For the first time in a while, I’m taking full advantage of the crossover into a new year to really reconsider my approach to life. And in spending a little time alone putting my thoughts on paper, my feelings about why this year would be different, have changed entirely. This is not the post I expected to write. But I think it leads to a far more compelling conclusion than my usual “work harder… be better” routine.
Until recently, I’ve sort of had this idea that life was simple and a lot more black and white than I’m finding it to be. I’m an avid advocate for passion and really living, and yet, I have spent so much of my life trying to be intentionally disciplined and avoiding certain (normal yet “unproductive”) behaviors. I’ve put so much effort into NOT doing things – in order to make space in my life for “work” – that it never occurred to me that almost everything I work for is actually hiding deep within the complex web of just enjoying my damn life.
Every top quality song, every favorable break, every miracle gig that saved me from having to run to some other profession in my earlier days… without exception, all of my big breaks came from stuff I felt guilty about doing because I had a mind full of things I could be doing instead… things that I deemed more productive and worthy of my time.
As a songwriter this makes perfect sense. Living gives me stuff to write about. A phone call I didn’t want to take because I was writing a song, ironically became the inspiration for one of the best songs I’ve ever written… Most of my best and most lucrative gigs came not from endless demo peddling and business visits to venues, but rather from a friendly conversation in a social setting, or from some living room performance I did at three in the morning after a shared 12 pack and a whole lot of laughing. I developed a certain kind of comfort with my body while salsa dancing with friends five years ago… that I feel is directly connected to a kind of confidence in my musical performances today… the list goes on.
The point is, life has consistently provided incredible opportunities… when I’ve been out there LIVING.
Here’s the thing: I don’t want to work any less. I just won’t. It’s built into me to go after it. A life dedicated to this dream is non-negotiable. Of course I’ll continue to practice and fight for what I want. None of the opportunities I just mentioned would have led to anything if I hadn’t worked to develop relevant skill. But at the same time, I’m starting to realize that I have to open up a bit and taste life… and feel life… and LIVE life… and have a ton of fun… and let go of the damn sense of guilt that follows the leisure activities of nearly every entrepreneur and dreamer like a shadow.
Ironically, I think trying to work and be productive all the time is exactly what’s held me back from accomplishing more. Or rather, I think that being unwilling to disconnect from my “work” and enjoy whatever is happening now, has been instrumental in slowing my progress… which brings me to my real point:
That’s what this all comes down to. REALLY being present… really being wherever I am, seems to be the key to everything in life from a great performance to a great friendship; from a dream-fulfilling career move to a fun night out.
So that’s really what I’m excited to do this year… my resolution if you will: I plan on working when I’m working, playing when I’m playing, loving when I’m loving, listening when I’m listening (that’s a big one), and doing all of those things with my whole heart… with all of my energy… with all of my focus. Because in reality, if I were to dedicate myself to work… entirely… for two hours, and spend the rest of the day having fun with a friend; I would still end up accomplishing more than I would if I were to work feeling restless, and play feeling guilty.
That’s not to say I’m going to work for two hours a day and take the rest of the day off. I’m just saying I’m going to open up and do whatever I’m doing more completely. And that opens the door for me to spend more time with friends, to give of myself more, to have more fun, to make incredible memories, to write music, to get out on the mountain, to sing, to party, to LIVE!! Whatever it is, I’ll do more of it if I’m not worried about what I’m missing to do it.
This is not advice. I don’t really think that I have much figured out that anybody should listen to. This is just an observation. Based on my current estimation of my life, it seems that it’s wild and winding and impossible to contain in the boxes I’ve tried to use to simplify it and make sense of it. So I’ve decided to burn the boxes.
That doesn’t mean I’m throwing out my principals or my center. I know who I am. Now, more than ever. I have beliefs, values, and principals that guide me and will not change. But within the context of being who I am and chasing this beautiful dream with everything inside me, I’m throwing out my ideas of how the process should look; and embracing instead, the chaos and beauty of whatever life throws at me.