If you’ve ever kept a fish (in an aquarium, that is), you will understand this concept. There is a difference in a fish that is surviving and one that is thriving. While the surviving fish may still be “alive” it is only just barely so—it doesn’t move much, gasps frequently, and looks generally weak and malnourished. The thriving fish looks distinctly different—it swims energetically, interacts with you when you approach the aquarium, and looks well fed. You won’t have to flush either of these fish down the toilet yet, but one is happy to be alive and one is (unfortunately) simply biding its time.
It’s the same for musicians.
People often think musicians lead some kind of charmed life because they “do what they love for a living.” And while this can be true, the sad fact is many musicians get stuck merely surviving. They work diligently every day (often obsessively) and can always claim to be busy, but they’re not getting any pleasure out of this work. They’re making the money to pay the bills. They may have a great idea for an exciting project or business plan, but are crippled by fear of failure. So they defend the status quo.
Going on maintaining the status quo—doing things we don’t really love doing just to make money so we can keep on doing those same things we don’t really love—is no way to live.
Those musicians who thrive love life because of their work. They get involved with projects and experiment with new avenues of success. Don’t misunderstand: there is certainly risk associated with innovation. In the process of making a fulfilling and artistic life, the thriving musician is bound to make mistakes. But mistakes lead to learning what works and what doesn’t, and this means the musician is able to create a future that will always have a niche in which he or she can thrive.
Thriving may be scary at times, but it will always feel better than just surviving, just gasping for air.