Learn without your world imploding.

We talk a lot about "getting out of our comfort zone." But, for many of us, that means dealing with anxiety that can pretty much shut you down. It's why a lot of musicians fail to grow their audiences beyond the first twenty-five or fifty fans they attract -- that constant feeling of not knowing anyone in the room can get to some folks.

Curt points out that there's a phantom zone between those two extremes that we often ignore, especially as we get farther away from high school and college. It's a learning zone, marked by both a confidence in one's abilities and a willingness to take some risks.

It's easy to be in that zone when you're young and you have little to lose. But many musicians, especially musicians dealing with financial or emotional issues, hate getting outside of that comfort zone. Believe it or not, it feels more comfortable to fail than to take even moderate risks that lead to success.

We're not talking about betting the farm here. It's really small-scale stuff, like the risk of getting turned down by a talent buyer, or having a music critic rip one of your pieces to shreds. And, if you look at the most successful musicians of our time, the ones that mostly stay in that "learning zone" are the ones that enjoy the most success -- by pushing further and reinventing themselves at the risk of alienating audiences.