Saturday, May 11, 2013

With Buried Grievances And Dreams Unexpressed

"Comfort is not a primary agenda item." Isn't convenient how our bills show up about two days after our paychecks do? Just when we start getting used to the idea of having extra bones in the bank, life chimes in with yet another expense. It's almost funny, in a way. Like life is just fucking with us. Then again, that's how nature operates. Every new beginning is some other beginning's end. Besides, it's certainly better than the alternative, which is having no paycheck at all. Better to have earned and lost than never to have earned at all. 

"To earn one’s bread by the sweat of one man’s brow." Growing up, manual labor was not a big part of my life. I didn't do laundry. I never mowed the lawn. And I couldn't change a tire if you held a gun to my head. But after I turned thirty, I began to appreciate the existential value of elbow grease. You can't beat the humility and stewardship and satisfaction that accompany the experience of manual labor. That stuff makes you feel alive, man. I know it sounds silly, by the prospect of toiling away on a mundane household project for two hours is wildly attractive to me. Inspired by Working.

"Testing dreams in the crucible of reality." Ay, there's the rub in the whimsies we chase. Exposing them to the harsh, raw light of the real world. But that's the risk in going public with our hearts: Uprooting the horror of irrational optimism. Discovering that our dreams have no relationship with reality. Eric Maisel makes this point repeatedly in his work, and for good reason. As artists, we seduce ourselves into performing solely at the theater of the mind. And that's fine if the work is just our passion. But the minute we decide to go pro, to actually earn a living doing our art, we have to prepare our lovelorn eyes for the harsh light of reality.

"The first thing you should learn in a course on entrepreneurship is how to make yourself valuable." When I started looking for a new job, I knew two things. First, I needed to show up. Physically. In person. On people's doorsteps. And I needed to look them in eye, tell them who I was and why they should hire me. Second, I needed to bring a social object. An interesting, useful, memorable, meaningful artifact that was worth talking about. Then, I needed to walk out of that meeting knowing that I gave the company something they didn't know they were missing. It worked. My dad was right. Value is the only thing that matters. Inspired by an article that should be taught in every business school in the world.

"There’s a lot of pressure for me to be unhappy." Marc Maron explains that when your schtick is being the unhappy guy, the minute you start smiling, fans get upset. It's like you've violated their expectations. Interesting paradox. You could make the same argument for the fat comedian, the alcoholic musician, the vulgar cartoonist or the insane filmmaker. Once the audience gets used to having you a certain way, any change in the status quota is a form of letting them down. Even if it's beneficial for the your health, they're still mad at you. That's the challenge with success. It doesn't breed envy, it breeds expectation. Nobody's happy for you when you lose weight. 

"What you saw was only fraction of the wattage he put out." I've always agreed with Whitman's "we contain multitudes" theory. In this podcast with Huey Lewis, there's a story about watching a musician perform and knowing he was only using about twelve percent of his full potential. Don't you just love those moments? When you're exposed to an artist whose well of talent runs so deep, it's almost scary? God damn. Those encounters just melt my butter. They make me want to become a better man. Better yet, since I truly believe in all that human potential mumbo jumbo, I'm actually convinced that it's possible for me too.

"With buried grievances and dreams unexpressed." Our country's biggest selling point is the prospect of not having to die with our music still in us. We are the place where dreams are had and followed. And if we're lucky, we will go to the grave with our lives poured out. Unfortunately, not every country has this luxury. Not every child can afford to pursue their own interests. And that's one of those intangibles I always try to remain grateful for. Can you imagine what would happen we never got the chance to let out them demons? Yikes. Thanks for the reminder, Studs.