An Open Letter to My 18 Year Old Self

Hey Ryan,

Man, where to start?!  Well, I’m writing this letter because I know how scared you are and I’m hoping these words can help to alleviate some of the fears and questions you have about yourself and your future as a musician. 

I want to give you a little bit of advice, too. I know you won’t listen to it, but I’m going to give it to you anyway.

Let’s do this in broad strokes:

 You’re wrong

I know that music is your passion. It gets you out of bed in the morning and keeps you up late at night; practicing and listening. I know that you dream of making your living playing music and I know that, deep inside, you don’t think you’re capable of doing so. You’re wrong.


You’re more than capable than you think

You have your own special insight and perspective into writing, performing, and sharing music with others. Have faith in yourself. Decide today to start believing in your own unique abilities. 


Stop comparing yourself to others

Nothing is a bigger waste of time! You are who you are and you have what you alone can offer to the world, musically and otherwise. The sooner you realize the value of being you, the better.


You’ve got to walk that lonesome valley by yourself

Don’t waste years waiting for someone or something to pick up your slack and do all of your grunt work for you.

If it needs getting done, do it yourself. You can hire out some help down the line…once you’ve gone as far as you can on your own. You’ll know when it’s time to enlist the services of others because the success you’ve generated on your own will be too much for you to handle in your day to day.

This is a good problem to have. Until then, suck it up and do the work. You’ll be glad you did.


Finished is better than perfect

Don’t let your perfectionism keep you from ever actually doing anything! If you’re waiting to reach some ideal state with your art or your career before you’re comfortable moving forward then you’ll never go anywhere. Finished is better than perfect.

Once a project is finished it can re-engineered as needed. A perfect novel that exists only as an idea is worthless. Who doesn’t have a few of those collecting dust on the shelves of their mind?  A crappy novel that you’ve actually written; priceless. It can be edited or rewritten.

Hell, even if you throw it out and start all over at least your moving forward!


The big secret is to take action

Be a doer. Ideas are easy, implementing them is hard. The only thing that really separates the successful from the not-so-successful is that they just keep taking action. They don’t get bogged down at the idea stage, they move through it.


Learn to love failure

If you’re failing a lot that’s a good sign. It means you’re pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone and you’re taking action! Most people don’t take any action for fear of failure.

Refusing to take risks by never actually acting on your ideas is a great way to avoid failure but a terrible plan if you’re looking to learn, grow, or move your career forward.


Bands are awesome but you can make about 300% more money as a solo act

Just sayin’. There are advantages and disadvantages to both but when you decide it’s time to start actually earning real money from your performances, I recommend you book a fair amount of solo shows.


Debt is a trap

Don’t borrow money if you can avoid it.  If you can’t afford the tour van, don’t tour. You don’t need that shiny, new guitar. You don’t need that microphone. If you don’t have the money to buy it, don’t buy it.

The price is too high. You’ll likely end up paying for your purchase five times over through unconscionable interest rates, hidden fees, and late charges. Credit cards are the devil.

Don’t trade your tomorrow for a fleeting wad of cash today.  Make do with what you’ve got and, believe it or not, you’ll be happier in the long run.

This is your new credo: Do what you can with what you got, right now! The rest will work itself out. I promise.


You don’t give a damn about fame and fortune. It’s happiness you’re pursuing

Think about it. Which would you rather have? Ten thousand adoring fans and a big paycheck at every show OR a general feeling of peace and contentment in your daily life.

You want the ten thousand fans and the big paycheck because you think they’ll bring you happiness and feelings of security and peace. Your professional achievements can’t bring you any of these things. They may end up playing a part in the equation but they can’t, in and of themselves, bring you happiness or security.

Finding happiness and contentment in your daily life is an inner journey. Don’t set yourself up so that your happiness is contingent upon the success of your music career. Do the opposite. Learn how to be happy first and the rest will follow.

Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself.


In conclusion

It’s going to be alright. When we meet twenty one years from now you won’t have any regrets. Trust me.

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4 thoughts on “An Open Letter to My 18 Year Old Self

  1. Minna Biggs

    That’s a feel good letter! Take action!! Finish stuff! More with less! All good points. The advice about making more as a solo act is solid. I prefer the duo, because I just love playing and being with my best friend so very much.


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