The Unfortunate Link Between My Ambition and My Anxiety

I’m worried. I am stressed beyond belief. I’m anxious. I have a problem letting things just take shape without overanalyzing it. I am pretty sure I have selfishly made 78% of all conversations between me and my girlfriend about myself lately and I’m sure she would tell me that number is generous. I am surrounded by people who love and support me, those who I can only see through the tiny screens my eyes so often fixate, and some who share a life and home with me. Yet through it all, I feel like I can do more, like it’s not enough, like there’s always something else. Because instead of just enjoying my album right now, I have to write to you. To say one last thing.

Since 2011 my own ambition has been the root of my anxiety. It’s the same drive that encouraged me to leave my “dream” job at Google to pursue my dream job as CEO of all things Hoodie Allen. It’s the same drive that told me that the quickest path to success was to respond to every single fan who writes to you. To show them you care and to be different than the others. 198,000 tweets later, the longest social experiment has still proven meaningful. It’s the same drive that got me a #1 album on iTunes twice and a song on the radio independently. Okay fuck it this section is starting to sound braggadocios, allow me to digress…

My point is with every new song and every new benchmark, my own expectations for myself shifted. When I left Google, I spent that half a year playing “shows” in Fraternity houses for $500 and a slice of pizza. If I strung together enough shows in a month, it was enough to to survive and save up enough money to record the next mixtape. This was success for me in 2011. Then came 2012. And I finally had a song do more than it ever did before. I finally had some hype. And now I wasn’t flying to beer soaked basements, I was living out of a conversion van with 5 of my friends playing my own shows all across the country. Success had a different metric now. I had gone #1 on iTunes. I started working on what would I do to follow this up when I realized that this was my new normal. People would expect this from me, or at the very least and perhaps most importantly, this is what I now expected for myself.

2012’s All American EP served as my breakout project.

All I cared about was not going backwards. Keep Achieving. By Any Means. It was sort of my great fear. I watched as I “passed” by some of my contemporaries. I studied everyone. I became fascinated with analyzing both the successes and failures of others. Where did this guy go wrong? Why was he selling out 1000 people last year and now no one is listening to him? How do I avoid the pitfalls? I didn’t have an answer. When you’re in a creative field like me, you know that your relevancy isn’t guaranteed. Your ability to make a living is completely driven by the demand for your product. But the product is you, it’s your soul, it’s your words, it’s how you look and carry yourself.

I look at other artists with envy. Not for their comparative success. Not because they are on a late night TV show or winning an award I wish I had. I envy their ability to just let go. I just wish I could give about 40% less fucks. Taylor Swift doesn’t have to tweet back every fan. They are still going to listen to the new single she dropped. So why am I still scrolling back in this timeline, it’s 3 am get some damn sleep. I try desperately to disconnect myself from the insatiable desire to be part of the conversation, to help mold it, to show love and receive love and to grow from it. And also out of fear that if I don’t do this, one day it will all be gone. This is everything I love about making music and giving it to the world but boy do I love making things complicated.

So perhaps that brings us to today. I release my new album The Hype at midnight after taking a year and a half away from releasing any music. And for the first time in life, I can maybe find a way to give in to my fears and just enjoy the moment. Because I know it won’t be #1 on iTunes. I don’t know if my tour will sell out like before. I am not sure that the hype that was bestowed upon me in 2012 and persisted, can be some everlasting halo that dims and shines for eternity above my head, blessing me with fortunes at my every whim. I know that I’ve worked harder than I ever have before. I know that I want it just as bad as I ever have, maybe more. But perhaps the ultimate truth here is: do everything you can, never give up, work till you’re finished and then let go. Let go of the anxiety that fills your mind constantly. Let go of the worry that failure looms nearby looking for it’s next prey. Know that your ambition isn’t reflected in your results but rather in the time, heart and energy you put in to the task ahead of you. If you’re done, then be done and enjoy it.

On the eve of the release of my newest album, I decide on a whim to write an article about how anxious I’m feeling, only further the anxiety to meet one last deadline. Well maybe some things never change.

My new album The Hype shot by Steven Taylor

The Hype will be available on all platforms. iTunes, Spotify, Apple Music. Listen here: