I love to fly. Sitting inside an aluminum tube as its wings bounce up and down from turbulence is enough to bring any person closer to God. I find flying to be a very spiritual experience. I pray non-stop! I also love looking out the window. Seeing the earth from 37,000 feet brings a new perspective. As I viewed the earth passing below on a recent flight, the “Still, Small Voice” spoke to me. I thought about the path we take as artists, musicians and more importantly, as human beings. I heard the phrase, “path of least resistance.” I pondered this phrase for the better part of my journey.
From my vantage point high above the earth, rivers appeared to weave back and forth. They meandered as if they weren’t sure where to go. This added many miles to their journey when they could have had a straight shot to their destination. Some meandered so much that they cut themselves off and formed an “Oxbow Lake,” which was filled with stagnant water.
Further into my journey, I noticed one particular river somewhere near the Rockies that was straight as an arrow and appeared to have a strong current. The river cut right through a huge mountain range! It was a river with certain direction, sure of its destination and determined not to be stopped. I was impressed by that river!
What does “path of least resistance” mean to you?
I decided to ask our members on Indieheaven.com what they thought about this phrase. The following is a sample of responses I received from this diverse group of artists. I hope their sharing speaks to you as it did to me.
The path of least resistance is best if an artist is trying to go through, instead of around, that which opposes him. Water is a great incessant force on Earth, eventually eroding everything in its way. The “path of least resistance” is not the same as “the path of least effort.” The work of the Holy Spirit is like powerful water wearing away rock and mud of the Flesh eventually becoming weary worn and succumbing to death. Only the Spirit can do the eternal work of God, not the Flesh. It takes Man ages to learn this phenomenal geological process that most assuredly, though slowly, moves mountains. Sadly, believers in Jesus want to use TNT (Their Natural Talent) to explode earthly terrain rather than remaining patient and allowing the persistent agency of the Living Water to chart the course. The Door is the path of least resistance, but we must first overcome beating our head against the proverbial wall before we find rest in the Lord. My head still hurts from this pounding lesson.
I think the biggest thing I’ve noticed (and seen in some folks close to me) is the attitude that “since this is my ‘calling’ I don’t have to work at it; God will take care of everything”. While I certainly would agree that God has His eye on us and cares for us and will supply all our needs, we are certainly expected to use and “exercise” the various gifts we’ve been given. (I think of the parable of the Talents). Whether those gifts are in music as far as talent and ability or if those gifts are in something like management, or promotion, etc. (to keep things in a musician/band context). I think to sit back and wait on something to be thrown on our plate when we should be out there moving our ministry forward (and praying daily for discernment to know how that is best approached) is not something that is pleasing to God.
The PLR is very much a spiritual issue. It is instilled into every one of us simply due to our Adamic nature. At the root is selfishness and discontent. Look at the garden scene, God said do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do…ok you get it! Oh yeah, there was one don’t! (ONE DON’T!) Where did we choose to hang out? You see it was suddenly appealing and fogged over all the beauty and wonder of the perfect environment God had just put His magnificent finishing touches on. PLR is PMR really! The path of “MOST” resistance. Throughout the Bible God has dealt with man in terms of “DOMAIN”. We continually conduct new surveys on God’s measurements. I believe we all need to humbly beseech the God of domain, and honestly ask, should we be so bold, Lord, what is the domain of this ministry? Am I staying within your measurements for it? Once we hear His clear domain, or calling, along with it’s measurements, we then work the field with passion, always keeping in mind whose field it is, perhaps then He may extend some boundaries, but even if He does not…? We don’t look to the left. We don’t look to the right. We plow straight ahead! We work the fields! This world is affected by PLR in the direct form of laziness. Whatever we do, I guarantee that there is a right way, and a wrong way, and no in between. A sold out abandonment to mediocrity is what God is looking for in artists. He is a God of detail and integrity! He is a God of order and structure. He is the God of the long way around…The way that holds up when put to various tests.
“If I just had a label behind me, things would be so much easier and I’d make it.”
I find it interesting – no, maybe sad is a better word – that many indie artists think of going for a label deal as the path of least resistance, when it is actually full of resistance. I know artists who’ve lived here in Nashville for 10+ years, still pursuing the illusive ‘label deal’. Doing the indie thing on the side; and they say it like they have a scarlet letter on their chest. Not even realizing that they’ve been doing ‘it’ on their own, or could do it even bigger and better than they are on their own.
“I have to do this on my own because it’s easier, and so I can get there first…unless you can help me get there faster.”
Another path is the competitive one. Why? Because it leads to isolation and a ‘what can you do for me’ approach to creative relationships – even relationships in general. I don’t mean competitions; I mean competitive from within. I only know this is a path because I deal with this one myself. Artists are so afraid that someone is going to get the better gig, be better than they are, meet the ‘right’ person before they do, write the ‘hit’ song before they do, that we become islands. The only time we let someone onto our island is if we see a potential benefit to us.
“I need to do this with other people because I need community and I don’t really care who gets where, as long as I can help someone along the way.”
What so many indie’s don’t see is when a group of artists pull together, amazing things happen. Indieheaven is a perfect example this. Gig sharing, creative collaboration and relationship we wouldn’t trade for anything. Without that, this would be a lonely journey we are all on.
When I started making music I thought; “OK no problem, I’ll just write some good songs and get them recorded and send them to record labels. They’ll love me, because I’m awesome of course, they’ll sign me and take care of everything.” Woohoo, success made easy! This was my path of least resistance. In fact it sounds like a path of NO resistance. As you can see, following this path didn’t exactly work out. It didn’t end where it was supposed to. In fact, it never even started. It’s like trying to run through a brick wall, then backing up and trying it again and again expect different results. This is an interesting paradox. I tried to “make it” by finding a way that required little to no work from me. Seems like that would be the easiest path doesn’t it? The irony is, that if you can’t move forward on that path, isn’t that the path of MOST resistance! When I stopped expecting a free ride and got off my butt and started working for myself, my career started to move forward. So it stands to reason that the harder you work the more you move forward, and technically, the less resistance there is.
Let’s go back to the brick wall. So you’ve rammed into the brick wall over and over and have decided to try something different. Get some knowledge and make a plan to get your music out there yourself. That brick wall has become something more like a big boulder, Hard to push but still able to be rolled forward. Pretty soon after you gain more knowledge and more experience, the boulder gets smaller and smaller. Note that sometimes you’ll have to roll the boulder up hill and sometimes you get to roll it down hill. And, the boulder never goes away all together. YOU always have to be the engine that runs YOUR career. Major label artists didn’t just get a big break. They had to work hard to get where they are. Their boulder may be a bit smaller than yours but so what! Keep rolling!
What an incredible group of deep thinkers! We all need to stop on occasion to think about the path we are taking. Are we meandering or seeking the will of God, which is like that river flowing, sure of its destination? With the Holy Spirit acting as our current, the path becomes more clear and straight, with the power to break through any obstacle.
Until next time, may your field of dreams be lined with work down first and faith down third.