Results That Really Matter

Results That Really MatterMy question floored him. Paul sat staring at me for a few seconds, mouth slightly ajar, so I repeated it:

“What are you going to do with all the money you make when we hit it big?”

After a little more time, he broke his contemplation:

“I guess I haven’t really had vision for anything more than surviving since the band broke up. I don’t really know what I’d do if we had a bunch of money.”

What if you live beyond the fulfillment of your dreams? What if your book takes published flight, your calculated business risk is proven right, financial security breathes a sweet sigh of contentment when your eyelids close in sleep at night? What will you do when morning sun hurls its inescapable light at your snuggly dreams?

Your belly must find fulfillment in something other than your own accomplishment if you hope to survive the responsibility it brings. History overflows with men who achieved greatness and lost it all. Christopher Columbus found constant struggle, heartache, and loss after his discovery of a new world. Jack Kerouac drank himself to death under the crush of On the Road‘s overwhelming popularity. Mozart died penniless. Van Gogh went insane. Bernie Madoff will spend the rest of his life in prison for his Ponzi scheme to maintain the early profitable returns to his investors.

Most of us don’t feel like we’ve ever achieved success. The sad thing is, the people who we think have achieved success never think they’ve gotten there, either. It’s why conquerors always want to conquer more, why athletes keep playing after they’ve won championships, why billionaires keep looking for ways to make more money. Some fantasy in our brain keeps telling us that once we get to the top of the mountain, life will be so much better, easier, etc. But the trials never end. The joy that comes from hope held in our hands lasts only a few moments.

So what can we do?

First, don’t link personal happiness with the reaching of your destination. It keeps you from recognizing the beauty along the way and becoming a person who’s prepared for even more difficult challenges.

Second, enjoy success when it happens and receive the satisfaction of having done something well. Celebration keeps pride from destroying your achievement and helps you to close a completed chapter of life.

Finally, start on the next pursuit that pops into your mind. You’ll find that it’s more fulfilling than what you just completed, especially if it involves more people than just yourself.

I sat down earlier today with Darren Lewis, another musician whose previous band ended and is now using the insights gained from his performance career to create a marketing company. We traded stories of our crazy adventures on the road, laughed at some of the awkward adventures we’d endured, and talked about the stars that so often appear in people’s eyes when they find out we’ve been professional performers they’ve never heard of.

“I knew this millionaire with a great family who felt miserable because all he wanted to be was a guitarist,” he said. “I kept trying to convince him that he was much better off where he was, but it was like I couldn’t get him to remove the rose-colored glasses.”

“Like the 500 hats of Bartholomew Cubbins!” I replied.

He hadn’t read the book, which made my reference not nearly as striking as I’d hoped. I felt awkward silence approaching our conversation. So I explained how Dr. Seuss’ protagonist had removed his hat for the procession of the king, only to find another hat, and another, and another. No matter how hard Bartholomew tried to take off his hat, another one popped up. No matter how many times Darren and I try to tell people about the awkward housing situations, the lack of money, or the loneliness we constantly endured as full-time touring musicians, we never get them to see beyond their blinding visions of adventure, fame, and glory.

My former guitarist, Paul, recently released a new solo CD and has more people asking him for guitar lessons than he can handle. It’s a huge switch from the financial and emotional struggles he endured in 2008 after we stopped touring together. When I asked what made the difference, he couldn’t put his finger on it. A little while later, in an unrelated conversation he said, “You know, I realized how much I had been concerned about myself and my survival and had isolated myself in my own little world. I’ve started looking for ways to help other people with their projects, even if it doesn’t mean getting paid for it, and it’s been so much fun.”

Paul may never achieve the kind of recognition and earning power that he probably deserves for his level of technical skill and creative genius. He still hasn’t made it big like he once wanted or dreamed. But his music continues to impact greater amounts of people, and he’s finding happiness far more often in the sharing of who he is.

Those are the conditions that make dreams blossom.

Those are the only results that really matter.

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