Everyday I see people who are miserable in their professions. For most individuals, it is truly a job and not a career. It is a place where they work, so they can pay the bills and nothing more. I can totally relate because I was that person too. I had dreams as a young high school student to be in the music industry, and do nothing more. There wasn't really a plan B, it was all or nothing in the music industry. After high school, I attended a college in Phoenixville, PA, where I would study both music and youth ministry. Looking back, I can see where both of those careers could intercept one another (music, youth...youth, music - they go hand in hand). In college, I got involved playing in, and for, many bands. I had a synthesizer in my dorm room, and wrote music constantly with friends. We would stay up to the very early hours of morning writing, creating and just having fun (not the best idea for grades, but terrific for creativity).
After college, I kept pursuing music where our band saw some regional and semi-national recognition. It was a lot of hard work, but the passion kept us fueled to keep going. Then something happened that changed the trajectory of my life. I found a woman who wanted me to settle down, start a family and pursue a "real" career. When you are young, stupid and in love - you will do anything, for the most part, to please the person you have given your heart. I always vowed that I would not wear a suit, Dockers or polo shirts, yet this is what I had to do so I could "look the part" when interviewing. I was definitely young and stupid. I was able to find employment as a retail manger trainee in the tire and car repair industry. Thus , started the most miserable years of my life.
I made a huge mistake back then thinking that money and prestige would make us happy. She was very happy because she had everything a young woman would want or need. On my end, I was the most miserable human being on planet earth. I had friend at the time tell me that I was the most miserable church goer that he had ever seen. It was true, I was tired, burnt out and angry at life. I knew I needed to make a change, and I knew that it had to be quick for sanity's sake.
Church involvement can put you in good contact with people who know people. Duh, right? It is very much like the six degrees of separation which states that everyone is on average approximately six steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person. I can tell you from experience, churches prove that theory...it is like a melting pot of who knows who. At the church I attended, the worship leader had a brother in law who owned a beautiful studio in Rochester, NY. The brother in law was looking for an assistant to help him with the running of the day to day business at the studio. I met with Dave (the studio owner) and we hit it off. Dave hired me which changed the trajectory of my life, once again. Working for Dave and the studio was the catalyst that would allow me to continue doing what I love....music.
When I am teaching at the college (Houghton College), I always tell the students to pursue their passions. I also tell them that in pursuing those passions they may need to work a job that they do not like, but if they pursue what they are passionate about it can and will work out. It seems like easy advice, kind of like, good things come to those who wait or any cliche. I truly believe that if your heart is set on something, and you are extremely passionate about it, then you can make a living doing what you love (as long as you have the talent for it - had to clarify that a little bit). I tell my students that life is too short to be doing something that you hate for your entire life.
Everything I am talking about boils down to this....risk taking. I have seen way too many people get stuck in their lives because they are afraid of failure, or, in other words, afraid to take the risk. Risk is scary, risk is crippling, but risk can be rewarding. If most people are afraid of taking risks, then a person taking risk is actually in a better position to succeed (it's all a numbers game). One of the great staples of being a great leader is that they are willing to take risks. Risk taking is not being reckless, risk taking is doing something that you wouldn't normally do, but doing it in a very calculated fashion.
When I think about risk taking, and being stuck, my father comes to mind. My father is a gifted musician, a gifted construction worker and a great person. From the time I was born, the only thing I can remember my dad ever doing for a living was construction work. He needed steady pay so he could provide for his wife and children. He is a great construction worker and went from working for others to starting his own business. It was a big risk, but he had built a good name for himself in the construction business. He is now semi-retired, and does little jobs for friends here and there. One day when we were camping, I looked over at my father and saw him lost in thought. All of a sudden it had hit me that I had never asked my own dad about his passions in life. I have done that year after year at the college with my students, but never with my own father. That day, while camping, I asked my dad, "What were your dreams and passions growing up? If you could have been anything in life, what would it have been? Would it have been a construction worker - or did you really want to do something else?" His answer almost broke my heart. He told me that his dream and passion in life was to be a musician.
He told me that growing up he and his sister had played at fairs, bars and various venues. They had played at a contest for a chance to win a recording contract with RCA records back in the day and won. When the chance came for them to sign the deal his parents said that no son or daughter of theirs would play music for a living. Their kids would work for a living and not be caught up in an easy life style like music. After that, my dad would continue to play music, but not pursue it as a career or living. I was very sad that day talking with my dad about his life and realizing that he never pursued his passion.
Life is a small journey we take from here to there. There are no guarantees on how many years we have - or have left. So why would we chose to waste away the very short amount of time we have on this earth? Why would we waste half our lives pursuing misery in professions that we can not stand? Life doesn't have to be that way. Life isn't suppose to be that way. And it is never too late to change the trajectory of our lives. I know of 80-somethings who have pursued a college degree and have finished. I know of 60-somethings who finally decided to pursue painting for a living - and have succeeded. It is never too late, nor early, to pursue our passions and dreams. All it takes is hard work and a little risk. Today is the day to start the journey and take the risk.
Good Ted Talk Video On Risk taking - "The Art of Living Dangerously"
Kevin "Danger" Jackson is a New York-based producer, engineer, composer, performer, educator and Berklee College of Music alumnus. He writes, produces and engineers music for a wide range of artists in the pop, hip-hop, rock, R&B, classical and electronic genres. His work can be heard daily on a multitude of albums, radio and television stations worldwide.