I’m a musician, and I grew up in the suburbs of Birmingham, Alabama. Fortunately, I grew up surrounded by the things you’d commonly associate with such an upbringing—A caring, loving family, access to a quality education and healthcare—very few unmet needs. If you’re accessing the internet and reading this, you can probably at least imagine such a scene.

I also grew up with a pretty clear narrative about what it meant to “grow up,” and how to go about being “successful.” While neither of my parents applied any particular pressure on me to do anything besides work hard and be a good person—and I certainly had every opportunity to do these things with little adversity—the blueprint for existing normally in a world driven by capital were laid out fairly clearly. As a kid determined to make a life out of the pure joy that came from playing a guitar, many of these roadmaps confused me as a kid, challenged me as an adult, and inform my work today.

What’s your goal?

As an artist of any kind, you’re familiar with the concept that commercial art is not art. And yet, you love what you do, and you want t be good at it. And of course—nobody dreams of becoming a minor league baseball player, a regional manager, or a bronze medalist—we all want to excel at everything, and be recognized accordingly. So, the traditional measures of success don’t fit the fundamental idea that creativity can’t be monetized. Now what? Scrap the dream? No—it’s time to rethink your definitions of success, and rebuild your goals accordingly.

What if success was expressing yourself fully and completely through your art, every single day? It may sound simple when boiled down to one thought, and you can probably hear your career councilor telling you to leave your creative self alone between the hours of 9 and 5 on weekdays. However, when your focus is simply on employing your creativity each day to its fullest, you can find success through that highly focused lens. For example, let’s say you’re a musician, and expressing yourself musically each day is your simple goal. As you’re writing songs, you will need a job that allows you time to rehears and write around work. Eventually, you will need to find a way to make money in-between your stints on tour, and you’ll need to find supplemental work that fits that unique schedule.

Pursue your goal relentlessly.

Allow your creative goals to be your first priority, and be willing to constantly adjust your work life accordingly. When you’re creating or performing, don’t compromise. When you’re working to support yourself creatively, always be ready to adjust. This will definitely mean a less-than-traditional sleep cycle, and that’s ok.

Set your creative sights towards the long term.

Don’t sweat the bad shows, the critics, or the fact that you don’t make as much money as one of your friends. Keep plugging away towards your creative vision, and never allow yourself to be outworked. In time, your artistic practice will refuse to be unnoticed. The other elements of your life—work, family, friends—will fit. Don’t underestimate the power of repetition as you shape your life with your strong creative goals at the forefront.