Edit Johnny-Cash-Flipping-the-Bird-Blurred.San-Quentin-2

There are a few concepts that I know are absolutely critical if you want to follow the Yellow Brick Road to Rock Stardom. The first one being a little concept I am going to call “I Don’t Give A Shit”. Because occasionally you have to get down and dirty with your Dinosaur Brain and show it whose boss. Just to clarify, it’s not that you really don’t give a shit, it’s that you don’t give a shit about what anyone thinks about you; you can care very much about other people just not how they judge your behavior.   I know it sounds radical and it is.

Envision what would happen if you decided to “not give a shit” about what anybody else thinks of you. From this point forward you are not going to acknowledge anyone’s opinion of you, doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad. You can’t crave that little hit of dopamine you get whenever someone praises you and you can’t be bummed out when someone disapproves. Here is the tricky part; it’s completely against our basic survival instinct. You remember, you could get thrown out of the Tribe, the saber-toothed tigers, yada yada, everything your Dino Brain fears.

Think about how much you cared about what people thought about you when you were in high school. In your teens and twenties almost all your decisions were governed by what your friends thought, what your parents thought and what just about everyone else thought. Go ahead you can admit it; it’s just us here. If it makes you feel any better, I completely concede that I was positively ruled by how I was viewed by others. It wasn’t until I really internalized this magically profound idea that my results started to change for the positive. It was also one of the most arduous, demanding, freaking-me-out behavioral adjustments I ever had to make. It meant that I was responsible for following a different path – the key word here being “responsible”. I couldn’t blame anyone but me. I couldn’t complain, they were my decisions and a lot of them were wrong. I either did not have enough experience or I was naïve about certain realities. But, they were my mistakes to make and without them I wouldn’t have the all-important understanding of what worked and what didn’t.

It took years for me to comprehend just exactly how to not be affected by someone else’s opinion. And guess what? It’s still hard. Here is the real reason why this is such an important concept – What folks believe about you has zero to do with you and absolutely everything to do with them. Refusing to allow any criticism to have control over you is an extremely powerful position to take. Not only that but it’s the only position to take. Viewing your self-worth based on someone else’s assessment puts the authority of your validation outside of your control. So you are always seeking approval externally. Not so Rock Star-like.

The only thing that qualifies as accurate for YOU should be what YOU believe. What’s true for you is what matters. All other assessments are just other people’s understanding of reality, not yours.

So, how do you go about developing your inner “I don’t give a shit-itude?” Ok, easier said than done. Having an understanding of why you are about to do something is one of the keys. Every time you are getting ready to do or say anything, think for a second about the motive behind your action. Is it to be liked? Is it because you are apprehensive or is it coming from a position of honesty and integrity? At first doing this feels a little like you are constantly in the middle of an Algebraic equation; reason [not sure] + why [not sure of this either] = motivation2. But, after a while you begin to really get a grip on consciously directing your actions. It’s just like anything else, the more you do it the easier it becomes.

How bout this; Ever felt like you just half-assed something and you hoped no one would notice. The hesitancy that you feel is not exactly conducive to having a level of confidence to where it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks. As a matter of fact, it does just the opposite. Now you really need the external validation. If you don’t believe in what you are doing, why should anyone else?

It also does bear mentioning that constructive criticism from people you know and trust can be pretty valuable guide to getting an accurate picture of your strengths and weaknesses. I can count on one hand the individuals that I trust to give me that kind of feedback. And I usually think they are wrong immediately, however I do have to put my rather over-developed ego to rest occasionally and accept the possibility that I may have some corrections to make.

In discovering the truth in your behavior some of the questions to ask your self are:

– Is doing this going to screw anyone else over? In other words, is my behavior selfish to the point where I am not considering someone else’s feelings or cheating them in some way. It is difficult to always see the repercussions of all your actions but most of the time you can tell. Being an asshole is sometimes a relative thing.

– Is this behavior going to keep me on the path I want to be on? Want to be on, not should be on is the key here.

Being obsessed by how we are perceived by others is the best way to stay exactly where you are in life.

No one has ever achieved anything really monumental by worrying about what everyone thought about what they were trying to accomplish. This is a really magical thing to remember. The current version of yourself is based on the stories you have told yourself up until now. It might just be time for a different story. There is the “safe” route and there is the “better” route.

Most people when they are confronted with the reality that to be as successful as you possibly can be you have to choose the “better” route. As a musician or an entertainer, part of our job description involves doing the hard emotional labor of being on a stage and delivering even if you don’t feel like it- even if you aren’t in the mood. It’s your responsibility to perform. And the reality is that’s the mindset to be in no matter what “stage” you are on.

It’s also ok to say, “No, I want to be safe. I don’t want the responsibility of having to perform all the time.” But, just ask yourself what opportunities are you missing by taking the easy way out. Taking the initiative, being surprising and accepting “better”, putting on a show- even if you are tired or just spent the last eight hours balancing the books- is the way forward.

The thing that garners the most attention is the thing that gets talked about, the person who is remarkable, the business that goes above and beyond to stand out. The rules are totally different. The follow the rules, compliant, “don’t do anything more than your asked” mentality is your ticket to being overlooked, downsized or forgotten.

The scary thing about “better” is that you will be judged, that you will constantly have to be trying to be “better”. It’s a constantly morphing environment. As soon as you arrive at “ better”, you have to keep at it. “Better” never stops. You are in constant state of change.

Time to start “not giving a shit” about all the stuff that is holding you back from your “better”. It’s right there, you can see it!

JOHNNY CASH Photo by Jim Marshall at San Quentin in 1969. Jim said to Johnny, “John, let’s do a shot for the warden” and that’s what came out.