“You want to do what? You’ve lost your mind!”
These are spousal words, probably heard by Edison, Elon Musk, and assorted others, yours truly included. They are followed by a favorite topic of mine: How to not let logic dictate your passions! (Hint: It isn’t easy, but then again nothing worth anything in life is, sans winning the lottery when you least expect it.)
So if you’ve been following my past ramblings, I had a successful career going with white glove service, pampered airline trips to foreign lands, and fat bonus checks that were usually multiples of my base salary.
I wish I had appreciated it more when I had it, because now it’s all gone. In fact, I’m not really sure how I manage to get by right now. The struggle is real, but I chose it. Read that line again. I’ll even bold it for you. “I chose it.”
When the poop hit the fan in 2008 and my company was forced to merge, I was stamped with an expiration date like a carton of milk. I had one year to continue working, then one year of what is known in the industry as “garden leave.” You cannot work, or take a job with a competitor.
You either reinvent yourself, or sit home and putter in your garden until the payments stop and your money runs out. You’d think that I would have chosen to enjoy that free year, but my own neuroses made each day a living hell because in my mind, each passing day was one day closer to hitting the wall of financial ruin. My insomnia got worse as did both my emotional and physical health.
When I hit that wall at full speed, it was sobering. Reality does that to you. Now flying without a safety net, I came up with a possible solution. Instead of doing something that I did well, why shouldn’t I do something that I really love and let the cards fall where they may?
I decided to open a music school, you’ve probably heard of the parent company and the movie and now Broadway Show, and teach kids some life skills as well as scales and rudiments. I was going to teach nothing but rock and roll.
My wife and family swiftly made an appointment on my behalf with a therapist, because clearly I had lost my mind. I took everything I had in cash, put my house up as collateral, and secured a loan for a million dollars to build the school that dreams are made of.
What did I know about this business? Nothing. What did I know about the retail sector in general and dealing with the public day by day? Nothing. Did I know anything about the local zoning laws or the associated costs of operating this type of facility? Nope. Nothing, nada, zilch.
I did know one thing and this is important, I knew I had a passion for this. This seemingly ridiculous idea was my passion. It became my mistress, my love, and it fueled my desire to actually make a difference in the lives of young people. This endeavor would not be enough to feed my stomach, and it still is not quite there yet, but it feeds my soul.
I think that is the point I’m trying to make here. If you can find something you are truly passionate about, the rest of the puzzle will fall into place. Listen to that voice inside you. Edison did. Gates did. Musk did. Some people call it insanity. I would like to think of it as divine inspiration, and that divinity by the way is actually yourself, which is a miraculous thing.
Every one of us has all the answers we need already within them. We just choose not to listen. It is the path you must seek to uncover those answers that is sometimes the problem. If you choose to take that first small step toward a goal that might seem unrealistic to others, you are already ahead of 99% of the rest of the people in this world.
What my family had diagnosed as an acute bout of unadulterated mental illness in me wound up being my salvation. (and I don’t take that last statement lightly by the way)
There was a brief moment when I actually flirted with the concept of cashing in my chips and departing this big blue marble we call home. I was going to leave the mess to the rest of humanity to clean up, because clearly I’d had enough.
If you have a dream, then live it, embrace it, and let it give birth to an offspring called reality. We have no guarantees in this life. There might not be a tomorrow for some of us, or all of us for that matter. (If that is the case, I most certainly overpaid for my carpet)
The time to act is now. There is very distinct and marked difference between “living” and just “existing.” Which side of the coin are you on right now? It’s actually not that hard to flip that coin over.
I’ve met some truly wonderful people through the opening of my school. One of them is my music director, Mr. Andy Letke. Andy is from Indiana and comes from a wonderful family, as I’ve met his parents at a music function he was playing at. Andy is one of the best examples I can think of as someone who actually reached a working state of Nirvana, which is ironic because he teaches the music of Nirvana and the lead singer took his own life. (but I digress)
That being said, I asked Andy what his secret was of being perpetually, and almost over the top, happy. He said, “I decided in college that I wouldn’t let anything bother me, so I don’t.”
You can imagine my shock. Not from the statement, because we all have the ability to pontificate our best intentions, but that Andy actually lived out his own mission statement. That is feat worthy of the accolades I heap upon him now.
That, dear reader, is the holy grail of peace, tranquility and success; actually doing what you set out to do. That personal practice can be applied to anything; smoking cessation, not enabling bad relationships, parenting, etc.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m also one of the people that are not quite as successful as Andy is, but I try every day. In following my own dreams in spite of all the naysayers, both professional and armchair therapists alike, I strive forward, perhaps inch by inch, toward the goal I set for myself. While I might not always catch it, my eye is never off the ball.
Dealing With Bumps in the Road
Ok, so it is no secret that I either have an early form of Parkinson’s, or Motor-Neuron Disease. My doctor advised me to hope for Parkinson’s or if struck with Motor-Neuron I will be communicating through a 1970’s speak-and-spell like Stephen Hawkins.
On the bright side, Stephen is a pretty smart guy and figured out a way to have a large family. My IQ is not so high and sometimes I can’t figure out where I left my car keys, so I’m going with the doctor’s advice and hoping for Parkinson’s.
The two afflictions act in very much the same way when they onset, so it’s hard to tell. A cocktail of drug therapies do help to control the symptoms if I keep on a tight schedule. If I don’t, everything becomes a mess very fast.
When I was first diagnosed, I was shocked. A wave of depression set in and took hold. I felt very much alone in the world. Thankfully logic took over. When I went to see my doctor and rode up in the elevator, I was Michael. After seeing the doctor and hearing his opinion I was still Michael riding down the elevator to the parking garage.
Nothing had really changed. Sure my lifestyle needed to change. I am left handed and needed to be right handed as that side of my body is less affected for now. I need to plan out my motions in my head before I act on them. Trust me, falling down the stairs four or five times is a great motivator to foster change. That is reality, plain and simple. You don’t want to change? Well then plan on landing on a hardwood floor face first. (A lot.)
“Do you get it now Michael,” said the universe. “Yes,” was my response. I learned to lead with my right foot. I learned to be aware of my surroundings. I got so good at it that most people don’t perceive a difference if I’m mindful of myself and my movements, and of course stay on my schedule for medication.
Does any of this diminish my dream and my ability to teach music? Not really. Despite working 14 to 16 hour days 6 days a week between 2 jobs and managing my kid’s career, I’m pretty happy.
Despite All the Challenges, the Dream Remains
A very close friend of mine once said “Your dreams are scary things.” “Why?” I said, quite puzzled by her statement. Her answer was “Because you have a tendency of making your dreams a reality.” I thought about that for a moment and realized that was probably the greatest compliment I’ve ever received.
So to sum it all up my friends, live for today, and never ever lose sight of the power of your dreams. You can do it, whatever your own personal “it” is. And remember, no one remembers Edison’s failures, or how many times Babe Ruth struck out. All that ever remains is the success they achieved.