Making your Money Count : Upskilling during Covid
I've been getting calls from friends and ex-students who were all earning well from music but have now been affected by the pandemic.
Many musicians want/need to diversify, learn new skills and find new income sources. However, we all know that this costs money. This is causing confusion, helplessness and anxiety.
WHAT DO WE DO WHEN WE ARE CASH-STRAPPED BUT HAVE TO PUT IN MONEY TO LEARN SOMETHING NEW?
Let me tell you my story of upgradation. For some reason I was always in need of funds when I wanted an upgrade. Very early on in life, I chose not to go to a typical music school. I was offered a handsome scholarship to Berklee but I chose not to go there for my basic music education. I wanted direct mentorship.
In my early twenties, I wasn't earning a lot from singing. I had lots of gigs, but my profits weren't enough to afford a top coach. I was always anti-debt. My motto at that time was "Earn to Learn". I saved everything I could and just diverted that money to the coaches I wanted to work with. Even though the booking of the class took time, the value I got from the class more than made up for the time.
I would zero in on the person I perceived to be BEST in a particular field and learn from them. This wasn't only about singing. It applied to getting therapy. It applied to learning basic Business Skills. Picking up Design Skills. . . literally everything.
Even though in some cases, my needs were basic, I still found a master practitioner to teach me. I cannot tell you the kind of time and long-term money I saved due to this approach.
Here's the thing about master practitioners. They are so good at their craft that they are able to simplify and share insight in a way nobody else can. INFO and INSIGHT are totally different things. While I may get info from cheaper and free resources, they may never translate into insight because my processing of the info wouldn't be guided. I would end up with a bunch of lingo, but I wouldn't be anywhere close to an expert.
It's a total myth that you have to go to a master only if you are advanced. I believe in quite the opposite. You need to learn the skill in the presence of a master for optimal learning. Victor Wooten talks about this too. We learn language in the presence of master speakers (our adult family) and that's how we absorb much more than words. We absorb the language as a whole.
The main resistance people have is that Masters often charge a premium - but that actually saves us money! Masters are able to accelerate our growth so that we are ready to make money from the new skill much quicker than if we took longer term and cheaper lessons.
HOW DO I AFFORD A TOP MENTOR IF I'M BROKE?
Identify a skill that you can earn from NOW. A skill other than music. Can you write and earn? Can you give fitness lessons? Can you cook and earn a bunch of money? Can you do small paid events for kids? Can you teach someone to speak better? What are your other strengths? What do you get compliments for?
Get on it now. Save money to afford the fee of your chosen mentor.
While you prepare your finances, read every free or subsidized resource that your future mentor has put out. Any educator will do these things for the greater good.
If I want to study marketing with Seth Godin, I owe it to myself to go through every single blog post, every single interview and all of his books. This will give me an edge when I meet him and when I have money saved up for my upgrade with him.
Develop your own understanding of the material so that your mentor can help you sieve and process the information well. The better your processing, the better your practice of the concepts.
Once your mentor has taught you how to process the info, your practice becomes much more fruitful. You are application oriented rather than only information oriented.
This really accelerates how fast you can begin earning from your new skill.
This way you have a real return on your upskilling investment
LET'S TALLY OUTCOMES
Suppose I want to learn how to cook. I will first barrel through recipes online and try them - this is the free part of my growth curve. This alone will give me an idea of who is a better mentor and who isn't. I'll develop basic motor skills and a rudimentary sense of proportion.
With this, I'll also be earning some kitchen-cred and I'll be better placed to take in what my TOP-of-the-field mentor will teach me.
I'll spend my days listening to podcasts and gathering ideas and insight. I'll pick up some necessary lingo. Youtube and Google will start sending more relevant stuff to me and I'll get diverse inputs.
Here's where most of us cash-strapped people stop!! They stop at basic motor skills, lots of lingo and very diverse inputs.
In my eyes, this is the starting place. This is when you know you have earned your conversations with your Master. You're going to this expert for approach, processing and insight. You want to be ready to pluck from that tree richly laden with experience, private case studies, private epiphanies, efficiency boosters.
I'd then go to my neighbor who is has been a chef for 20 years and established 14 restaurants. With the money I saved, I'd pay him his fee and gobble up that wisdom. In a few months of rigorous monitored practice I might become VERY skilled and possibly get to earn money from this too. What I paid him will soon be recovered. Beyond that everything is profit.
My other route would be to either stay mediocre and not get good opportunities or bookings. I'd keep gathering lingo and semi-processed concepts. I might grow gradually but it's wont be bringing in any substantial income or reputation. And it all takes too long. My third option would be to enroll into a lengthy expensive cooking degree. Spend a LOT of money. Spend a COLLOSSAL amount of time in a standardized course that caters to the broad average. I step out in debt. Or, because I'm broke right now, I don't even consider enrolling and stay stuck.
I definitely wouldn't opt for struggle just because it is affordable.
I'd be resourceful and earn innovatively from what I know how to do right now. I'd combine these pennies with ALL the free info online. I'd find a real expert, get my jumpstart and possibly even get some heavy references by the end of the process.
I hope this makes sense to you all. I hope you are able to innovate your way out of the mess that Covid has left us with.
You are all creative people and I know you can do it.
Get down to observing and chalking out your skill set outside music. Make money and save it religiously.
A change is gonna come.
Below is a link to my book for independent musicians. BIG DREAMS, BOLD CHOICES - Handbook for Emerging Musicians in India.