I’m not ‘normal’

Here’s a great question I got this week from a reader who creates beautiful music – but…………  I’m sure many of you will identify with her.

Dan, I’m an artist.  I don’t fit any “normal” job because I’m in the 1% of the world’s population. I have felt blocked by obstacles or setbacks all my life.  I have wanted to use my gifts and talents in the church but feel rejected by it.  I have big dreams — I want to be used by God in a big way.  I see myself doing many things: singing/writing/teaching.  But I have a feeling I’m going to have to create my own “job.”  There has never been a job description written for what I want to do.  I think God is pushing me “out of the box” and has other ideas for me.  But I see no clear-marked path of how to best create work.  Am I alone in my struggle?

Dear Artist,

I love gifts that God gives us that don’t “fit” nicely anywhere.  I find that people with those often end up with a much more authentic life than those who simply chose a common path like dentist, accountant, pastor, teacher or engineer.  Be grateful that you are in a wonderful 1% of the population.  And yes, you will likely have to create your position – there are not traditional “jobs” for people like us. But that’s where we have to use that same creativity and artistic abilities to find how to share our gift with the world in a way that is meaningful, purposeful – and profitable.

I’m listening to all the music intros on your MySpace site as I write this.  It’s soothing, restful and healing – great sound.  Just keep in mind that having that skill and putting it to music is the beginning part of seeing business success.  You then have to position, brand and market it.  Having the gift and talent is not enough.  You need to know your “unique selling proposition” (USP) and have a clear marketing strategy.  Your music may be appropriate for people in hospice situations or as part of a physical rehabilitation program.  I know of an artist who has focused on dental offices for selling her art.  Someone commented that her art is calming – she took that one cue and has been extremely successful selling into that one profession.

Here is a Business Planning Guide that has 48 different ways to market.  You have to have a clear 4-5 that you are doing at any given time. 

No, you are not alone in your struggle.  Thousands are asking the same questions and having the same feelings.  Being “out of the box” is a blessing.  People inside the box are smothering.

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24 Responses to “I’m not ‘normal’”

  1. Doug Says:

    Great advice Dan, what’s interesting in this case, is that she has no problem actually creating content and she apparently does it very well. Most of the time we get caught up trying to sell something that hasn’t been created yet. Great content will usually find a market somewhere with a little effort. Poor content usually requires lots of effort to find the market.

  2. Jay Peroni, CFP Says:

    Music is such a gift. It expresses the very depths of our soul. God (through man) created music as a form of expression and communication. It can be such a beautiful expression.

    Selling music commercially is more than expression, it is business. I have seen some of the most talented musicians create great content yet have trouble reaching a market. This has to do with marketing. Like any business if no one knows about you than you are out of business. Music is no different. If you add something unique, refreshing AND know how to market it, you have a winning formula. It sounds easy, but finding the magic formula takes time, energy, drive, and passion. Without all four, your chances of success diminish. Look at American Idol. How many talented musicians go years even decades without a big break? Talent is one thing, but passion and drive often determine success. Keep trying and finally…your big break may happen. My advice is to keep plugging away, keep the passion alive, and find a way to make money at what you love doing. Don’t ever give up!

    Jay Peroni, CFP
    Author of The Faith-Based Millionaire
    http://www.jayperoni.com

  3. Rebecca Manning Says:

    I completely relate to this situation. I am 46 years old and have never found my “niche”. I am in a job that causes so much stress it makes me physically sick sometimes but as a single mother of a college sophmore, I feel trapped! The saddest part is that this job doesn’t pay all my bills and that only adds to my stress. I love to paint, write, sing…anything that is creative. I too, feel that God wants to use me in big ways but have become so discouraged that I don’t even believe in my ability to hear Him clearly as to which way I am to go. Thank you for this letter. It is encouraging to know that I am not alone in my struggles. I will be praying for this woman.

  4. phillip Says:

    Do not believe the income lie or the normal lie. Each of us are unique.

    Each of us house unique talents given to us by GOD. You may never realize the impact of your gift, but that does not diminish its value.

    Do not lose faith in God to provide riches, do not place value in riches conceived by man.

  5. Dawn Wilson Says:

    Very interesting – I too, struggle with being in that 1%. I am glad that she found the outlet for her interests. But your comment about God creating outside of the box is where I sit today. I love genetics, history, and music, but also have a heart to help children who are challenged in life. These are all passionate interests, I am having trouble pulling away from any of them. Going back to school has only confirmed my interests. I know that God wants me somewhere but I don’t know where. Just wanted to let our writer know that she is not alone, we are all hoping and praying for continued success in her search.

  6. Erick Says:

    When I was 13, I decided I wanted to be a novelist; when I was 22, I dropped out of the college, where I studied theology, in order to pursue a degree in literature (I lost all but 3 of my 90+ credits). At the age of 29, just two months after I graduated from college, I changed my whole life and moved to Boston from San Diego. Two years later, I moved back to San Diego; and this last weekend I finished the first draft of my first novel. People sometimes ask me when I’m going to get a real job or they tell me I’m 32 and need a career. I tell them Borders and Barnes & Nobles don’t make a business out of supporting hobbyists. Be passionate about your artistic endeavors, but don’t forget to market yourself.

  7. Mick Kelar Says:

    Having read 48 Days, it seems the trouble for most folks who are stuck in a J-O-B is not knowing their calling. The unique torture for an artist in a J-O-B is that you know exactly what your calling is, but for one reason or another you’re not heeding it. For me, I’m afraid I don’t have the self-discipline required to be my own boss.

  8. Kevin Blake Says:

    While I am not a musician, I have a couple of suggestions for your Artist reader.

    First for some inspiration on how to achieve success outside the mainstream check out the sites of singer/song writer Christine Kane http://www.christinekane.com and bemyrecordlabel.com.
    Aside from what she does musically, Ms. Kane also teaches creativity and holds retreats.

    And Seth Godin had an article where he talked about a company called cdbaby.com. This place looks like a great place to reach a strong long tail market for independent music artists.

    I am not associated with either Ms. Kane (other than being a fan) or CDBaby.

  9. Ricardo Lacourt Says:

    This is an option for those out there who feel “not normal” like I do. Please visit, Christian Online Business Opportunity! http://www.myvemma.com/praisethelord
    many blessings,
    Ricardo Lacourt

  10. Mimi Says:

    As an artist , I know the daily plague of feeling not “normal,” but I have come to realize that God tends to use totally non-normal, out of the box people to shake the world. We are hard-wired to be creative – actually everyone is to some degree in their reflection of their Creator. I know how hard it is to celebrate this fact when you constantly feel like you are lost in a generic, uncreative crowd who seems to dream solely in black and white, if they dream at all. But, if God gives you talent and passion and allows you to see in technicolor and hear the world in Dolby surround sound turned up at that full theatre volume, it is an incredible gift best used for His purposes. And don’t trap yourself in the other box thinking that our creative gifts (or any type of gift for that matter) are for so-called “lofty” church purposes. Our work and service in the seemingly secular can be just as sacred and honoring to God as an act of worship at times as what goes on inside those doors on the endless Sunday mornings. To market beautiful, healing music could be an incredible act of worship. We are groomed to mentally divide the sacred and the secular, when in reality, our gifts and our talents and even our daily jobs are meant to be a God-honoring blend, not even recognizing those lines we try to create between the two.

    These guys are right – you have to take the right steps forward. As artists, we tend to forget that and just follow our nose and our creative whims. It doesn’t work that way in the “real” world (whatever that is!). Learn to market – read all the big marketing tomes. Follow Dan’s great steps. But, don’t do so in pursuit of so-called success. Do so, in pursuit of the voice of God. You may not land where you envisioned, because God often only shows us a tiny piece to the puzzle at a time, but my bet is that you will land in a happy and God-honoring place and you will be content and God shall supply your needs.

    You were given gifts for two purposes: 1) To honor God and make Him famous and 2) To bless and assist others. Pursue those and you’ll land yourself in the process of being that person deep down inside you feel God created you to be.

  11. Eddie Says:

    While I didn’t believe I was unique in this respect, I have felt extremely isolated. My ‘doctrine’ is firmly planted in God’s word, I meditate on his word day and night, and to the extent I accept God’s amazing ability to be bigger than our definition of him and his word. My skills, my attitude, and my need for expression have put me at odds with traditional Christian values. One complaint I’ve had regarding Christian music of our generation is that it is virtually cookie-cutter. No one seems to look at God in new and living ways. I could go so much further with this discussion, but will halt with the notion that, yes, I believe God places some of us “outside the box.” It is up to us to figure out, to plan and implement our journey through the wilderness.

  12. Krista Harmon Says:

    Teachers (along with dentists, accountants, pastors, engineers) can lead a very “authentic” life even though they chose a “common path”. Perhaps God acutally did the choosing. When you are responding to God’s calling and are using the special gifts and talents that he’s given to you – any vocation can be a joy-filled and authentic. We need to be careful of the subtle implication in Dan’s response that being “in the box “is somehow less than someone’s vocation that is “out of the box”.

  13. Connie J. Pratt Says:

    This is so amazing!!! I have felt unable to fit into a certain category as well. I also am a song writer, singer, creative artist, and can exactly relate to what you are saying. God using me or the songs in a big way is another “exactly” response to your writing this letter. As I read the other comments it helps me to at least know I’m not way out there somewhere. And Rebecca’s comment on hearing God clearly,
    that’s me. I am an Administrative Assistant but how creative is that? I would love the freedom of expressing these giftings without the concern of having a job.
    Frustration just seems to crawl around inside, answers are hard to come by. Like Jay said, “Don’t ever give up!”

  14. Jeff Batson Says:

    Wow! I can so relate to that letter. I too, am a musician, songwriter, singer. I have such a passion for music and the creative gifts. I know what my calling is, it’s to use my gifts and talents in music, in the church, and to bring glory to God, through those gifts. I am presently a part time, volunteer, worship leader at my church, so I do get some opportunity to express my gifts in music, but that’s not enough. I also have a full time job that I hate, and want to get out of. I am 48 years old and believe now is the time to really begin to seriously persue a way to earn significant income, doing what I love most, music. Don’t feel alone, I too am part of the 1% crowd. I just need a little help to get me started in the right direction and I think I’ve found that help. I say, let’s go for it, and see what God will do!

  15. Leigh Says:

    I’m not an artist, just a normal stressed-out person.

    I happen to know that there are no Christian relaxation or meditation cd’s out there. They are all new age stuff, believe me, I have searched very hard to find this. You could stick with just music, or do music for a guided relaxation that has a Christian focus. Even though we are Christians, sometimes we still need a little help relaxing. I would be so happy to see you succeed in this!!!

  16. Damon Says:

    As former music major complete with two performance degrees under my belt, I’ll say that many musicians focus on perfecting their craft and rarely spend time on promotion or marketing. It doesn’t have to be that way.

    Here’s a quick story. Anjan Shah was a military musician in the U.S. Army Field Band playing tenor saxophone. After the service, he got a job in the music industry focusing on entertainment marketing. There he learned the business side of music.

    Eventually, he felt the call to return to performance. He put together a saxophone quartet made of former military musicians and found there was a niche for jazz, classical, pops, and rather whimsical type acts in major and mid-major symphony orchestras. A saxophone quartet was a novel concept that would draw crowds and increase tickets sales for such orchestras. He drew on his business experience and put together a marketing plan while relying on the talents of his colleagues to put together a great show. It was a hit.

    They now perform throughout the U.S. and Canada. They conduct clinics and masterclasses. And Anjan has gone on to consulting work, helping orchestras and other music organizations with their marketing campaigns.

    Just because you choose to market yourself doesn’t mean that you’ve “sold out to the man.” There are many musicians starving right now because of that attitude. If you can bring healing in a world of hurt, you’ve got something.

    Check out Capitol’s website. Contact them to get some ideas on marketing. http://www.capitolquartet.com/

  17. Donnie Fischer Says:

    I have been struggling with this very thing for over 2 years now. I am 23 and feel as though God is calling me to something of great importance. I lead people well, understand people well, but my greatest gift is my creativity. I am creative in everything, from coming up with new business ideas, painting, writing, building furniture, to just always wanting to be different and think differently than everyone else.

    My B.A. is in integrative arts and architecture, now I am getting my M.Ed in elementary education, but I feel called to get an M.BA/M.Div. I would love to start a ministry and also several businesses that I believe would help bring about some change in this dark society.

    It is hard to feel different when the world is telling you to go get a normal 9-5 job, when you feel there is so much more that God wants from you.

    I pray for people like me, feeling an urgency to do something, but being overwhelmed and confused about how to go about doing that something.

  18. Elizabeth Says:

    Hello. I am the artist who wrote the “I’m not normal” note to Dan. And I am blown away by all of your wonderful, loving, caring and supportive messages. Thank you all! God bless us as we pursue His calling on our lives. I’m praying that I can move beyond (through?) my fears and step out by faith that He IS leading and guiding me step by step. And it will probably be/look much more different than I’d ever imagined (thankfully!). My problem has been lack of marketing, I know. I must trust that as I follow how He wants me to market myself/my music that HE KNOWS BEST!
    Much love,
    Elizabeth Christopher
    p.s. I long to worship the Lord freely without the time constraints of the Sunday-morning-go-to-church thing. Also, I love teaching the Word and encouraging others in their relationship with Christ. If I start giving retreats/seminars, will you sign up?! :) Feel free to write me at lizchris610@earthlink.net.

  19. Linda Fairchild Says:

    I agree with Krista to the extent that I work with engineers and for most of them, the auto world is their calling and they live, breath and sweat motor oil. They are as deeply committed to their “craft” of engineering as an artist is.

  20. Jared Matthew Kessler Says:

    Wow… I read all of these comments and can relate to everyone here. I started off as a singer/songwriter in 1998 and since then played/booked/promoted/marketed hundreds of shows all across the country as a singer/songwriter (initially). Then in 2001, I had to stop everything and take care of the financial burdens of living the “Starving Artist” type of lifestyle. I came back to California in 2003 for a second time, working during the day and trying to play again at night… but I just couldn’t do it. Then in 2006 I got a new laptop started to make completely different type of music that people thought sounded like it should be in commercials and on tv… and found a whole new way to draw income from it. I then decided to finish my first book in July 2008 entitled, “The Poet and the Billionaire: A Personal Journey of Conversation,” to help a lot of individuals with similar questions on how to get from point “A” to point “B.” I have to say, the only thing that keeps me going is a passion for music.

    Recently received royalties from music airing on tv (after taking a year of getting a contract with this network AND then another year until receiving royalties), it still isn’t enough to “Pay the Bills” so I’m working another job to pay off the debt I accumulated in pursuit of it. I guess, the additional point I want to share, is that “There is never a stopping point.” I also want to point out that we as people must find out who we are and who we are not (doing more of who we are and less of who we are not).

    Music is just part of my life and has been for a very long time. I don’t read music, I’m self taught and just have something inside that will drive me crazy if I cannot get something out musically. There are times when I have to force myself to go to bed/eat because I just lose all sense of space and time when I do create music. IF you feel the same way about any particular career, you must pursue it! To not, is to lie to yourself and fit into someone elses mold of who they think you should be. LEARN to listen, and as Nike says, “Just do it.” I would also like to point out, that there is a reason why my fourth album is called, “Fighting to be me.” :)

  21. Diane Says:

    I’m there with you guys! I’m 46 and have never figured out what I want to be when I grow up (was so grateful to read Dan’s book and realize I’m not the only lost “old” soul out there!). I too am drawn to the more creative side of life — I sing, but don’t write or play anything — but don’t feel I’ve ever fully developed any creative skills, so I often don’t feel skilled enough to really DO anything with my creativity. I’ve set myself a goal to change that. One other challenge is that I’m surrounded by engineers and people with a more pragmatic, traditional perspective on work and life (one of those is my husband!), so I’m likely to feel frivolous or irresponsible if I want to walk a more creative road. Anyone have a good support group out there for the frivolous, irresponsible dreamers in the world who would like to be productive members of society but just want to do it in a different way?

  22. Marquina Says:

    Diane, try the MyGoodNews forum under “Groups” on Yahoo! It was started by law of attraction coach, Jeannette Maw, who thought it would be a great idea to get people together to share good news and support each other on their goals, whatever they might be. I haven’t written in the forum in a while, but I do know that many people on that forum are out there trying new things and that all of them aren’t “normal” – neither am I, by the way. I love to sing, dance, write, draw, create jewelry, design clothing, act, imitate foreign accents, learn new things, improve on old things, direct, organize, teach, and a whole lot of other things. By Barbara Sher’s definition, I am a scanner, though I like to think of myself as an artist! Barbara Sher is the author of “I Could Do Anything If Only I Knew What It Was” and “Refuse to Choose”. (I am about to check out Dan Miller’s new audio program, which I just received information on through Nightingale-Conant. I listened to the samples there and figured he had a nice voice! Based on something he said about resumes, I’m about to re-write mine. Thanks, Dan!)

    And, no, I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up! And I’m 39 with 2 kids who are “technically” grown!

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