I made the leap to becoming a full-time professional musician shortly after my first son was born. It was right after a brush with a significant health scare. Music was my passion, and I didn't want to look back later later in life and wonder “Could I have ‘done something’ with my musical ambitions.”
We lived in Charleston, South Carolina. It was a great place to launch a music career. There were plenty of places to perform and a huge pool of talent to play with. I formed musical partnerships quickly and picked up gigs easily. Fortune shone upon me. I was "making it!"
Most of my musical partnerships were with players ten or twenty years my senior. I was surprised by how often I heard these veterans griping. They complained about indifferent audiences, crappy gigs, lack of recognition, low pay, and how undeserving local talent like Edwin McCain and Hootie and the Blowfish, who used to share the bill with us, were getting signed while they were getting passed over.
Me? I was thrilled to be doing what I loved and getting by. I was living the dream. I vowed I’d never become one of "those guys."
Years passed, and my career continued. From time to time, I picked up gigs at well-known venues and festivals. I sometimes did shows with famous acts. But mostly, I was a jouneyman touring the low paying local bar circuit up and down the east coast.
Shortly after our second son was born, we moved to southwestern Virginia. I augmented the income lost due to my less frequent gig schedule by opening a guitar studio. It turns out I love teaching even more than gigging, and I really enjoyed being home more and on the road less.
About twenty-five years into my music career, I caught myself having a conversation about not getting the breaks I "deserved." I recognized the symptoms right away. It was happening. I was becoming one of "those guys."
And in that moment, I changed my mind. I instantly reframed my situation. I reminded myself, "This isn't the work I have to do. This is the work I get to do."
This realization is a rewording of a favorite quote from Marcus Aurelius' Meditations, "Love the humble art you have learned and take rest in it." The "art" Marcus refers to is the art of living. Marcus believed that living well means remaining humble and accepting what fate delivers, even while striving to excel and serve others. It's strong medicine, and it saved me at that moment when hubris and selfishness were creeping into my consciousness.
Ever since that day, I make a daily practice of thankfulness with two 1-minute gratitude exercises. They help me cultivate a sense of sufficiency for who I am and how things are even as I strive to better myself and my situation.
Scientific studies reveal that the simple act of counting your blessings and a posture of gratitude stave off stress and cultivate wellbeing even during the toughest times. Gratitude also promotes feelings of inner peace and prosperity while engaging with the challenges inherent in any worthwhile effort.
So, why not give gratitude a chance? What are you grateful for today?
Let's keep flying higher together!
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