Wow. Just. Wow. What a year we're in. I was born in 1966. I remember, just barely, my family watching the space race. I remember the end of the Vietnam War. I remember Chico and the Man, Sanford and Son (Quincy Jones, baby!), and Good Times. I remember hippies; all of my older siblings and their friends. I remember seeing Gerald Ford on Michigan Avenue and ending up in a picture with him on the cover of The Chicago Sun-Times the next day. I remember Jimmy Carter and the oil embargo, the hostages in Iran, and Reagan. I remember the Iran-Contra Affair and the Gulf War. It was at about that point that my career in music began in a real sense. By then I had personally been through addiction, Cook County Jail (for possession of marijuana), respiratory failure, the death of friends and family, and living on the edge of poverty. Waiting for me were two divorces, a mental breakdown, alcoholism, more deaths of friends and family, and a roller coaster career that challenged my every skill as an entrepreneur. There were countless victories, too. In fact, my very survival has been one of my proudest ones. I've learned a resilience I wasn't sure I knew. I bring this grit to my students, friends, compatriots, and anyone I see in dire straits (not the band). I'm happier for the simple knowledge that it's virtually impossible for me to quit or back down, and for the strength of my Buddhist practice and the deeper understanding it has given me of a less shakable happiness. I find strength every day in my ability and willingness to offer honest words of hope and support to those around me who reach out.
But really. Wow. What a freakin' year. 2020 will without a doubt be one of those years we never forget. No matter our grit or age or ability to thrive, survive or just get by, this is vastly more challenging than most of us probably imagined. But that last bit, just getting by, that's survival, too. When we can wake up, get out of bed and step out into our lives, we're winning. When we can do the one thing in front of us and not be harried by the myriad of things flying about us, we're winning. We do the best we can with what we've got. It's a fact. I know, I know, you've got countless times in your life when you're absolutely convinced you could have done better. Well, you're wrong. Now you could do better than you did then. Then, you couldn't. I know, I know, you recognized even then, your laziness, you were phoning it in, the corner-cutting. I stand by my original statement. You're wrong. Now you could do better. It's that hindsight is 20/20 thing. It will no doubt be 20/20 regarding 2020. Every single one of us is likely to look back on this year after we've come through and feel like we could have done better, we could have done more. But...we do the best we can with what we've got. Our innate ability to second guess (which is one reason we adapt well) and the pretty nicely built-in guilt, shame, and blame of our cultures, cause us to never feel worthy of our own best efforts. But. You're doing well. You're still here. You're even still reading this! Thanks for that. (Self doubt happens)
BUT! We can most certainly use this pandemic and the seismic shifts in our socio-political worlds and the fact of climate change (S&P is now also rating companies with how suitable they are to the changing climate), and the tremendous uncertainty we face, as some of the greatest opportunities we've ever had! These are our immense opportunities to take that 20/20 hindsight and make it 2020 foresight. Treating this, now, what we're in, as the norm, nasty as it is, we can settle into living within it. From that point, we adjust to the realities around us. Once that begins to settle in, we look for needs we can fill. If we're really in touch with our intrinsic motivation as humans... to help each other and solve problems... we may realize a way in which our work can inspire or contribute or just add a little something beyond its basic market fulfillment. What one thing can you give in your work that costs you nothing to do, but that will bring a little more joy to those you serve? For instance, I write a brief personal thank you note to everyone who buys anything in my online store. I'm treating them as if they walked in the door of my brick and mortar location (which I don't currently have). I watch for repeat business and let them know I appreciate it. It's small. But it matters. I get a good response.
Of course, my work as a songwriter, the wider purpose I place on my record label, and the ways I can help shape someone's attitudes through coaching, all offer me larger opportunities for value creation. But none of these are things I have to do. I could write pop songs, jingles, or mainstream musicals with the sole goal of making money. I could function like every other record label and nobody would be any wiser. I could just take my students' money without any real effort beyond feeding them the standard wealth of information and skills every musician counts on to build their craft. All of this is what I was trained for when I got my degree. Nobody would know the difference, because they never would have seen anything different from me. By pursuing my work the way I have, I have purposefully locked myself into a life that keeps me on track with what I dreamed of as a wee lad. I wanted to create some positive change in the world. This is truly what gets me out of bed each day. Because, I'll tell you what: I like sleep, I'm inherently lazy and privileged, and lately, ignorance really might be bliss. But, wow. I mean, really. Wow. I can't just sit here and watch the train wreck. Not when I see a lever that points to a smoother track. Not when I can join and push against it with everyone else.
Here, let me help you with that. I insist.
Read the Readers Favorite Award-winning and critically acclaimed music memoir of Phil Circle. The Outback Musician's Survival Guide: One Guy's Story of Surviving as an Independent Musician follows the journey of a young suburban Chicago boy and his dreams of being a musician; how, sometimes in spite of himself, he accomplishes a life of greater meaning than he had imagined. Available anywhere ebooks and paperbacks are sold online. Also available in audiobook, narrated by the author and Ted Wulfers.