The Law Of Achievement Is A Lie

Man vs Row

Brent is a hit songwriter with cuts by Alan Jackson, Randy Travis, Lady Antebellum, Joe Nichols, Gord Bamford, Ray Stevens, and more.  He’s written a top 5 hit in the US and a #1 in Canada… so far.

Man… I don’t know how this is gonna turn out.

I usually draft these posts ahead of time, but not this time.  This one is a “here’s something that hit me just now, and I want to share it with you” post.

I was just reading through “One Way Love” this morning by Tullian Tchividjian as part of my quiet time.  He talks about how we get exhausted by trying to fulfill the Law instead of relying on grace.  He also made the point that we also have innumerable little laws that we and culture dictate.  And that’s what hit me.

He says many folks butt up against the law of success that says, “if you don’t achieve __ level of success, then you don’t measure up.”  “If this person or that person is further along in their career, even if they started later, then you don’t measure up.”

Here are a few of my self-imposed laws:

*If you don’t get to write songs and do creative things you enjoy for a living, then you are a failure.

*If people who got to Nashville after you are having greater success than you, it’s because you are not good enough.

*If people who used to write with you are having greater success than you, it’s because you are not good enough.

I struggle against these laws.  I am convicted by them almost every day.  These laws drive me to get up at 5am before work and sometimes stay up till midnight after my wife goes to bed in an effort to build Man vs. Row and my songwriting business into something that satisfies the law.

These laws convict me through the radio, facebook, and twitter.





Grace tells me I don’t have to be enough.  God’s Law is good because its purpose is to hold up the true standard, the perfect standard that I’m incapable of meeting.  It’s purpose is not to drive me to perfection, but to drive me to relationship with God.  Where there is grace.  Where there is love.  And where the Law is fulfilled and no longer has jurisdiction over me.  Where I can rest.  Where I’m free.

Personal (and our cultural) laws are dim, twisted reflections of the good and holy Law.  They condemn me, drive me to exhaustion, cause me stress and fear.

My laws are a lie.

If I never get to live the creative life again, it has no bearing on my success or failure in this life.  That is NOT the standard.

If other people have more achievement than me, it has nothing to do with my worth.

My value is not determined by how many songs I get on the radio.

That’s the truth.  And with grace, that truth will set my heart free to do whatever God sets before me to do.

And to do it with joy.

God Bless,



MvR presents your opportunity to visit with new Curb Records artist, Ruthie Collins, as she prepares to release her first single to country radio.  Ruthie and hit songwriter, Brent Baxter, will give you an insider’s look at the reality of songwriting and record-making on Music Row. But they won’t be the only ones talking- you’re invited to join in the conversation, too! There are only EIGHT tickets available for this intimate get-together.  Click on the image below to find out more!

Know The Row w: Ruthie


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27 thoughts on “The Law Of Achievement Is A Lie”

  1. I recently read “One Way Love.” It’s probably the best book I’ve read about grace (and I’ve read a lot of them). I hadn’t thought about law/grace in terms of creativity though. I put a lot of “not-good-enough” laws on myself in that area. Thanks for the different perspective.

  2. Good stuff. May be more a more intense problem for musicians- especially writers and singers who deal more intimately with words/emotions. Emotions tend to knock the door off the hinges leading to the voices/ideas you mentioned. I don’t know how writers who don’t have reliance on Christ exist without falling into despair. Thank you, Brent.

  3. Amen, amen, AMEN! Preach ON! Brother Brent!

    I don’t remember the exact thread a few weeks ago, but I was in the midst of a break through then, but I wasn’t at Liberty to really say much.

    Long story short, (I know, too late, right!?!) while focusing heavily on the creative side of life, God dropped a major blessing bomb on me in the form of the best Employment Opportunity I’ve ever had. Did I hesitate and think whether it would still allow time for the fun & creative stuff, perhaps a teeny bit… But I thought to myself, are you totally nuts! There won’t likely ever be an opportunity this good!?!?! Imagery of the guy hanging on to a branch over a cliff asking if there is anyone else up there to help when he hears God’s voice saying “let go”.

    So check out how it’s working out after only a week. I actually got half a pay check, my THIRD DAY! This check was almost as much as my average TWO WEEK check for the past year! God is AWESOME! All the people are GREAT. They got me feeling a bit like an adopted prodigal son!

    So I’m not as worried about the creative momentum that I’ve built up in recent months…


    I’m told by the new boss to book my travel to where? well LaVergne, TN! That’s where, in mid September for a week of training. Hmm imagine that… Thanks be to God!

    “The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” (‭Luke‬ ‭1‬:‭49‬ NABRE)

    1. It was the “one email away” post from July 28th. I had already received an offer of employment from one company on July 4th weekend, but really wanted to hold out for the job I ended up accepting. It took a lot of patience to wait a month. That offer came on July 30th.

  4. Great words Brent. God wants us to pursue our passions with passion. When we do that – good things may come. Thanks for sharing your journey with us and I have learned a ton from reading your posts. I will participate in some of you upcoming webinars soon as well – because I want you to succeed as a songwriter and a teacher/mentor for others.

  5. Brilliant Brent! I struggle with these sorts of “laws” every day. Each morning I post a reminder to my Twitter feed and my Facebook page to set my direction toward grace. Grace vs. Condemnation. Condemnation comes in a multitude of subtle, hard to recognize ways and yet grace completely covers my acquiescence to it. Sometimes a gentle reminder is all we need. Yours was especially welcome today. Thanks!

  6. Wow, timely post. I’m an IT professional working on the side to make songwriting/singer something more than an avocation… Your laws 1 and 3 hit home as well as your statement about getting up early and staying up late. Lately I’ve been giving up… thank you for the encouragement. All the best to you and your family.

  7. Really needed this today. Was just falling into this trap hard last night and this morning.

    When a friend of mine used to get bummed about this guy or that guy who started later or was younger or just “got in on a production deal” seemed to be getting farther, faster than he was, I would often say, “No one’s success can impede your own.” There’s plenty of room for creativity. A nice mantra but one I have trouble living by myself. I do get bummed when I try to measure myself against what others are doing or mad that I let fear get into my way for so long before really starting to live my dreams and passions.

    This post hit the nail on the head. Thank you for being so open & honest and reminding us that this is a part of the journey we all struggle with from time to time. That these are just self-imposed “laws” that have nothing to do and even distract from the grace of what many of us consider to be a calling.

  8. Like cold, clear water on a hot summers day, this post was. Thank you for sharing, Brent. There is strength in numbers, and it is helpful to hear (and read the comments of like people) that others are in the same boat. I’m reading a book right now called “Crash the Chatterbox” that talks about this very issue. I highly recommend it. “One of the main reasons we struggle with insecurity is because we are comparing our behind the scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel”. The book is riddled with one liners like this and it, like One Way Love I’m sure, has been a blessing. Also “The War of Art”…a must read. Anyway, that’s Brent. Man v Row is wonderful and helpful look into the songwriting business and more, into the heart of a creative soul on his journey with God…just like me (and the rest of us, I’m sure).

  9. If you read the sermon on the mount carefully you quickly realize this is not a set of rules (it would be impossible to follow them). It’s Jesus establishing that it’s impossible to live without sin…there is no standard you can live up to.

    Even if you’re not a Christian it’s craziness to judge yourself on arbitrary and really unimportant things like the success of your career compared to someone else or some standard you’ve decided on that you think is important now.

    I guarantee you in 20 years time when you look back on your life with the wisdom of experience the things you think are important now won’t be things that are even on the radar.

    If you provide for your family every day the best you can, if you live a life where you’re serving others and being good and kind to others as much as you can then you’re a success in my books.

    And you certainly fit all those criteria Brent.

  10. Brent–I love this post and your blog. I think it is important to remember that you ARE living the “creative life,” every day, just by creating. Some people never even get that far because they don’t let themselves. Also, I highly recommend Anne Lamott’s book Bird by Bird. It’s mostly about writing novels, but a lot of it applies to creativity in general. It will give you a good laugh about all of the emotions that come along with writing– including jealousy, insecurity, fear.

  11. Wow Brent. Thank you so much for posting this. It is exactly what I needed to hear. I have been struggling big time with the “my songwriting friends are having more success than me” self imposed law. I was really getting down on myself and feeling like maybe I just don’t have what it takes and am not good enough. This post really spoke to me. It’s hard but I’m really working on letting go of those self imposed laws and accepting God’s grace.

  12. Brent, this is so good! I struggle with “not good enough” almost daily, when it comes to songwriting. Trying to take the pressure off, hearing say these things helps a lot!

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