How to stop overthinking as a musician

Season 1 - Episode 3


Michelle Lynne: Well, hey, everybody. And welcome back to The Fearless Artist podcast. My name is Michelle Lynne, and I’m one of the co-founders here at The Fearless Artist. We are a coaching company for professional musicians who are building their freelance careers. And we work with musicians all over the globe to help them pursue opportunities that matter to them, help create time and energy management skills in their everyday life. And most of all, connect them to a healthy community of musicians who will support, encourage, provide advice, accountability, and wisdom… just like other fields do. Networking in a lot of other industries is extremely crucial. And for us, it is as well. However, we have found that most musicians are isolated on their own. And unfortunately thinking that they are the only ones struggling with problems that most of us, if not all of us face. So together with my best friend and business partner Dianna Petre, we started The Fearless Artist in 2020. And this is episode three of our brand new podcast.

So maybe if you’ve had a chance to listen to previous episodes, you’ve heard a little bit about our origin story. But if you haven’t just encourage you to go back and listen to those. Today I just wanted to talk about something that I think a lot of musicians struggle with, including myself.

And this is called overthinking. Ironically, this podcast was supposed to be launched in January. But my podcast producer who is phenomenal, requested that I had four episodes recorded. And for whatever reason, I have not been able to sit down and do these remaining two.

 I’ve just gotten stuck with so many different thoughts and limiting beliefs… and things that we help our clients overcome as well as ourselves. So I wanted to talk a little bit about that today… as I record this episode and finally take action and go into that direction. I really believe that a podcast can help a lot of people. I personally have listened tons and tons of stuff about leadership, how to build a business. Obviously we built the Fearless Artist from scratch. We’re musicians. Deanna is a violist, she studied at Julliard and CNSM in Paris. I did my Master’s at the University of Montreal in piano performance. So we do not have business degrees, anything that we have learned… we have learned on the ground… hired coaches, read a ton of books, listen to a lot of podcasts, talk to a lot of really wise and helpful people. And we’ve just learned as we’ve gone and then of course, working with our clients around the world, I’ve learned so much from how people are thinking and feeling and dealing with different situations.

But all that to say is that we don’t have MBAs. Listening to podcasts has been life giving for me. And I think that’s really what we want to do with this podcast. We want to give people something inspiring, motivational, related exactly to what musicians are dealing with. There’s not a lot out there for freelance musician support, freelance musician education.

I think most of you listening probably didn’t have any kind of entrepreneurship classes in your studies. I think the tide is turning now in 2024. I personally am on faculty at two conservatories in the Netherlands where I live. I work at Conservatory Maastricht and CodeArts in Rotterdam. I teach your art as a business and professional development for entrepreneurship at those two institutions.

But the majority of people that I know my age didn’t have anything of the sort in their undergrad master’s degrees. Or if they did, it was just related strictly to taxes, invoices. And someone shared with me yesterday that his course in Amsterdam was very much, uh, you need a website, you need social media.

It’s like, yeah, okay, thanks a lot, but like how?! You know? 

So we’re excited to be able to provide education support training to our clients everywhere… and also for us. We had to learn how to do everything from scratch… like I already said. And luckily we have found our way. So all of that to say this podcast, I hope is life giving. I hope that you get a lot of ideas from it. I hope that you glean inspiration from it. And most of all, I hope that it encourages you to keep going with whatever is important to you, whatever lights you up inside, whatever your biggest dream is the one that you haven’t shared with anyone yet. Because you’re too scared to say it out loud.

Our industry is full of comparison, it’s full of fear, it’s full of fear of not being good enough. There is an incredibly high standard in the classical music world… as it should be. Because our art is so wonderful, if you go to a really good concert, one of the great pianists or whatever your instrument is… you walk away changed. These are life changing moments that we experience in concert halls, recordings can affect you profoundly… they can shift your thinking… how you view the world… the great writers that can inspire us…

So it’s not at all to diminish the high standards that we have in our industry. I think that’s something that is beautiful and to be celebrated. But the problem is we start to compare ourselves to this incredibly high standard all the time. And because we fall short, we then often don’t try to do what we can do because we know that it’s not at that top, top level.

But that means that there’s a lot of undug gold, you can say, in a lot of musicians. There’s a lot of gold in all of us and things that haven’t been discovered yet, things that haven’t been crafted yet. And that is such a shame. If you get to the end and you realize you had a lot more potential and you just didn’t have what was necessary to craft that, dig it out, find it in yourself, bring it into the world, share it with others.

And the heart behind The Fearless Artist is to really be able to determine what is inside of you? What do you have to give? What do you have to share? What is the one thing that you have that no one else has? Because we are all unique individuals with a specific gift. And I really believe that the gift that you’ve been given is not for you… it’s for others. And if you don’t bring it out into the world… then the world is missing out. We need you. We need your voice. We need your art. We need your music. 

So anyway, those are just some of my thoughts and the direction that I’d like to take this podcast in. We’re gonna make them bite sized… we’re going to make them practical. We want to always give you a takeaway that you can have at the end to really impact your life right now. In my conservatory classes, I always tell the students… I don’t want you to have a beautiful lecture canvas slides that get lost on your computer. I want you to be able to take this information and to really use it now. This is also what we tell our clients and our Mastermind and our membership. So whatever it is, as you’re listening, even if you just have one thought, I just really encourage you to hit pause, write it down and see how you can take action on it right away.

So let’s start with quick intro for me in case you don’t know, I’m a pianist… as I already said… canadian. I’ve been living in Europe for over 10 years and I am thrilled to have a performing career across France, Netherlands, Belgium and other countries in Europe. I teach on faculty, as I mentioned, and that takes up all of my time. Um, when I’m not performing or teaching. Those are the two things that I really love to do. And now of course, speaking is coming into play with a podcast and other speaking opportunities. And so over the last decade, I’ve been able to build a career that I really love and the direction that I want it to go.

And in the past, I’ve done things that were necessary at the time to pay the bills or to see if that is what I wanted to do. And through working with different coaches, again, like lots of deep reflection and I think just grit… I realized that ultimately I’d like to have the stage career and to be visible and to share my ideas and to reach a lot of people. Because I think the message that Deanna and I carry is so valuable and helpful because first of all, it changed us.

The fearless Artist came… I remember 2017, I was just struggling so much. I’d been in Europe for four years at that point and things weren’t really going in the direction that I wanted to. I really remember feeling really lost and stuck and thought so many times about quitting piano and what am I doing… I don’t know what to do… I’m scared to do anything… I’m not good enough and comparing myself to everybody else on Instagram. And just thinking I could never be what I was seeing. There’s a beautiful company called the giving keys… and with them, you choose a word on a key and you can wear that as a symbol of what is important to you. I chose the word fearless. And I wore that key every single day for 3 years under my clothes, and it was just a personal reminder to me – to be fearless, to step out, to not hold myself back. I think a lot of us are our own ceilings. We are the limitation. Our mindset is the limitation. So just reminding myself, be fearless. And then when it came time to name our company, we settled on The Fearless Artist and we say at the end of every newsletter, every Instagram post – be fearless. Because we really believe that’s what it takes if you’re going to make it into the career that you want as a classical musician, as a freelance musician… it just requires so much grit and so much determination. You just keep running at the wall over and over and over. And sometimes you hit it really hard and you bounce back off and you think, wow, that hurt, you know? But then sometimes you see a little bit of a breakthrough and you think, Oh, maybe this is possible.

So why was I overthinking this podcast? I think… whenever we want to step into something new, first of all, your brain is always going to want to default to what’s familiar. So for me, Instagram is very familiar. I’ve been posting content for, I don’t know, six, seven years. I started on a fitness account. And from there, I kind of learned how it all worked. And I watched a lot of other girls do their fitness thing. And then I finally got the courage to start a piano account right again, around 2017. And started to post little glimpses of my career back then. And then just also thoughts. I was teaching piano full time, so I was also sharing a lot of teaching content. And just kind of getting in the habit of, taking what I was doing and then sharing it with an audience and building a following. But mostly building friends. I think at that point it was really about finding a supportive community and learning from other people… who are also pursuing the same kind of things, entrepreneurship mindsets, and, just really supporting each other.

I’ve always been kind of a people person. I love my little clubs and my groups and my teams. So I think finding that online was really crucial for me because I did feel so isolated back then. Um, so anyway, going back to why I was overthinking this podcast, Instagram is really easy whipped out my phone, talk to the camera.

And the irony is that. This is the same thing. I’m talking to the camera. I’m just sharing thoughts, but, I think when you’re a little bit nervous about something, you always start thinking about all the ways that it can go wrong. So I listened to a lot of women on podcasts and they talk way too much and they ramble about random things and it’s disorganized, like, well, I don’t want to be that I don’t want to waste people’s time.

So I can’t do that. And then I thought about, well, what if I don’t have anything interesting to say? And I’ve done dozens of interviews at this point, and I always get really nice feedback from some people about how it helps them. So why do we let ourselves think about these worst case scenarios? I literally would not be doing this right now. If my incredible podcast producer does not text me daily and be like, where are the other two episodes, you know? 

So if you’re listening to this and you’ve been putting off something, just know that. You are not alone and people are struggling with things that you have no idea they’re struggling with because they don’t talk about it on Instagram, you know?

I mean, I, I made a little story today that said like, hi, I’m about to do the episode that I’ve been putting off for so long. But other than that, people usually don’t share these more vulnerable bits. And I kind of decided that with this podcast, I do want to be more vulnerable and kind of go deeper because there’s more time.

You know, we want to make the episodes about 20 minutes long and then I can just share more behind the scenes of my thoughts and my thinking. And I’m not so much focused on trying to give some kind of tip or valuable content on a 60 second Instagram video. Uh, yesterday I was in a coaching call with one of my clients and she said something to me to the effect of… I’m so glad to hear that you struggle with this too.

And I was like, oh man, like I really don’t want our Mastermind clients or fast forward or membership clients to think that, Deanna and I have it all figured out. I mean, all that we’ve done is that… we’ve worked really hard to continue to change and make better choices and find systems and habits.

And we have grown so much, but it doesn’t mean that we weren’t exactly where a lot of people are right now… trying to figure it out. So we’re so happy to share what we’ve learned. And especially because working with hundreds of people around the world, we see patterns and problems. We see people saying the same thing over and over and over. And so we have access to multiple people and hearing these things. That’s a real privilege. So that’s, of course, gives us more authority to be able to speak on these things. But I never want people to think that it’s, super easy or that I have it all figured out or that things were just kind of handed.

It’s been a real struggle. A lot of conversations, a lot of tears, Deanna knows everything. And so, there’s a real element to being able to go deeper,share ideas behind it on this podcast and really knowing that we can make a difference in your lives that just gives us a lot of joy.

Okay. So let’s talk about the topic of overthinking. Overthinking is when, again, you’re spiraling, you’re thinking about all the ways it can go wrong. You’re thinking about all the things that you don’t want to be. You’re usually comparing yourself. You’re usually putting a lot of weight on things that don’t ultimately matter…

Even setting up a podcast, okay, I need a good microphone. I need lighting. I need to make sure that I look presentable and all of those things. Okay. Yes. On one hand it matters, but on the other hand, what matters more is just getting in the habit and being comfortable with a new platform.

I remember when I first started TikTok too, I just… I hated it because I didn’t understand the app and the editing was difficult. And I think the brain, again, just defaults to the familiar. It’s easier. And so, of course, we want to take the route that we’ve already traveled. It’s the same thing with the new software.

Whatever you’re stepping into, or maybe you’re getting into newsletter writing or whatever. And so it’s unfamiliar to you. So your brain’s trying to figure it out. You’re nervous. You’re worried about what people think. You’re probably comparing yourselves. This is the worst thing you can do, by the way. So you’re about to start something new, like a podcast, and then you go on your Instagram and you watch someone who’s been doing a podcast for one or two or three years. And they have perfect lighting, and they had a makeup artist come in that day. They’ve got a beautiful backdrop and perfect audio, and you think, Oh my gosh, I could never be that. So you don’t even try. It’s like, well, yeah, probably you can’t be that today, but did you go look at that person’s podcast from the first episode that they ever did? It was probably really bad, or it was probably nowhere near the level that they’re at now.

Why? Because we get better as we go. Why do we forget this as musicians? I don’t know. We know this from practicing. You never take the first day that you start a new piece and say, wow, I’m going to be terrible when I perform this. No, that has nothing to do with anything, but I hear this all the time from our clients. They do an Instagram post and it doesn’t perform well. And they think, oh, I should have never done this. It’s like, well, do it a hundred times, every other day… and call me in six months and tell me if you haven’t learned anything or if you haven’t improved, or if you haven’t gotten a concert from it… because somebody saw you playing they didn’t even know that you were playing that certain rep or that you were in town or whatever, insert whatever thing here… because ultimately your social media or your podcast or your newsletter is always supposed to be about visibility. Because guess what? You are your own business as a musician. And probably most of you listening have figured that out.

But in case you haven’t, hello and welcome to the real world, where you didn’t learn this in school and you have a business now. You’re a musician who has a business. You have a product. You need to sell this product. You need to convince other people to buy your product, which is you, by the way, either giving concerts or teaching or whatever it is that you’re selling.

And that’s the thing that we work with our clients on to discover, what are your offers and how can you sell them basically, marketing. But all of this is built on your personal brand, your branding as an artist and why you and not the 5, 000 other pianists who also play all the same Chopin pieces, by the way, what sets you apart. And I think these are things that we’re going to be talking about over time as we do the podcast. 

So the biggest lesson that I want to teach you today about overthinking is that you have to remember it will get better as you go. Okay. Your 5th Instagram post, your 10th, your 15th… they are all going to be more beautiful.They’re going to be smoother. Your editing will be better. You’ll get faster at it. And there is a delete button. I promise you, if you go back on The Fearless Artist or my piano page and you scroll back, you’re going to see a big difference. It’s called a glow up. Okay. A glow up is a wonderful concept. And most of us go through one and it’s a great thing. So you can go back and you can delete the previous version of you.

And when you do, you thank them profusely because they showed up and they were brave and they put themselves out there. And because of them, you are now able to exist because this version of you came from that person’s decisions, which is you. Right. But anyway, so we’re focusing on how can I set up my future self to get better?

Well, guess what? That means you need to show up today. So how are you showing up today for you for future you? It will get better and it’s going to suck in the beginning. I’m sure I’m going to watch this podcast back in a year and I’m going to see 10 things that I know that I can improve on, but currently I don’t know that.

So I’m going to just honor where I’m at today in my process and say, okay, I hope this helps someone. It’s definitely helping me. I’m learning how to clarify and organize my thoughts. I’m learning how to share a message with an audience and we’re reaching new people. So is it a win? Yes, it’s a win. We keep going.

The other thing is that as your own worst critic, most people will not know the difference between your 80% and your 90%. Okay. So you are going to be able to see every single flaw, every single hair out of place. Every time you misspoke, if you stumbled over your words, et cetera.

But most people aren’t because there’s so much information for them because you’re new to them that they’re unfamiliar. So they’re just trying to process and grasp the concept. So if that’s a playing video, remember, people on Instagram are not there to criticize the art, more that would be more in a concert hall setting or maybe YouTube… but Instagram really just treat it as a visibility strategy where you’re trying to get your name out there, your brand out there.

If you don’t phrase exactly how you would have liked it to be, try to just say, is it 80, 85 percent of what my level is? Yes. Okay. Let’s post and move on. We’re going to keep going. We’re getting over… overthinking. That is a new slogan. We’re getting over overthinking. Okay, everybody, when you wake up in the morning, tomorrow morning, can you just look at yourself and say, I’m getting over overthinking.

There you go. You learned that from me today. Okay. So here’s some ways that I’ve seen people overcome overthinking and how it helps them. I teach social media as part of my conservatory electives. And I started talking to them about the importance of… all of you listening know this. When you record yourself, you get a lot better really fast because you hear everything.

And is it the most uncomfortable thing that you can do in your whole life? Yes. Listening back to yourself playing is the worst thing ever. However, you’re going to get better. So, there’s the pain principle, either you pay the price now or you pay the price later. And I have learned in my life that it is better to pay the price now.

You’re going to record yourself for Instagram. You’re going to give yourself five takes. This comes back to the killing perfectionism in classical challenge that we did a few years ago on Instagram. Probably a lot of you listening have done that as well. Five takes, listen, take the best one, post it and tomorrow wake up, do the exact same thing.

And then after 10, 12, 14 days, you’re going to go back and re-listen and you’re going to say, oh man, actually, that was pretty good. But when I was listening in the moment, I could only hear every single tiny little flaw. Because your critic is like on overdrive at that point, right?! I have students who have started posting consistently, we have so many clients… I mean, there’s so many stories we could tell, but one in particular, a friend of mine, you know, I think there’s a lot of, fear around being taken seriously as a classical musician… classical musicians are very serious, right? So we got to be very serious. We’ve got to be professional. None of this fun joking around stuff. Okay, fine. That’s fine. Do your thing. 

But finally I convinced this person to start sharing what they were doing because it was quite good and deserves to be seen, which is what we tell a lot of our clients because most of our clients have like performance master’s degrees. There’s no reason to be hiding. 

So anyway, they started posting So, um, I, I think I think I’ve made some cool videos got seen by a couple of people who are really excited that they were sharing. And then he got booked into like next season at this really great gig because they saw that he was playing a certain repertoire.

 There are so many things that can happen. People get excited. They see how you’re sharing your ideas. One other of our Mastermind clients recently posted on Facebook teaching pedagogy kind of style content video. And she was seen by one of her former teachers and they congratulated her on just being able to share such a great idea.

And she was shocked. She’s thought, you know, this is someone that I would have thought really would have judged me. I said, why would you think that they’re going to judge you? They’re just going to be impressed that you’re getting your face out there and you’re telling your audience something. I’m sure that person’s not creating content if they were your teacher. Because that’s a different generation. Of course they’re just going to be on your side. They’re going to be proud of you. I mean, any teacher who has invested in their students, they want them to succeed. You want to see your student be able to cultivate what you’ve invested in them and then do something with it.

So that was a really cool example of how she was able to start building more awareness and people were like, Oh, we didn’t even know that you were teaching in that particular city. And so then people can start to word of mouth… I mean, we always say social media isn’t the end game, but it’s the beginning of the game. So if we think about a visibility strategy, we’re trying to bring people down a sales funnel… which is hiring you to play, right? If you’re a performer or hiring you to be there. teacher. If you want to get students and those are the two primary ways that most musicians are earning or want to earn their income.

So social media functions as a visibility. And then from there can be the trickle down effect where people are going to start talking. They’ll recommend you word of mouth. You know, everybody who is against social media always says to me, oh, I don’t need social media. Because I just get recommended by word of mouth.

Yeah. Okay, great. But then you’re cutting off another alleyway for people to know what you’re doing and talk to each other in conversations that you’re not even in the room in… people can recommend you and you can get work because they saw something that you talked about, or you posted about, or you shared about.

So I think it’s really important to learn how to take what we’re doing. On a daily, weekly basis, share it with an audience and build a fan base. And we teach a number of workshops specifically around how to build a fan base, at the fearless artist. It’s like really close to my heart. Because it’s something that really changed my life in the last 2 years.

I’ve been playing across France so much. And we ended up being able to build my Instagram following and getting people to ask when am I coming back to their city? They’re starting to ask specifically for me to come back to their city. And that’s giving me more playing opportunities. It’s building my mailing list is building my followings.

These are all really good things because now I can reach them directly on my mailing list. I can send them straight to my album, straight to my merch, straight to my Patreon. And this is what you want as an independent artist that you have direct access to your fans. That is another topic for another day, but it is something that I get very excited about. Because then I think, first of all, it’s just so exciting… it’s a privilege to have a fan base, to have people who are interested and who care about what you’re doing, and to have people that you are impacting, that they thank you for your music… what an honor it is to have people who are touched and affected by what we’re doing. And I think that’s available for every musician. And again, something that we don’t hear in school, because in school, we’re so focused on beating out the next person who’s playing the same piece beside us in the practice room, slightly faster. It’s like, okay, there’s a really big world out there… people who have no idea what classical music is and they are just so touched and impressed.

And we have a gift again, worth sharing, worth giving that we need to give to these people. 

So how can you create success in your life? My dear Fearless Artist, you need momentum. That means you need to take action. So whatever you’re stuck on today, and here’s your action point for the day. I said at the beginning of this podcast that we’re always going to give you a little bit of an action point to execute on.

I want you to write down whatever you have been overthinking, whether it’s a podcast episode or whether it’s a newsletter or whether it’s posting on Instagram, or maybe it’s reaching out and pitching someone for a concert opportunity. And then I want you to break it down into the very, very first small step.

For me, this was organizing the structure of the podcast episode. It wasn’t clear in my head, what exactly I wanted to say. So that’s where I was getting stuck and I can blame it on, you know, oh,I’m don’t have time. I’m out of town. I don’t have my mic set up or whatever excuse I want to come up with.

But actually where I was really stuck was I didn’t exactly know the structure of what I wanted to say. So today I sat down, I made a quick template overview of how I want the podcast episode to flow. And then once I have a structure, I can just wing it from there. That’s my style. You need to know yours.

So where are you getting stuck? What’s the very first step I want you to write it down. And then I want you to send us a DM on Instagram to @ TheFearlessArtstMastermind and tell me what is that very first thing that you’re going to do. Again, for me, I had to create the structure, the outline of the podcast episode. For you, it might be deciding what am I going to play on the Instagram video today? Or who do I want to write to ask for a concert? Or maybe it’s I need to pick a program to pitch to that said person, right? Sometimes we think the problem is here, but actually the problem is a few steps back. So I want you to go exactly to where the problem is and figure out what you need to figure out today.

Send us on a DM on Instagram and let us know what it is. And just remember that you are going to create momentum by taking action. Once you figure out that first problem and you solve it, other things are going to be able to open up to you. You’re going to see what the next step is from there. Try not to get 5 or 10 steps ahead of yourself and just start with the first thing that’s going to create momentum.

Okay. Looking ahead, we want you to keep things simple. This is another key way to overcome overthinking. Don’t get stuck in… again, 10 steps ahead. How am I going to do it? What’s it going to look like in 3 months? How many people are going to see this? How many views, how many likes will I get the concert or not? Will I get the competition or not? You know what? Let’s just keep it really, really simple because all of those big things are creating, making the situation really big in your head. And actually in reality, it’s not that big. What you need to do is just take the very next step. And from there you’re going to have clarity.

Remember action brings clarity. That’s how we get clear on what to do. We need to take a step forward and then we’ll see what available options are to us. So those are some of my best tips for overcoming overthinking. This is how I have overcome overthinking. And the proof is that you are now listening to this podcast episode.

You’re welcome. So if you want to go ahead and follow The Fearless Artists Mastermind on Instagram… you can also find me – thisismichellelynne. And we would love to invite you to check out our membership. It is a fun, chill community of musicians who are actively encouraging and supporting each other. We do hot seats where people come in with a certain problem that they’re facing or an opportunity, and they get to hash it out with other people. It’s becoming a really tight knit group. There’s a lot of laughter on the calls. People bring valuable insights. They love the conversations. It’s really just a fun, inspiring place to be. It’s called fast forward. You can find it on our website, I want to say thank you so much for listening to this episode. If you enjoyed this episode, would you please screenshot this and share it to your Instagram stories… tag us that we can reshare. And if you go ahead and leave us a review, that would really help because it will help us be found by other fearless artists who need this message.

This is Michelle Lynne. It has been a pleasure to talk to you today. I want to thank PH Media Studio for being our podcast producer, and we will see you up the next time at The Fearless Artist podcast. Remember you have what it takes to build the career of your dreams. Be fearless.