Same bullsh*t, different venue.
Nov 24, 2021
I used to be very results-driven. I defined my value based on how close I came to achieving my goals.
Most often, these goals were not really mine. They were defined for me by institutional education and occupation. Familial and societal norms reinforced these pursuits.
I began to see things differently when my music career started to bring in more income than my day gig as a wine consultant for a family-owned grocery store chain. The irony was that for the first time ever, I loved my day gig.
One day I decided that if I was ever going to make a go of being a full-time professional musician, it was now or never. Turns out I quit my straight job on the very day they were going to tell me they were sending me on a two-week California winery tour!
At first, I was just thrilled to be playing music for a living. Every crappy dive bar gig was a delight. But soon, my old programming kicked in. I found myself wanting higher-end gigs on bigger stages. I even scored some of these opportunities.
Turns out that wherever I played and whoever I played with and for, I still felt like it wasn't good enough. Even worse, I never thought that I was good enough.
Musicians have a name for this dynamic, "Same bullsh*t, different venue."
I've had the privilege of speaking playing with musicians whose names you would recognize. Some are incredibly famous. Many were extremely dissatisfied. However, a few were completely satisfied.
It took me a while to figure out why success left so many empty and so few feeling fulfilled. But eventually, I figured it out.
The happiest musicians are grateful for what they already had. They're not playing the finite game the industry promotes. They play the infinite game.
Sure, they still had dreams and aspirations, but they don't attach their happiness and wellbeing to them. They're satisfied with what was and what is and grateful for the opportunity to pursue what's next without feeling entitled to it.
This was a revelation to me. The journey, not the destination, is the real reward. Paying your dues isn't an investment in getting what's coming to you. It's table stakes for playing the game of life.
Understanding this and, more importantly, embodying this way of being changes everything. Embracing the uncertainties and challenges of every opportunity and possibility cultivates more joy and equanimity. I am sufficient as I strive.
But acknowledging this insight is not enough. This is not a one-and-done exercise.
Finding fulfillment in the process while pursuing worthwhile aims is more akin to sweeping the floor. It has to be done frequently.
What about you? Would it help to stop defining yourself based on what you achieve? What happens if you pay more attention to aligning yourself with the pursuit rather than the destination?
Scott Perry, Chief Difference-Maker at Creative on Purpose.
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