What Your Music Says About Your Success


“I want your ugly, I want your disease.”

You’d smack someone if they said that to you. But when Lady Gaga sings it, we might hum along, or even cheer. And after we unload our ugliness, and after it diseases our relationships…do we really have to wonder why we’re miserable?

You become what you listen to.

Is that idea so radical? If you’re the average of your 5 closest friends, is it insane to think that you might be a product of your top-five tunes, too? Would you even want to look at the list?

You should probably look at that list. Because you can’t fix a problem that you aren’t aware of. At least, that was my case.

My current top five are either solo piano or harp compositions from the romantic period. I’m surrounded by heavenly harmonies most of the day, which inspires my best work. But if we skipped back five years, the list would be littered with broken hearts, bad romance, and mental junk.

You wouldn’t believe the difference five years (and five songs) has made.

I used to spend my days sniffing for new girlfriends, and my nights snoozing on mom’s couch. I had the talents and brains to do what I wanted. But I was too busy acting out my favorite songs to do anything useful.

Input equals output, right? Like good food makes you healthy, and inspiring friends lift you up, good music will positively shape your mind. I figured that out after I lived the inverse. Being depressed and completely dependent at age 24, I couldn’t keep shrugging my shoulders when it came to my non-existent success. There had to be a concrete culprit.

I found it in the airwaves.

The epiphany struck me as I cruised along the highway, listening to my old favorites, like No Doubt. The song was “Bathwater”. Catchy as hell. And the brass section, juxtaposed to Gwyn Stefani’s sultry voice…simply eargasmic. But when I focused on the lyrics, I was suddenly repulsed.

“But I still love to wash in your old bathwater, love to think that you couldn’t love another, I can’t help it…you’re my kind of man.”

Ol’ Gwynnie elaborates on how insecure she is, how powerless she is, and how she can’t help but to feed her insecurity through more of the same relationship. I couldn’t stand another second of it, so I deleted it. And I deleted the next song. And the next. And I enjoyed the Beethoven. And I deleted the next.

I spent the next two weeks on a musical rampage, analyzing every song I had. And if a song narrated helplessness, heartbrokenness, not-enoughness, or any other –ness that didn’t align with the life I wanted, I axed it. Pretty soon I was left with a sparse list of folk songs from the Fleet foxes and the odd classical tune.

I pared a list of 5,000 songs down to no more than 300. And that was the beginning of my new life.

Didn’t matter how good a song sounded or how long I’d loved it. If it influenced my subconscious negatively, I wouldn’t abide it. That didn’t leave me with many contemporary options. So I downloaded album after album of classical compositions, from Beethoven to Bach, to Ravel, and Liszt, and Wagner, and Chopin. Considering that classical music boosts your IQ, test scores, and creativity, I replaced the junk that made me average with brain food.

In the time it took to change my top five songs—about a year, based off of iTunes “most played”—I had rewritten my life script. The lovelorn loser who lived with mama morphed into a career-driven writer and independent man. That’s me.

I get paid to do what I love because I believed I could—because I radically altered my influences, musical and otherwise. More importantly, I’m contributing to the community in my hometown of Albuquerque. It took a couple years to complete the transition. But I changed my course the day I said no to No Doubt, and every other day I consciously selected good music, movies, books and friends.

It was a drastic decision, letting go of all the junk. And it wasn’t without sacrifice. But choosing the right music opened my window to success.

Now I have a question for you:

If your success depended on letting go of some of your favorite music, would you? I challenge you to examine your music library with a success filter. If a song doesn’t describe the life you want to live, if speaks of the wrong kind of relationships, and the wrong kind of life, let it go. You’ll be glad you did.

Do you have any good contemporary music suggestions? Comment below.

Written by Daniel Dowling
I went from being a highschool and college dropout to writing for the world's best publications in two short years. I owe ALL my success to habits like mindfulness and journaling. - So I built Millennial Success to share those incredible habits with you!