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Do What You Love…and Brace Yourself

Originally Written for Live2Play Magazine

I’m behind in my blogs, but I have a really good reason. Music work is going great. No really…I know what you’re thinking. But it’s been crazy lately. The bands are working. There’s tons of great stuff happening here at L2P. And I’ve just signed on to do all the music for a web series, produced and directed by a very talented friend in LA. Life is grand, even though I can’t keep up with it right now.

I haven’t entirely been slacking on the blog, and have successfully finished a gazillion word piece on EQ notching, which I hope to have up here sometime this week. You know things are crazy when all you need to do is get three quick screen grabs and you can’t seem to make that happen. But I’m not complaining. It’s a serious juggling act. And I’m totally digging it.

In the 90’s, a spate of self-helpy tomes came out that were all about how to achieve the career of your dreams. The most popular were “What Color is Your Parachute?” and “Do What you Love and the Money Will Follow.” They were all the rage in college career centers all over the country, seemingly bent on convincing people of the American ideal that all you have to do is dream up a great life and somehow it will all fall into place. If that were true, let’s face it – there would be no Xanax. Or Paxil. Or Viagra. Or cocaine.

Life is most often made up of choices not just made out of desire, but out of necessity. And if you need a really good summary of how that works in life – sure – go ahead – ask ANY musician. We are all very well equipped on how to answer the question, “So…how DO you make the impossible dream come true.”

I’m personally not a big fan of the self help stuff. I like the truly spiritual stuff a little better – not the newfangled modified version geared mostly towards how to meditate your way to wealth, but the real deal – The I Ch’ing. The Dhammapada. The work of alcoholic suicidal novelists.

Because the thing that “Do What You Love…” never really told anybody was that the money doesn’t necessarily follow. Oh. Sure. It’s a nice idea. Do what you do well and eventually the world will reward you. But it’s not particularly realistic. But I’m thinking that the writer probably thought that “Do What You Love, Struggle, Work Really Hard, Find a Day Job to Pay Your Bills, and Maybe Make a Few Extra Bucks” probably wouldn’t sell too many books. Come to think of it, that’s the title of my autobiography and I don’t think it’s gonna do to well on the New York Times list. Another dream dashed, I guess.

I had a brief thought the other day that maybe I was helping to participate in this horrid parade of liar pants on fire writers since I’ve started to work in the music publishing world and am writing a lot about being a working musician.

But it’s never been my intention to mislead anyone into believing that just because I have managed, after MANY MANY years of struggling, to eek out a living as a working musician, doesn’t mean that everyone can.

Don’t get me wrong – doing what you love, is ABSOLUTELY, one of the most important things on the planet that any human can do to make their life worth while. And there is truly something to be said about trying to do your thing well, uniquely, and with the kind of passion that identifies you as an extraordinary talent.

But doing what you love won’t guarantee that the money will follow, anymore than showing up on time every day will guarantee that you’ll never be downsized. The world of ideals left us long ago, and people who sell you this bill of goods really don’t deserve your attention.

There are lots of us out there who love the process of creating and playing music. Most of us have made most of our money doing other things. Somehow, it hasn’t changed the loving what we do part.

As I often tell my students, being a musician is not a big ticket life, as some young people want to believe. Unless you have a wealthy patron or a damn good day job, the most expensive thing you will likely ever own is your instrument and a few other pieces of gear.

But it can be a great life for those willing to drop the “…And the Money Will Follow” part. And yeah…you know, sometimes, after either years of working your ass off, or a brief stroke of monumental good fortune – just maybe it will follow. If you keep your overhead low and your expectations modest.

My life is filled lately with incredibly talented people who make shit pay for doing extraordinary things everyday. If you think the bar out there isn’t high just because pop music sucks (a familiar cry in every era), well…you’re wrong. There are amazing musicians out there. Mindblowing ones. Good natured peeps whose greatness is driven by their love of playing and not their ego, or the desire to be driving the right kind of Mercedez some day.

Something’s telling me that these are the people who should be writing college career manuals. It would be called “Do What You Love…And the Money Won’t Matter.”

Yeah. That’s definitely a book I would buy.


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