Some of the very best things that have happened in my music career have been completely unplanned by me.
In other words, I didn’t struggle or strain to figure out the how of the thing. I didn’t bang on doors and bang on them again, or make a kajillion phone calls. Sometimes I think our lesson in this lifetime is about allowing, and about trusting that things always work out once we intend them — but that they work out in a way that is best for us, not in a way that would be best for someone else. Pushing, struggling, and straining have never worked for me. Showing up, being clear, doing the inner-work, taking action — those have worked.
One of the best examples I can give of something falling into place without my mucky hands getting involved is when I got endorsed by Takamine guitars.
In case you don’t know what a guitar endorsement is: Guitar companies endorse artists – especially famous artists – because it puts the brand name out there. It’s advertising. Watch a concert on MTV. Look at all the music brand names on the stage with the band. Drums, mics, guitars, bass — most likely, if you can see the brand name, it is a product that has been given to the band or the artist so that viewers will think, “I want to be just like that guy!” and rush out to get that product.
Most guitar companies also have lower-level artist endorsement deals for independent artists who aren’t famous. If a performing artist contacts them, they will offer their guitars at a slightly reduced rate, knowing that at least a few people will see their product.
And hey, it works. When I was in college and I saw Mary Chapin Carpenter for the first time, I wanted to play a big jumbo guitar like she had. I ordered a Martin JM-40 – which was their jumbo model. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that the Martin jumbo body wasn’t as big as her guitar. So I was kind of disappointed. But not for long. As it turns out, I saw Emily Saliers (one of the Indigo Girls) playing a Martin JM-40 on stage soon after that, and I was consoled. There was hope for me to be a good guitar player after all!
Years later, I bought a Takamine because I had started touring a lot, and the Takamine guitar is a good road guitar, even in bad sound situations.
At some point, my manager had made an attempt to get an endorsement from Takamine. She had met someone from the company at a music conference where I showcased. Then she spent several months trying to connect with him and get some interest from the company to no avail. All they offered me was the reduced rate endorsement. She and I agreed to drop it, even though I would’ve loved a full endorsement.
That same year, I did a showcase in Los Angeles at this funky little club that smelled like stale beer and smoke. I was the only solo acoustic artist. (And I’m not being self-deprecating when I say that I was also the most “un-cool.” It’s the truth!) I played about five songs to a lukewarm response.
After I performed, a woman came up and introduced herself to me as I was putting my guitar in its case. She said, “Hi, I’m Jenny Yates, and I loved your set.” And I turned around and looked at her and said, “You’re Jenny Yates? Didn’t you write Standing Outside the Fire?” And she said that she had. And I said, “That’s my favorite Garth Brooks song!” And we instantly connected and talked about writing and how much we love Anne Lamott, and what our favorite songs are, etc.
She asked about my Takamine guitar. I told her I was having some issues with the pre-amp, and that I needed to figure something out soon because it was a pretty old pre-amp, and it was sounding pretty awful. We also had lunch the next day and have since done a few co-writing sessions here and there.
Well, the following week, she called the artist rep at Takamine, who she knew well. She told him about me and about our discussion. He then called me and asked me to send him my promo package and CD’s. One week later, he offered me an endorsement and sent me several new guitars to test so I could pick one. And he also sent me a whole new pre-amp for my old Takamine. When I toured with the ballet company last year, he sent me another new guitar because the performance required several quick guitar changes. He and I meet for breakfast at Fido whenever I’m in Nashville. Even though he has been backstage at some of the coolest concerts you can imagine, and he’s working with artists who are selling millions more records than me, he treats me like a rock star. And you know I love that!
All of this has been effortless. It’s been natural and fun. And it makes me want to do good things for Takamine, too. I know of at least three people who have bought their daughters Takamine guitars because of me. (Okay, so I am a rock star after all.) That makes me happy.
Even though not every deal in my career has been this easy, this situation taught me five things about effortlessness.
1 – The mantra of effortlessness is: “In its own perfect time.”
Yes, I intended an endorsement. It’s what I wanted. And it’s almost as if the angels heard it and said, “Okay, okay, we got it. Give us some space and let us figure this one out.”
2 – Gifts can appear out of seemingly bad situations. (P.S. there ARE no bad situations!)
That showcase I did wasn’t easy. The bulk of the artists there were presenting hard-core masterful pop songs, delivered with polish. I’m a completely different writer. I was out of my element. And yet, there was Jenny. And she connected to what I was doing. Time and time again, this has happened. I never know what big surprise will show up if I show up. Even in the tough situations.
3 – Your needs and your values will be considered in the manifestation of what you want.
The way this deal came to me was perfect, not only because of the serendipity, but also because of the other things I value. I value relationships. And I value authenticity. I like having a relationship with my artist rep because it feels real. Best of all, I didn’t network. I’m not a networker. If I had met Jenny and pushed at her or tried to get her to give me something, it would’ve been a whole different story.
I also value being “taken care of.” I love having an endorsement from a company that takes care of me. My guitar rep calls to check in on me. They pay for repairs. They’re always available for questions. I don’t think that any other endorsement deal would have offered this particular bonus.
4 – A little detachment helps.
When you’re clutching and clinging to your goals, you’re mucking the energy of them. You’re worrying about how it’s going to happen because you don’t believe that it can unless you have figured out the how. The point is that you don’t always know the best way or timing for something to happen for you.
5 – Show up.
You have to participate in the game. You have to show up. Effortlessness isn’t about sitting back and watching tv and hoping something good will happen. You have to participate and act. The myth is that effortlessness implies inaction. It’s not inaction. It’s action with allowing. It’s action with trust.