Career Bytes rockstarrun

Published on June 22nd, 2010 | by Hugh Hession


Running your music career: an analogy


I love running. Yeah, I know – to some of you that may seem like complete lunacy; but to me, there is nothing more exhilarating than pushing myself to the limit by challenging myself to go that extra distance. I recommend it for anyone who wants to learn how the mind can truly prevail over substance. Athletes often to refer to this as being in the zone.

At any rate, as I was running the other day, I suddenly found myself creating an analogy between running (as a sport) and ones career in music. Two significant things happened from this. One, is that I realized there were many interesting correlations between the two and the other is that before I knew it, I had run my 5K in no time at all. Love those times when my mind is pre-occupied with everything BUT pain!

1) Train hard and your body will adapt

Repeated exposure to mild stress stimulates adaption. What this means is that when a runner continues to place demands on the body (pushing themselves); the body in turn begins to adapt to those demands and performance begins to increase.

Let’s look at your music career in parallel to this concept. Guitarists: Remember how frustrating it was to get your index finger to form those bar chords when you first started out? Seemed impossible at the time, didn’t it? How about you keyboard players. Ever thought you’d get those left hand 4th and 5th fingers to respond? When you continue to push yourself and get out of your head (a concept I use to stop listening to that lame “voice” in your head that tends to tell you that you’ll never be able do anything) results happen and you adapt accordingly.

The same holds true with anything relating to your career. Performing may terrify you, but the more you impel yourself to get out there and do it, a strange thing happens: you actually become good at it! Lol.

2) Get out of your head: clearing your mind

One of the eminent challenges for runners is restricting the propensity for pain. Our brain likes to react to even the slightest discomfort. Because of this, that familiar voice starts talking smack inside our head: “stop, this sucks….and this HURTS.”  This is the very reason why most people who start working out or running, give up too early.  They listen to that little voice saying “I can’t.” Amazing how such a powerful thing as the brain can work against us in such an aggravating and destructive way.


To get away from this agitating self-defeating talk, runners often disassociate these feelings; stepping away from them in the mind and going somewhere else. Not trying to get all weird here. I’m not talking about going to some planet 10 galaxies away.  I’m just talking about re-focusing on another topic (very much like I did with this blog idea). Sometimes I just place more focus on my surroundings rather than what I’m feeling. The body is much more resilient then we give it credit for. It’s our brains that tend to fake us out into thinking that we can’t go further.

“I don’t think the average person realizes what sort of impact the mind has on performance. They know it impacts, but at most they might think, ‘Well, I read about it once but it doesn’t affect me that much.’ Rest assured, it does.” –Leonard Zaichkowsky; Boston University sports psychologist who has worked with everyone from little leaguers to Olympians.

Success in your music career will weigh heavily on mind games – mainly you and the chatter inside your head.  I sometimes have musicians shrug me off when it comes to this, but you can’t get around the validity of it no matter how much denial seems to seep through. The faster you get your mind off the negative babble that resonates inside your head, the better. What is crazy is how we tend to believe these innuendos, as if it were actually true. That’s the thing…it’s not real. One of my favorite acronyms is one for fear:

FEAR = False Evidence Appearing Real

Focus on what matters and spend your time researching and reacting to the best alternatives to reach your music goals, aka the finish line. The idle chatter inside your head telling you it’s not possible is not productive, nor accurate.

3) You reap in races what you sow in training

Ok. I actually got this one from The Runner’s World Complete Book of Running, but it relates well to this topic. The premise is that the specificity of ones training will result in the success (or lack of) in the races ran. If a runner runs slow and long, then they will only run this way in a race. If a runner decides to train at a fast pace, but at short distances, then that runner won’t have the stamina to run a marathon.

How does this relate to your music career?  How you “train” within the many facets of your career, will decide your success.

“The idea that a band practicing 10 hours a week is a good thing does not always hold true. Quantity does not equal quality. It’s the what of what you do that counts.”  -Hugh Hession

Just doing something (anything) towards the advancement of your career doesn’t substantiate positive results. You have to be calculated about the actions you take.

A lead vocalist can scream a song 10 times in one band practice but if they are killing their voice doing it, what good will that do at the big gig?

If a band is practicing the wrong backups over and over, they will only be singing erroneous backups exceptionally well. Basically this means you will be consistent in sucking each and every time. Same goes to wrong chords, terrible sound, lousy arrangements or a tyronic performance. Take the time to train consistently, but also correctly!

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About the Author

owns and operates Emerging Artists Entertainment Marketing & Consulting, LLC - a company devoted to cultivating aspiring music artists, He is also the head of Hession Entertainment Group, LLC (artist management) and the Music Industry Liaison for the artist discovery site, TalentWatch ( He has over 25 years experience in the music business as a performer, composer, producer and artist manager. Hugh holds a BA in Marketing and is a professional member of NARIP and a voting member of The Recording Academy. He often speaks at seminars and workshops on artist development.

One Response to Running your music career: an analogy

  1. Pingback: Making it In Music » Is Your Rhythm Section Helping or Hindering?

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