Charles Mingus, Buddy Rich, Jim Morrison... There's a long, loooong list of geniuses who went back for seconds at the craziness buffet line. Sadly, people have come to accept this from artists.
The same goes for the entrepreneurs that shape our industry. Henry Ford, Jack Welch, John D. Rockefeller...
Yahoo finance just put out an amazing article on how certain types of mental illness (specifically Mania in this article), when present in milder forms, actually help entrepreneurs. Jure Robic has broken countless ultra-endurance events (8 straight days of racing across 3,000 miles) by quite literally driving himself insane. (See also my previous article on artists as entrepreneurs)
Let's think about the parallels and why this is.
Most musicians fail at becoming full-time musicians / getting famous. Most startups fail within five years. A new band is competing with every major label band for attention. A new computer is competing with every other computer business in the same field.
The odds are against you.
From the yahoo article: "You need to suspend disbelief to start a company, because so many people will tell you that what you’re doing can’t be done, and if it could be done, someone would have done it already,” says Paul Maeder, a general partner at Highland Capital. “There are six billion human beings on this planet, we’ve been around for hundreds of thousands of years, we’re a couple hundred years into the industrial revolution — and nobody has done what you want to do? It’s kind of crazy.”"
And there we have it. It does take a little bit of crazy to think you can do something better than anyone else before.
But that's how absolutely everything we know and use everyday began.
So where does that leave us? Should we make the "rational" choice and just give up because our chances at success are so small? Should we sniff airplane glue until we believe we're the lizard king here to deliver the tastiest riffs ever picked out of a telecaster?
What we do, is balance.
Believe in your music, against all odds. Work, practice, hustle, sweat with the conviction that it will pay off. This kind of confidence inspires others and, more importantly, makes them confident that you actually can do the things you say.
But do not get lost in hubris. Be aware of your place in the world and what you can realistically accomplish. Set goals that are within your realm, don't plan on selling out a stadium when you can only pull 7 people to your shows. You'll get burned out.
Success is a long distance race, not a sprint. Believe in yourself, but be real.