Are You Willing to Let Go?

Letting go of my career as a professional musician was probably one of the hardest things I have ever done. Even though I had not played professionally in over ten years, I couldn’t get myself to do it. What would my family think of me if I just gave up on being a musician? How do I explain to my friends that I just quit? How will other musicians treat me thinking that I couldn’t handle it? This was the disempowering language that I used to torture myself on a daily basis. I decided that I had no other choice but to keep “musician” as a part of my professional identity…

Marc Ensign: Entrepreneur, Speaker, Author, Musician and All Around Do-Gooder.

It was a mouthful, but that was my title. It’s who I was. Or at least who I told everyone I was. For ten years I lived out of balance claiming to be a professional musician amongst all of these other things when really I was just playing a few scattered gigs here and there. It was a hobby. Something that I enjoyed. Certainly not worthy of top billing next to my name anymore.

Of course, it’s very difficult to create an identity for yourself without it spilling into everything else that you do. The website design company I started was initially meant for musicians and artists. I was one or two shots of tequila away from inventing MySpace before there ever was a MySpace. Ironically, my company is probably worth more than MySpace is right now (just kidding Justin Timberlake…I’m sure it was a great investment). I reinvented my personal website 5 different times, always attempting to merge my background in music with my career in Internet Marketing. I even wrote a book and launched a website last year called “How to Make a Living as a Musician” which was accepted by Kickstarter but failed miserably after my lackluster attempt to get the word out.

I had a big problem. I was stuck. I was holding onto a rope that was tied to my past while simultaneously pulling on another rope tied to my future. And I was somehow confused as to why I wasn’t going anywhere. The only way to move in either direction was to let go of one of the ropes. So two months ago, after 10 years, I finally did.

I gave myself permission to stop calling myself a professional musician. It was powerful. I was finally able to enjoy the success that I had as a musician…and move on.

That was the week that I started this blog.

What Happened Next Was Amazing

When I decided to start writing, I agreed to commit to writing everyday. I wanted to attack this with the same commitment and passion that I did with every gig that I chased as a musician. When no one was reading it, I kept going. When no one was commenting, I kept going. When I couldn’t think of anything to say, I kept going. I refused to stop. I refused to get discouraged. I refused to give up. After all, I was no longer tied down.

It worked.

I remember the first time I hit 100 unique visitors in a day. That’s a pretty big deal when you are coming from zero. I also remember my first blog subscriber that wasn’t related by blood or marriage. My first real comment was big too. It was even better that it was positive, although my first negative comment was pretty cool too! My worlds collided early on when I got to play bass with Chris Brogan and Jacqueline Carly in Boston after practically stalking them on Twitter one night. I wrote a post on the Google Penguin Update that got a shout out from Google’s Matt Cutts who called my strategy “solid” which started a whirlwind of new traffic, subscribers and follow up articles on other blogs.

All of this and much more, all because I gave myself the permission to let go of something that has been holding me down for 10 years…me. Now there is nothing left but possibility.

But Enough About Me…

What about you? What title have you given yourself that has been holding you back all of these years? Don’t be shy, you know you have something that you won’t let go of. It doesn’t have to be a profession from your past like mine was. It might be a damaging word you use to describe yourself. Shy? Boring? Unpopular? Stupid? Broke? Or perhaps it was an experience you went through that you created a story about. Were you made fun of in school? Bad relationship? Lost something or someone important to you?

What is it that you have created for yourself that you are living into on a day to day basis as if it were your default setting? What if you could just drop it. Remove the meaning that you have given it. Let go of that rope and finally start moving forward? What if it was as simple as just giving yourself permission to let it go?

It is.

  • Laura Amerman, CFRE

    This is a powerful testimony.  Holding onto old identities is like dragging around an anchor.  For a long time I carried the “my mother died when i was 22 and it ruined my life” anchor.  Dropping that story was so empowering!

  • Laura Amerman

    This is a powerful testimony.  Holding onto old identities is like dragging around an anchor.  For a long time I carried the “my mother died when i was 22 and it ruined my life” anchor.  Dropping that story was so empowering!

    • Marc Ensign

      That’s an awful story to walk around half your life with. Good for you for having the strength to get rid of that and move on! 

  • Ivana Buric

    very inspiring! 

  • Ivana Buric

    very inspiring! 

    • Marc Ensign

      Thanks Ivana! Next stop, Oprah’s couch! :)

  • Joe Boyle

    Great article,  I moreover think that the entire post can be summed up in a few words – be what you want to be. All too often, we get caught up in this mindset society forces upon us. This mindset that we have to do what is said to be successful, live by the rules, and be normal.

    I like to quote Steve Jobs – “When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is
    and you’re life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to
    bash into the walls too much…  That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader
    once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call
    life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can
    change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that
    other people can use. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”

    I think that’s one of the most beautiful and defining quotes of all-time. What more can you really say? What if we lived in a world where you could be a rockstar and a blogger? Or one where the guy who got picked on during class always ended up being the guy who saves the world?

    I think another quote from Steve Jobs fits in nicely – “Almost everything – all external
    expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these
    things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly
    important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know
    to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are
    already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

    Okay, enough love for Steve Jobs. Great article, I think the general message is to be you and not let anyone tell you that you’re wrong. You have to let go the fear and just push through.

    • Marc Ensign

      Thanks Joe! I’ve heard that second quote…I think it was from the commencement speech he gave, wasn’t it? I never heard the first quote before. I love it. Thank you for sharing that! No need to apologize for giving too much love to Steve Jobs…the guy was absolutely brilliant on so many fronts!

  • Irina Smirnova

    THis is super awesome. Perfect at the end of the day like this one was! THANK YOU.

    • Marc Ensign

      Thank you Irina! I’m so glad this post meant so much to you. Me too. It was a tough one to write. Today was the first day I even came back to it (hence my delay in responding to your comment).

  • Stacey

    Thank you very much… I needed this. While I can’t actually let go of my other commitments (I admin my husbands company), I can stop identifying myself as that… I am a writer! I am not an accountant or a secretary or a web designer. I’m a writer! Between you and Julien, I see ALOT of conviction in my future…

    • Marc Ensign

      Hi Stacey! I am really humbled by the comments I got from this one. This was one of those that I questioned whether or not I should even post. I’m glad I did. Can’t wait to see what you are writing…keep me posted!

  • Tammy Helfrich

    Great post. Thanks for sharing.

    • Marc Ensign

      Thank you Tammy!!!!

  • Josh Shear

    Funny. I have a title I’ve held onto — writer — even when it wasn’t true, and I’m finally getting back to it. Because I need it. I’m not whole without writing. And for several years, I didn’t write, but I still called myself a writer. And it was because I held onto the title I had to make the effort to come back to it.

    I guess the story is knowing what to keep and what’s keeping us instead.

    • Marc Ensign

      I think that’s what was different for me. I had conquered that title of “musician”. Inside I really didn’t think I had anything left to contribute there but getting rid of that title would actually mean in some way that I gave up. If deep down inside you are a writer then you need to hold onto that rope. It’s when you are honest with yourself and can’t say that you are anymore that you have to let go!

  • paul jarvis

    Ah, I didn’t know you were a musician too (possibly because you’ve effectively shifted your personal branding from it!). I still play, tour, record, but I keep it off my writing/design branding and promotions. It’s a separate, fun thing I don’t need/want to cross-promote and I like music because it’s so separate from the other stuff I do :)