At age 70, singer/songwriter Stevie Nicks is the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, twice—once as a member of music’s most notorious soap opera, Fleetwood Mac, and once for her 40-year solo career.
If you have Stevie Nicks career goals, you might not know that the undisputed goddess of rock and roll’s career almost didn’t happen. While I can’t imagine a world without songs like “Dreams,” “Edge of Seventeen,” and “Silver Springs” playing in the background, Stevie Nicks wrote her most famous song “Landslide” about deciding whether or not to give up on her music career altogether.
“I had gotten to a point where it was like, ‘I’m not happy. I am tired. But I don’t know if we can do any better than this. If nobody likes this, then what are we going to do?’” Nicks says in Performing Songwriter magazine. She’s referring to her first album with then boyfriend and musical partner (and recently fired member of Fleetwood Mac) Lindsey Buckingham being dropped from its label.
After eight years of working as a waitress and a cleaning lady to support herself and Buckingham, Nicks started to wonder if all of the sacrifice was worth it. “Landslide,” she says, was an anthem about her decision to keep going. It blew up in 1975 on Fleetwood Mac’s self-titled album and has since become one of the most covered songs in the history of rock and roll because absolutely everyone can relate to it.
“I made a decision to continue. ‘Landslide’ was the decision … in one of my journal entries, it says, ‘I took Lindsey and said, We’re going to the top!’ And that’s what we did. Within a year, Mick Fleetwood called us, and we were in Fleetwood Mac making $800 a week apiece (laughs). Washing $100 bills through the laundry. It was hysterical. It was like we were rich overnight.” While persevering certainly worked out for Nicks, deciding to keep pursuing a career goal when it feels like nothing is working out can be difficult to say the least.
“When a goal feels like it just isn’t going to happen, it is time to ask yourself: ‘What is the cost of me not pursuing this goal.’ The cost could be financial (making more money), and it’s also important to look at the psychological cost,” Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo, author, career coach and speaker, tells me. “Guilt, shame, frustration, even anger can occur when you give up on a goal. Those, in and of themselves, are not pleasant, but they can also add to more problems, such as strained relationship with your partner or family because you are feeling such distress.”
Personally, I feel that every person knows deep inside when they’ve had enough. While it often takes me a painfully long time to make a decision, especially when it comes to career goals, I am sure when I finally do, and I almost never regret it. I have always identified as a writer, and even if it wasn’t my career, I know I would still write because it’s who I am.
For Nicks, being a musician was in her blood. She began singing with her country music grandfather when she was just three years old. She wrote her first song when she was a teenager, and she joined the band Fritz with Buckingham when she was 19, opening for acts like Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin.
What’s more, she told Oprah Winfrey on “Oprah Presents Master Class” that she used to walk around her college campus with her guitar slung over her shoulder silently asking everyone she passed, “Do you know who I am?” The answer? A rock star, obviously. She laughs and says, “Of course I was nobody,” but in her mind she was already a legend. This is the core belief that helped her keep going when there was no evidence she would ever succeed. While Stevie Nicks seemed to burst onto the scene out of nowhere in 1975, before any of us were born, it actually took her eight years to become an overnight success.
More than 40 years later she’s still here, and still selling out arenas, because her struggle (which has been considerable before and during her career), her success, her kindness, and her mystical approach to pretty much everything is relatable AF. She’s so full of magic that she even plays herself on “American Horror Story.” This magic is why she’s the ultimate fairy godmother to musicians like the Haim sisters coming up in the business today.
“My biggest hope is that I have opened the door [for other women] due to the fact that there’s 22 men who have gone in [to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame] twice and zero women. I think that’s really a little off balance. That’s what I’m hoping, that what’s happened here to me will give all the little rock and roll stars that are just waiting out there a little hope that they can also do what I do,” Nicks says in an interview with Rolling Stone. “Mind you, it took a long time. I’m 70 years old. It took a long time for this to happen, but maybe because of this it won’t take so long for all the other incredibly talented women that I know and that I respect and that I listen to and that I’m friends with. That’s really the nicest thing.”
While what Nicks has achieved is no small feat, she was able to do it because she doesn’t possess self-limiting beliefs. In fact, quite the opposite. Dr. Lombardo says this is key to breaking through, especially in male-dominated industries. “Research in positive psychology demonstrates that working toward a moderately difficult goal helps boost our sense of fulfillment. Something too easy to achieve often doesn’t feel all that rewarding. And an impossible goal can make you feel stuck. Breaking into a male-dominated industry as a woman is neither of those; it is possible, just not all that easy. Working toward it, and succeeding, will bring you the greatest fulfillment.”
Let’s face it, it’s almost incomprehensible to imagine a world without Stevie Nicks belting out “Rhiannon” while twirling in yards of chiffon scarves. But even if she never became a household name, even if Stevie Nicks had given up on music as a career, it would always be a part of her life. Because sometimes the thing that brings you the most joy doesn’t pay your bills, and that’s OK. Sometimes joy is more valuable than money.
“Sometimes it is even better if your passion is not your career. If you are an artist who loves to paint, having the added stress to make money from your art can actually take the ‘fun’ out of it for some. They key is to make sure you take the time to pursue your passion, whether or not it is part of your career,” Dr. Lombardo says. “What’s more, look for opportunities to apply your strengths (whether they be skills or values) within your career. So, for example, if you are an artist, part of being an artist is creativity. How can you use your creativity within your career even if you are not pursuing being an artist?”
If you’re running down a dream, take your career goals’ inspiration from Stevie Nicks when you feel stuck.
Step one: Believe in yourself. “I believed I was going to be a huge rock n' roll star. I was 20 years old,” Nicks is quoted as saying during a 2017 concert. “I want you, in this crazy world we live in right now … to believe in your dreams, and to know that you can do anything you want!”
Step two: Know who you are and don’t change yourself to fit in. “I’m timeless. I got that Dickensian, London street-urchin look in high school. I’ll never be in style, but I’ll always be different,” Nicks told USA Today.
Step three: Manifest your own magic. “We all really basically have a lot of magic … it’s only those of us that choose to accept it that really understand it. It’s there for everyone,” Nicks said in a 1979 interview with Jim Ladd. “That’s the only thing that I feel that I am able to give to people and that’s why I know that they respond to me because I try to give them only their own magic … not mine but theirs.”
Step four: Don’t hold onto anger. Instead, do things that make you happy. “If I’ve learned nothing else it’s that time passes and anger doesn’t do you much good. Something that seems really bad today is going to be better next week. And things you think are never going to go away soften with time. When things happen that upset me I try to do something that makes me happy,” Nicks told The New York Times. And, what makes Nicks happy? “Right now I put on Lady Gaga’s ‘Applause’ and dance around the house.”
Above all else, Dr. Lombardo says, “Living a life of meaning and fulfilment are really key to true success, beyond how society may define success as financial compensation.” Basically, whether or not your passion aligns with your career goals, the best way to embody the magic of Stevie Nicks is to live an authentic life. As long as you stay true to yourself, you can never fail.
Do you have a story about pursuing your passion? Let us know in the comments below.