click here and complete the paNASH intake form. Completing the form does not obligate you in any way.
Resources for when something disrupts your career