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Reinventing Yourself: It's Not What You Think

January 15, 2021

When I look at my journey through life the path is anything but a straight line . If I were to draw a picture it would probably look like a sailboat tacking into the wind. Always a mountain to climb. Always more obstacles than smooth sailing. Always unforeseen challenges.

Sometimes I wonder how I’ve ended up moving through this unending, messy existence. That being said — when I’ve actually looked beneath the surface I’ve found that the skills I honed as a composer and arranger combined with the discipline of learning to play the piano well was the key.

Deep down we are all people on our own singular journey.

Sadly, when Americans are introduced to each other the default question is: “what do you do”. We are constantly defined by how we make a living. We are judged by the career path we have chosen. Professionals garner more prestige than service workers, teachers or laborers. This conditioned response is next to impossible to avoid.

We all have our fears, loves, mental and physical attributes, struggles, successes and more. Our identity is not just what we do. Our identity is who we are deep inside. We are that little voice that talks to only you. When we lose our job or if our job disappears (due to technological disruption or Pandemic) it’s natural for our identity to take a hit. It is natural to misguidedly take responsibility for events outside of our control or feeling victimized and look for blame. I mean, if we are defined by what we do, if that is taken away from us who are we?

In my 50+ years as a professional musician this has happened to me more often than I care to remember. The first time I was forced to make a significant change in my life was when I got divorced. I felt lost. I struggled. I got depressed. Having to start over as a single parent with a young son was overwhelming. I had no idea what I was doing. I was drifting with no rudder to guide me. I was an emotional wreck. The only way I had dealt with my emotions in the past was to make music. It was a convenient escape and way to expunge and express my emotions. For better or worse I did what had worked for me in the past.

I was living in a second story townhome in West LA. I had set up all of my traveling equipment (keyboards, speakers etc) in my subterranean garage. I would spend hours and hours of every day making all sorts of music. When I was emotionally spent I would remember that I was broke and realized that I couldn’t spend all of my time escaping. I needed to figure out how to make some money.

I guess I lead a charmed life up to this point. The phone would ring and there would be a job on the other end. My work had come to me. I didn’t know a thing about sales. I had no idea what the term marketing meant or client relationships. The phone would ring and I’d go to work. Now I had to figure out how to get a job. So, I decided I needed to stop and go upstairs and get on the phone to hustle up some work. I wasn’t very successful at this because I had no idea what I was doing or why I was doing it other than I needed a job. I turned off all of my gear and headed up the narrow concrete staircase that led to my apartment. When I got to the ground floor landing I was startled by the bright, sunny California day. Almost involuntarily I stopped and stood in the warmth of the midday sun. Then something happened.

The thought came to me: 

“you can only get out of life what you’re willing to give”.

Hmmm.

That was weird.

There I was; standing for what seemed like a long time having a conversation with myself. It was such a startling experience I just stood there thinking about that thought: “you can only get out of life what you’re willing to give”.

I’d always known that music would be my life and that my gift to the world was to share my talents. Then it hit me: “My job in life is to make music”. Suddenly the fog of my confusion began to lift and I felt more confident and settled. Rather than going upstairs and flounder making cold calls I turned around and went back to work downstairs. I’ve never looked back because I knew that if I honored my mission in life and made the best music I could, if I could be the best musician I could possibly be, then my struggles with life, people, money, etc would be less of an issue. I could deal with all of that if I remained true to what I knew to be true about myself.

That moment was more than 30 years ago and I will never forget that moment of clarity.

Now, my experience was unique to me and I don’t advocate being irresponsible. What my story suggests is this: “if you are truly aware of your core competencies, if you are satisfied that you are a whole person regardless of your job description then you will always find your way.

And why is that?

If you reject the notion that you need someone else’s justification of you to determine your self-worth then you can find joy in everything that you do. If you operate from a place of joy and abundance then you will attract the opportunities you seek.

The answers you seek are always inside of you — our challenge is to listen.

We are all inundated with choices. It is easy to only see the opportunities that fit into the identity our conditioning has created. That is our manufactured reality. But, there is a huge, beautiful world out there teeming with life and love…if we allow ourselves to see it.

Being aware of our core competencies, being satisfied with who we are is the first step to making any kind of significant life change like moving to a new career. This awareness will shift our thinking (like it did mine) to be able to determine what your next step shall be. Without it, chances are you will repeat the same situation again…with different people.

If you find yourself in a life situation that isn’t working (due to your choices or those that are out of your personal control) take a truthful and honest personal inventory so you will:

  • Know what you’re good at
  • Know what you’re not good at
  • Know what you can do
  • Know what you can’t do

There is no failure. There are only opportunities to learn and grow.

This is the first in a series of stories that will prepare you to deal with change in your life and career.

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