Reality Lacks Imagination

Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” has a beautiful lyric: “Did you exchange a walk on part in the war, for a lead role in a cage?” There’s powerful lesson in these poetic words. How often do we strive for the spotlight, whilst failing to look at the conditions surrounding such success?

Consider what it means to be a “Rock Star.” Perhaps what I’m about to say may seem like a dated notion compared to the current music trends embedded in pop culture, and I accept that criticism. And to qualify what I mean by “Rock Star,” I mean our stereotypical perception of being famous. For those of us that attend concerts, we see glamour of an adoring crowd and see the glory of the limelight through the eyes of a spectator. From a distance, it seems like the greatest job in the world. Who doesn’t want a job where they get to do what they love, be idolized for it, get catered to everywhere you go, and get paid millions of dollars? Well, if that is one’s perception of what it means to be in a touring professional band, the perception may be skewed. There will always be exceptions to every rule, but here’s the reality for the majority (and I admittedly am overlooking a great deal more and I apologize in advance).

A band works tirelessly writing songs together • then they enter the studio to record their vision • then they rehearse tirelessly to put together a great performance that will hopefully please old fans and new fans alike • then they go on a press tour to promote the record • then they go on tour and are on buses (tour bus bunks on even the swankiest of tour buses are glorified coffins and the reality for most bands today is still a van with a trailer) and planes (typically flying coach and not on private jets or even in first class) for months on end • living out of hotel rooms (budget hotels mostly) • travelling the world, but rarely having the time to take in the sights • doing press junkets in each city answering the same questions over and over being professionally-minded enough to act as though they’ve never heard those questions before • being away from friends and family • eating a large majority of “meals” at truck stops • not sleeping well • getting sick often • wearing the same clothes often. All of this for the love of being on stage and performing for 45-minutes to an 1.5 hours a night, a few months out of every other year or so.

It’s suddenly not so glamorous, and for these musicians, it is the best job in the world. They will gladly exchange all the mundane and uncomfortable aspects of this nomadic lifestyle for their love of performing their music with no guarantee of being loved in return. It’s not all sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. It’s work! And if on the surface a band seems to be living the dream in luxury, the record labels are billing them for all of it. They are typically neither gifts nor acts of generosity and appreciation.

Long-winded perhaps, but the point is that perception affords the luxury of imagination. Reality lacks imagination! It’s an austere slap in the face. When we consider our daily lives, of course embellishments of our own realities or perceptions of the realities we wish for miss the mark. It’s better to choose to be a star in whatever life you have than wish upon any star. For when we wish, we only wish for the time on stage; we don’t wish for all the work that comes with getting us there.

Needless Desire

Desire is defined as a strong feeling of wanting to have something or wishing for something to happen. Needless is defined as being unnecessary or avoidable. When we desire, we often overlook what we actually need. We get caught up and driven by a motivation for something more, usually for the sake of material or egoic acquisition.

Rare is the desire to need less. But what could be more unnecessary than the want of things beyond our control? True power comes from self-control. When everyone else is caught up in getting more, the person who has the most is not the one that gets the most,  but the one that needs the least. They are the least burdened by desire and therefore the most powerful.

When power is perceived as one’s external control over others and/or over things other than oneself, in how more fragile a state can one actually be?

Morbidly Optimistic

Here’s a challenge. For one week, keep a log of all your daily events and interactions from the time you wake up until you fall sleep. Label these experiences as either Positive, Negative, or Neutral. At the end of each day, tally them up. Then, at the end of the week, do a grand total.

What does the data show?

Does the data change how you felt throughout the week?

Does the data change how you currently feel upon reflection?

Does the data predict how next week will be?

Does the data predict how you will be next week?

Does the data change your perspective about how you will respond the events of the following week?

Does optimism help what has happened, what is happening, or what will be?

Does pessimism help what has happened, what is happening, or what will be?

Does neutrality help what has happened, what is happening or what will be?

 

Assumed Control

To “assume control” means to begin to take control or responsibility over something. Over the weekend, I read a passage from Brené Brown’s book, Daring Greatly where she mentioned that she is a fan of the band Rush. In my formative years as a drummer back in the late 80s and early 90s, it was almost a rite of passage to go through a Neil Peart phase, so I too am familiar with the band. For whatever reason, in that moment, the song “Grand Finale” off the band’s 2112 album came to mind. Side-one of the record is a 7-part, 20-minute composition that ends with a repeated radio transmission saying, “We have assumed control.”

I kept hearing this play on loop in my head for several minutes, and the longer it repeated, the more I started to hear a double entendre. To assume, means to suppose without proof, to reason, to think, to believe, to infer, etc. All of which are the opposite of the phrase “to assume control.” I started hearing the phrase, “We have assumed control” more as “We assume we have control,” “We have, what we assume, to be control.”

Choice is the one of the few things we have control over. Even when faced with an undesirable outcome, we can choose how we react to that situation. Furthermore, at some point, things are out of our hands regardless of how well we prepare. For the athletes that just ran the NYC marathon, there were two actual winners out of the more than 50,000 participants. Does that negate all the training, preparation and dedication of everyone else? Were all of the runners trying to win? For those that were, is their achievement fruitless because they didn’t win? Victory may sometimes have clear external parameters, however, we can also internally choose what success looks like. Beating ourselves up for a prolonged period for not achieving what we desired is more of a failure than simply choosing to own it and move on. What outcome will change the more we wish it had turned out differently?

Sooner or later, something more than us has a say in how things will play out. We can assume control over how we take ownership over things that happen, but we cannot assume control over things that are greater than us – that are outside our capacity to control.

Pyrrhic Victory

Competitive spirit is healthy in moderation, for victory is only sweet when the rewards outweigh the risks. If the only goal is victory, what some might call success, the danger is that the motivation for the win is tunnel-visioned on the win itself. For in order to define something as a victory, win, or success, there also must be a loss involved. Something was lost or someone has lost. In many cases, loses are felt by many. We see this in the worst scenario of war. We also see it in sports and business and in smaller cases in day-to-day life. It’s ever-present.

We are all leaders. Even if the only person you lead in your life is you, you are still a leader. The question then becomes, if you are an army of one, are you the general or the infantry?

If we are not in charge of our marching orders, and let our ego’s dictate our behaviors, any successes we achieve were done in servitude of our egos. These are Pyrrhic victories.

Blocks

Block is an interesting word. It has several meanings. Blocks as solid or metaphorical objects can be obstacles. Blocks can be descriptive of an area designed to keep things in. However, you can use building blocks to create something new or use starting blocks for stability at the start of something new. Our usage of the word shifts based on our current perspective.

Can a block be simultaneously viewed as the start of something new and an obstacle? Is the block preventing us from progress or triggering us to introduce a new way of thinking in order to push through? Build or raze: Opposites attract, even when opposites stem from the same word.

Dump the Bar

In weight lifting, the term “dumping the bar” is a phrase used to explain how to safely escape a scenario when you’ve attempted to lift more than you can handle at a given moment and there is no spotter present. Spotters are there to assist, and hopefully ensure one’s safety. In life, we don’t always have a spotter, and we do tend to occasionally attempt something more than we can currently handle whilst going it alone. This doesn’t have to be a feat of physical strength either; it can be a personal, professional, academic, social, or emotional too.

Dumping the bar means bailing out safely. Although we may have failed at achieving what we wanted in the moment, we are safe, which allows us to try again later. If we risk our safety for a final push towards success, the consequences can be deadly. Although a momentary lapse in judgement doesn’t have to necessarily be deadly, it can do enough damage to put us off our goals. It has the potential to sideline us, when all we really aspire to do, and what life is designed for, is to be in the game. We want to play! Sometimes success is knowing when to dump the bar. There’s great strength in knowing when going it alone isn’t safe.