Why Kindergarten Ruined Your Career

From Kindergarten onward, we’ve been programmed to picked:

  • To be chosen for the playground kickball team.
  • To get the SAT scores that’ll lead to a good college.
  • To receive the grades that will get us into our major.
  • To win the interview that’ll land a job.

For almost the first three decades of our lives, we are trained that our success depends on others choosing our résumé — whether that’s having the best portfolio among all other applicants or the fastest kickball leg in our elementary school.

So when we start seeking commissions and performances, being chosen by institutions and other people is our go-to expectation.

We expect that getting commissioned is a direct function of

  • How many prizes we’ve won
  • What schools and festivals we attended
  • How “objectively good” our music is
  • Whether we’ve impressed the right people

This. Is. NOT. TRUE.

Sure, those things help you get commissioned. But from my peers’, mentors’ and personal experience, here’s what matters far more:

  • Who are our friends and our friend’s friends?
  • What meaningful connections have we made with them?
  • How do they feel about us and our music subjectively?
  • How well we do we understand their needs and dreams?

In other words, your success at getting commissioned is a direct function of how well you nurture relationships with a wide swath of potential collaborators.

But why does this feel scary when it’s waaaay more human, meaningful, and not-weird than shoving your résumé and portfolio in someone’s face?

Look to Kindergarten. 

This is not what you’ve been trained for. You have been trained to expect that institutional approval matters more than human connections.

So if you want to get more commissions and performances, start by unlearning your Kindergarten expectations.

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