These posts I’ve been writing have been for the most part positive in nature. Partly because I’m a naturally positive guy, and partly because I think it’s important to stay positive-see the best in a situation and not the worst. And I’ve always found whining and complaining to be both counter productive and boring as hell to listen to. If you don’t like the way things are, change them. Don’t expect someone else to make the changes for you, or because you want them to; things change when YOU make them change. (It would appear that my bias against laziness and ‘being stuck’ is showing.) But my mantra has always been “Make a plan, work the plan, trust the plan. Refine the plan and then repeat. Over and over and over again.” I used this process to set up a search firm in Dallas, TX in 1982, The Danbrook Group, that is still in business today, as well as establish my own search from that I successfully ran from 1984-1993. It’s a process that I used in 1989 when I taught myself chord theory and learned how to play and compose in alternate tunings, and the same process I used to establish my own record label while becoming a nationally touring independent musician.
But that doesn’t mean doubts don’t creep in. I know artists who are constantly insecure. They’re constantly questioning their talent and their worth as an artist. I don’t struggle with that. As one of my heroes Chet Atkins said: “If you hear something you like, and you’re halfway like the public, chances are they’ll like it too.” I’ve found this to be absolutely true. People have always enjoyed my music-especially since I started playing my own music-I’ve always reached people at a deep level with my guitar. What I struggle with is not whether or not my music has value or worth, what I’m struggling with is whether or not the pursuit of creating and performing the music has been worth it to me and my family. I think of the hours and hours I spend closed off in my studio when I’m home coupled with all the time I’ve spent on the road the past 20+ years. And as the world measures such things I have NOTHING to show for all the labor. I have no 401K plan, I have no retirement, no pension, no savings; NADA. Any financial security I’ve had has come through me marrying well. And my social security will be an absolute joke because my income is so low. I can’t help my daughters with college money, or help them at all financially when they’re going through rough times the way so many of my friends can. While I can and do help out around our house with general expenses I am next to useless when an emergency like septic issues crop up and we’ve got an unexpected $750 plumbing bill on our hands. I can’t tell you how helpless and worthless moments like that make me feel.
Part of what I’m going through is comparing myself to my friends and peers-it’s something humans naturally do. We compare ourselves to others to see how we match up-it’s not usually a great way to go about getting mentally healthy but we do it anyway. I know I do. And while many of my friends are musicians and in the same financial boat, most of them are single without kids so they’re not worrying about college or trying to see grandchildren that live 2500 miles away. And the rest of my friends are incredibly smart, successful people. My time touring and performing has led me to meet some incredibly talented people not in the arts-and by the way the world measures success they’ve got A TON to show for it. They’ve made millions, in some cases tens of millions of dollars. And they’re still earning. In a time when I can’t afford to see my grandkids or help out with a septic emergency most of my friends are struggling with when to stop adding to a pile of cash they’ll never spend, and struggle with the idea of retiring. In many ways I love with the fact that I don’t wrestle with the idea of retirement. What would I retire from? Doing the one thing in life that gives me the most joy in the world? To do what exactly? But I’d sure as hell like to experience what that must feel like. To have worked hard your whole life, look back and see in a very measurable way just what you’ve accomplished.
I know I know, I’m going to leave behind music that may last for centuries. I know I’ve been an agent of change, I know through my music and concerts I’ve helped people uncover and discover important truths and been part of transformational healing. I KNOW. And I know through the deaths of some very dear folks over the past year that there are NO guarantees. Time is truly the only precious commodity; you can buy any thing, but you can only spend time.
This morning (Monday, June 23) I spent about an hour reading my past blog posts-I wanted to see if all the positive things I’d written passed my own smell test. Especially since I knew that this was going to be my topic for the week. They did. I believe in my very bones I’ve done the right thing, because I know it’s the only thing I could have done. I am exactly where I am supposed to be, right here, right now. And I’m ok with that. I’m willing to live with the occasional sleepless nights and those bleak 3am thoughts if it means I’ve spent my life pursuing my dream. Because I know so many others of you have delayed your dreams for security.
But if you want to know what keeps me up at 3am, it’s wondering whether I’ve wasted a fine mind and a great work ethic with nothing to show for it. What keeps you up at 3am?