We all have to start somewhere

Photo by Mario Durane

Two Years In and Still...

It's almost been 2 years since the first day that I busked and I find myself feeling just as much a beginner as I did that first day. Maybe not at the same things, but I pretty much feel afraid and unsure of everything I do everyday because I have to take on new challenges in an effort to grow. Take this blog for instance, nothing makes me cringe more than sharing my thoughts, secrets and insights with the public, but I'm called to do so to connect more fully, which is exciting but still I cringe at the idea of stumbling along at first until I get the hang of it.

Making It Up As I Go Along

I'm self-employed (a full-time musician) and I am an entrepreneur. I have no idea what I'm doing- I'm guided by my ideas. I'm my own boss, I make my own hours, I earn money based on my own efforts and I determine how much I make based on how much I work- which for the past year and change has been predominantly from busking 4-5 days a week. I invented my job description and I'm a total routines-based and planning nerd. I love measuring things and correlating results to methods and habits. Productivity junkie stuff. All I ever read is self-help books and I'm obsessed with becoming my best self and achieving huge goals.

No Longer Cutting It

I'm back at the beginning again as I feel I have to expand my business and income stream. I found it exciting in the beginning that I could make money busking. And there's something in me that loves to go the unconventional route. I took pride in telling people that I play music in the subway for a living because even to me, it's unimaginable. Fast forward to now: It's no longer satisfying to JUST make a living playing music in the subway. I want to fly. I want to thrive. I want to do so much more. And it's all possible. I deserve to go bigger and make more and that's where the restlessness stems.

Counting The Wins

I challenge myself a lot, rarely feeling satisfied with my work or where I'm at or with my efforts. I think I'm a badass deep down and I'm still learning of the depths of my badassery. I'm am, however, patient and compassionate and I count everything as a lesson. I learn more from failure than success sometimes and I don't mind falling down at all. But I'm writing this right now to count the wins as best I can. I'm using this blog space to recount the journey that busking in the NYC subway has taken me on and I'm going to start by saying, What a blessing and an Education it has been.

I'm blessed that I can show up wherever I want and sing for people, who receive me with love and generosity. And when I'm tired, I go home to practice for the next day.

The education in it regards the feedback I get and exploring my own psyche as a singer and high achiever. It's not been easy, but it's always been rewarding and humbling.

I've been learning how the public responds to my voice and music, what people are interested in listening to, how to interact with individuals and audiences, how to make more money, how to play for longer. All the feedback that is essential to a commercial artist.

I love the process of learning and mastery as well and I'm learning how the brain works- I'm able to memorize more and more music more quickly today than I did a year ago, how valuable competence and confidence are to me as a performer, how the human drive for challenge keeps demanding higher heights and more novelty and newness in my everyday.


That said, I've been feeling bored lately in my busking game and I have a few ideas I'll be working to implement in the coming months to spice up my life and people's experience of the music.

I'm tired of relying on going out to make the money that I need for living expenses. Psychologically, I've learned that going out there to busk with the need to make money puts a painful strain on you as a performer. It takes the love and purity out of the performance and I've learned the hard way, it's just not the right way to play music for people.

Inversely, I've made a killing when I wasn't focussed on the money; when I lost myself in the moment of playing and suddenly opened my eyes up to a crowd in front of me and a queue off to the side, lining up to put money in my donation box.

Lead with the Love. Always. And like an amateur. Easier said than done. One challenge has been coming up with ways to generate that level of enthusiasm to play each day as the first day when I rolled up. I learned the whole game is about compassionate forgiveness in some moments and relentless chase in other moments and you see-saw between the two, always trying to improve over-all today and do more than you did yesterday. But it's a back and forth, and slowly overtime you see the steady incline in your progress.

So Grateful

So major wins in the sense that I started working for myself full-time as a busker and have made a living for the past year and a half doing so in one of the most expensive cities in the world. I'm proud of that. I've become a far more seasoned musician and singer by playing 3 hours a day 5 days a week. I've attracted the attention of my now manager while busking. I've been in a loving relationship now for a year and met the man of my dreams playing music on a subway platform. I've been learning what makes a great song by singing countless (what I call, Fortune 500) songs. I've increased my mental bandwidth for memorization and learning music- what took me a week last year, now takes me a day. I have the confidence to play a song today that I just learned yesterday. I have confidence now period! I'm no longer afraid to sing for anyone because I know what I can do and the impact that it has on people. I feel proficient on piano whereas a year ago, I was afraid to play for people, now I can do glissandos and groove with confidence while singing. People love me. That's a blessing and I'm always grateful for their acceptance and excitement whenever I show up to play. I feel fulfilled performing for folks. I make a big contribution to their days, which they tell me via email, direct message, social media comments and hand written notes.

Time to Go Bigger

I had to write those down because like everything, it's so easy to brush over your successes in a field and harp on your loses or what you have yet to achieve. My next step is to sing and play original music out there. For some reason, that's a real block for me. First, I feel I have to leave the safety of the harbor of established music I know and venture towards the horizon of myself as a songwriter. And this can all be gradual. But I'm getting so restless singing other people's songs, it needs to happen soon if not now.

My other goal is to develop passive income streams. By the end of the year, I will publish a book or two around the subject of busking and share all my knowledge in that area with folks who're interested in trying it or being successful at busking in NYC.

No one ever showed me how to busk but I picked up tips from watching others and learning by trial and error and if I can make someone else's experience a smoother one than mine has been, then great! I've been asked enough times about it that I feel people are interested in the subject and want to know more so that they can take the leap and try it.

I'll always perform. I'd like to write and publish other books as well, develop products, write songs for other artists and inspire and teach others.

Maya Angelou said, "At our best, we are all teachers." I gotta agree.

My biggest goal and commitment is to Choose myself and my ideas and to make them happen. I am a doer. I am a finished. And I commit to making the most of each day that God blesses me with so that at the end of my life I can be feel fulfilled that I lived a life of love and no regrets.

It's a giant step to take everyday. Take it from a girl who ventured into the subway with a keyboard and a vision to make people happy through music. Everyday I feel just as afraid as I did that first day because nothing I learned in school is preparing me for the fulfilled and daring life I'm undertaking. Ok reading and basic maths. Thanks for that, school. Otherwise, there's no blueprint for designing your ideal life. But I know deep down inside that if I follow my ideas and my excitement, I'll always be right and I'll always be happy.

May one leap lead to another and to another- Maritza xo