What it Really Takes to “Up-Level” Your Career

As I’ve been promoting my upcoming masterclass (Choosing the Legacy Path: How to Up-level Your Career and Make a Greater Impact) this week, I’ve been getting a lot of great questions via emails, DM’s, and social media comments. Two, in particular, popped up a few times, and I thought they were the kind of questions that would be best answered right here. I bet quite a few of you are wondering the same things. 

1) Isn’t one’s Legacy something that happens after the fact? How can we have any control over how people remember us–or even if they will or not?

2) Do we actually have any say in what level work we do? I can’t just call up the New York Phil and tell them I’d like to “up-level” to soloist. 

Raise your hand if you’ve had similar thoughts. Yeah…thought so.



So here we go: 

• Legacy: “A gift by will, especially of money or other personal property” 


In its most basic definition, a Legacy is a gift we leave to the next generation. As artists, that legacy can be The Physical Archive of our work–recordings, videos, compositions, films, etc. 

It could be A Philosophical Paradigm Shift–like a new style of pedagogy, a new and unique take on how things are done in your industry. 

Or it could be A Way of Being. Yannick Nezet-Seguin is leaving many legacies as a conductor, but one important one is that of a Music Director of a Major Symphony treating the players as musical equals–always having their backs, socializing with them, befriending them, and breaking down that concrete barrier between Maestro and Orchestra. I’ve had the pleasure of working with him too. The difference in rehearsal vibe is palpable. 



And who is in charge of whether there is a Physical Archive of your work? You are. As a writer, you just need to hit publish on a blog or self-publish a book (or go the traditional publisher route if you want!) Musicians? Make a CD! Dancers, hire a videographer. 

Getting that archive in front of the eyes of millions requires a certain strategy (that’s where career coaches come in) but in terms of there being a physical archive, that is all in your capable hands. 

The Paradigm Shift is also within your control. How do you do things? Do you think they should be done differently? Have you tried it? If you’ve tried it and had success with it, have you talked about, written about, or otherwise sung about it from the highest rooftops about why others should try it too? 

Because one person doing something in a weird/new/unique way is just quirky. But if that person starts to influence others to try it, and they also have success with it, and it starts to spread? That’s a legacy.

When it comes to A Way of Being, it simply goes without saying that it’s 100% on you. What kind of colleague are you? What kind of colleague do you want to be? Do you want to be the Diva that everyone is in awe of? Do you want to be “The Nicest Guy in the Room”? Elegant? Dingy? The graffiti artist who always shows up in a suit? The violin soloist who walks out on stage in ripped denim? Are you an inspiring mentor, like Jesse Norman? Or are you selfish, neurotic and paranoid–the tortured artist causing everyone around you to feel like they’re walking on eggshells? 

Because both will leave a legacy for it. 

So to answer the original question? Yes–your legacy is how others will remember you. And while you can’t control the actions, thoughts, or memories of other people, you can definitely lead them in the right direction. 


Photo by Pooja Chudhary for Unsplash


2. Up-Leveling: to thrive, advance, expand, beef up, or transform.


I have written before about how the way we are brought up as young artists doesn’t always serve us well as professionals. In fact, one of the habits in my “10 Habits of Successful Artists Workbook I offer (it’s free–grab it here if you want to check it out) centers around this principle. 

Because as young musicians, artists, dancers, and actors, everything hinges on the praise of our teachers and mentors. It’s also more of a zero-sum game in that there might be only one winner for the art show, or only 10 people get picked for the top dance group. Your work could be just as good as theirs, but the judges have to choose. 

As adults, that’s not always the case. Now I understand perfectly, that an actor still has to audition and be chosen for a role, an orchestral musician has to win the job, and the composer has to be awarded the fellowship. But there are many cases where artists are either limiting their options or aren’t putting the right things in place to achieve what they want. 

Are you a freelance musician who wants to uplevel to a job in a major orchestra? I mean, I could go on and on about figuring out what, exactly, it is you’re after and then see how else you could get it. Maybe what you’d really love is to start your own large ensemble (I promise you, you could do that.)  But if the New York Phil is really what you want, have you invested in the right kind of work? I could name 6 brilliant coaches who specialize in helping people win auditions. They all have their own style and specialty and they get serious results for their clients. 

Do you want to show your art in a particular museum? Watch as your film debuts at a more prestigious film festival? Have you leveraged your network? Have you researched what the committee is looking for? Have you created a good media buzz around you and your work to make having you there more advantageous for them? I’m not saying this is all easy work, but the difficulty is mostly in the mindset than the actual tasks. 



In working with my clients, whether 1:1 or in a group program, these are probably the two biggest areas we focus on, and we answer the following questions:

  • What kind of legacy do you want to leave
  • What is your dream work/life scenario? 
  • Are there other options, opportunities, or possibilities that you’re not seeing yet? 
  • What tools and skills do you need to achieve these goals? 
  • What is your strategy for this?  
  • What kind of goalposts should you put along the way? 


There are many of you out there who love what you do, love the balance you have between your work and your life, and want for nothing to change. 

I think that is fantastic, and I’m genuinely happy for you.  

But there are also a lot of artists out there who finished school and started working as a professional (isn’t it so exciting to get those first checks for doing what you did for free the first 15 years of your life?) and you just kept going. 

For a lot of you, the pandemic gave you the chance to take a moment and assess where you were, what you were doing, and what you really WANTED to be doing, and found that those things did not align. 

You swore to yourself that when the world opened up again, things were going to be different. 

You weren’t going to take the lame gig that didn’t pay. You weren’t going to put up with that a-hole director anymore. You weren’t going to give your art away for peanuts. 

This season is the first in 3 years that marks a return to normalcy. The world is open again. 

This is your chance to make sure it’s different. 


If you’d like to take a deeper dive into these questions and ideas, I invite you to come to this week’s workshop. Either Wednesday, 9/7 at 9:00am ET, Thursday, 9/8 @ 7:30 ET, or Saturday, 9/10 @ 3:00pm ET. (all will be between 75-90 minutes depending on questions) 

We’ll be doing a few exercises, talking through different strategies, and I’ll tell you the 3 key areas to focus on this year as you move through this transformative year. 

And it’s FREE. Consider it a “back to school” gift. Because it’s all about leaving nice gifts. 

Register for whichever day works best for you. I’ll send you the link to the replay as well as a nifty pdf to help you start that leveling up/legacy leaving work, so even if you can’t make any of the sessions live, register anyway, and you’ll still get the goods. But, if you CAN show up live, your name will be entered into a drawing to win one of my “can’t live without” tools: An Ink & Volt planner. I’ll be giving away 1 for each session!




P.S. I have only two open 1:1 spots left for a mid-September or October start. Working with me 1:1 also includes a weekly “study hall” session that is open to all of my amazing clients. It’s a great place to meet your fellow artist-travelers, get some work done, ask questions, get feedback, and do a little organic networking. If you’re interested in what this kind of coaching support looks like, and how it might help you reach your goals this year, go ahead and book a free and casual discovery call. We’ll chat for about 30 minutes and see if it’s mutually a good fit.

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