“If You Like Sex, Don’t Be A Hooker”: Don’t Turn Your Passion Into Work

Motivational speaker and author, Barbara Sher, uttered this memorable line at one of her seminars in 2010.  If you love something, she said, don’t feel you have to make it into a career in order to legitimize it.  It doesn’t need to make you money in order for it to be a true passion.  The secret to finding this balance, she says, is to find work that’s “good enough”, that won’t sap your energy and allows you to pursue your bliss at least part of the time.

Cal Newport agrees that turning your passion into work isn’t a good idea. Allison Jones of Idealist Careers cites his 99U Vimeo talk in her article. Jones stresses the need for developing marketable skills that center around your area of interest. Newton argues that it’s the development of those skill that can ignite passion, and not the other way around. Newport asks a crucial question: What skills are you willing to work hard to develop?

I was once asked a very pointed question: if you had to play music you hated with people you didn’t care for, would music still be a passion, or would it become work?    Excellent point. In the fullness of time, everything becomes a “job.” But is that a bad thing? Maybe it isn’t, if you’re willing to take the rough with the smooth. This was discussed in a recent post by fellow blogger Cristian Mahai.

I could go on about this, but I’d rather hear from readers out there. Have you tried to make your passion into a profession? If so, what were the results? Do you agree with Cal Newton and Barbara Sher?  Please feel free to post below.

 

 

 

 

 

See It, Then “Be” It: The Power of Visualization

I’m going to be a lot kinder to myself from now on. For a long time, I’ve lamented the fact that I haven’t practiced my drums every day.  How on earth did I think I was going to improve? Well, I’m finished beating myself up, because although I never knew it, I’ve been  rehearsing on a daily basis for many, many years. In fact, well before I began drumming.

In my mind’s eye, I see my twelve year-old self sitting in my room. I spent hours there, listening to music and imagining myself playing along. Little did I know, I was actually practicing. So  even though I didn’t own a drum set in those days, I was unknowingly tapping into the power of visualization in order to set in motion a “blueprint” for drumming that was not fully realized until decades later.

This comes as no surprise to world-class athletes and trainers. Since the 1970s, Russian competitors have effectively used visualization to improve athletic performance.  In her 2009 article in Psychology Today, AJ Adams cites studies that have shown that imagining yourself doing an activity is nearly as effective as actually motoring through it. Intense mental practice involves engaging all five senses. Guang Yue, an exercise psychologist, found that those who actually went to the gym to work out experienced a 30% muscle increase. Surprisingly, those who performed virtual practice also improved-nearly half the amount of muscle increase as those who actually exercised.

Why does it work?  Visualization engages mental processes that are crucial to successfully completing an activity. These include motor control, attention, perception, planning and memory.  You might be sitting in your favorite recliner or driving in the car, but your brain is training itself to perform the activity.

As it turns out, however, simple visualization may not be enough. According to Srinvasan Pillay, seeing yourself in the “first person”  is a very important part of the process; breaking the task into smaller bits of information will further enhance the experience. If I want to learn that soul-stirring drum break, then, it’s not enough to  just “watch” myself playing it, as if I were viewing myself in a movie. I  have to be in the moment. I need to see the drum kit in front of me, and listen to the song while “feeling” my arms and legs go through the movements.

It’s tempting at this point to pat myself on the back. After all, if ten thousand hours of practice makes one a “master”, haven’t all of those years spent in rapture in front of the stereo brought me  that much closer?

Well, not really.  Researchers remind us that while visualization alone is incredibly useful, it becomes a potent force when paired with real-world physical practice.

When has visualization worked for you? Please leave some comments and thoughts below.

 

 

The Art of Being “Bad-ass”

There are some people you’re meant to meet.  Out of nowhere, you run into them. Or, as in my case, your nosey side gets the better of you and you overhear things. Their words carve into you like a stonemason’s  tool, and help shape you into what you are and hope to be.  I’m glad I have big ears, because I got to hear Chad talk a little about his life.

Before meeting him last year at one of the local music jams that he runs, he was a complete mystery. Like me, he’s middle-aged.  Judging by the song list the house band played, it was clear that music to him is an ocean, rather than a narrow, meandering brook.  He’s another local, gigging musician . Or is he?

Chad is more than that. In that timeless seventies parlance that we grew up with, he’s bad-ass. Period.  A few years ago, he decided to devote himself to music full-time. His courage and determination are part of the reason I created this blog.  I wanted this post to be a Q&A-style interview with him, but after reading one of his recent emails, I said “forget it, I already have my interview.” Because in a few short sentences, he describes exactly what it takes to be a bad-ass, to live your passion and make it work. In utterly uncompromising fashion, he gets down and speaks his truth.

Here are Chad’s Rules for Making Your Dreams a Reality:

  1. Pruning—as with dead leaves and branches from a tree, it’s wise to let go of things that might tie us down and keep us from reaching up.  ” I’ve learned as I swim and wander through this remarkable thing called life that so much of what I thought was soooo damn important, doesn’t matter much to me anymore…I have learned/am learning to sluff it off as I go.” This includes “relationships that don’t grow or seem to work, as that is the greatest burden of all, and the most difficult to let go.”

2. Discipline— I can vouch for Chad’s work ethic. Just days after an operation, he was back in action at the jam, and although people often offer to buy him drinks, he doesn’t touch a drop. He provides the PA and comes early to set up and make sure everything is in working order. In all the time I’ve been a jam participant, he has never missed a Saturday or Sunday.   Chad also runs his own online business ,The Little Shop of Fantasy and Horror, a nod to his love of the  genre. Any business owner who reads this can appreciate far more than I the work that goes into creating and running a viable business.

3.  Love/Grit/Determination–they seem  inseparable.  Like many musicians, Chad is in love with music and is completely devoted to it as one would be another human being. He lives simply now, in an apartment along with his cat, surrounded by hundreds of books on art, film and music.  It’s this love of playing  that drives him.  When one of his mic stands went missing, he talked about how he never replaced it. He couldn’t. A good chunk of his earnings came right out of pocket to buy an abdominal brace, something he absolutely needed in order to continue singing at the gigs. He performs when he’s sick or in pain, lest the venue decide to replace him. And in this town, there are bands standing in line waiting to do so. An “impregnable deflection shield” is crucial for survival, even when making music at the local level. Chad didn’t elaborate or give examples from his own experience, but given that this is the music business, the reader is invited to fill in the blanks. I can say this from experience ( and thank you for reminding me, Mark). Sometimes you play to an empty house. Sometimes people talk over your music. You put in countless hours  learning the tunes, and then preparing, arranging and working out the song list so that your audience will stay interested. Maybe, if you’re lucky, they’ll like you and want to come back to see you again.  A larger audience correlates to more food and drinks sold. If you can’t draw a crowd, you’re out of a job.

As Chad so eloquently puts it: “believe me, there is sacrifice. The music gods demand sacrifice, and they will pull your world inside out and upside down, and twist you every which way to make sure you’re not gonna break. It’s a bitch and you better really, really love it, and love a different kind of reward that only the truly passionate can understand. Or the truly insane, perhaps. Because otherwise, you will run (or crawl) screaming into the embrace of the first safety net you come across, and that will be the end of it. ”

Everyone should meet a bad-ass at least once in their lives.