Episode 130 - What Do You Do?
The Thursday Thesis – 20/12/2018
“So, what do you do?”
Once you’ve eased past the Great British obsession with the weather, that’s one of the most common questions you are asked when beginning to make someone’s acquaintance, isn’t it?
Back in Episode 111 I rolled-over the difference between being a guitar teacher and doing the work of teaching guitar, so there’s no need to re-visit the question of identity versus activity: you can find that episode in the blog archives.
No, I’m mulling that question over for another reason, which will inevitably take me down the rabbit-hole of human potential, where The World went wrong and what we can do about it.
You see, last week I was asked what I did...
“Pause, Neil. Pause and think...” I told myself.
That wasn’t going to happen, was it?
After all, I’m stupidly enthusiastic about what I do: just give me a sliver of a chance and I’ll soak with my enthusiasm and emanate passion for teaching guitar. Just ask me about it, I dare you!
That also makes me a general pain in the arse to anyone who wants to be boring.
So I gushed – I couldn’t contain myself!
“I’m glad you asked, Olga, because what I do is unlock the secret code that makes playing the guitar easy, setting my students free from years of frustration and self-doubt, and by giving them the secrets of music they unleash their own creativity, find self expression and develop unstoppable self confidence...”
The lady looked puzzled and asked again, “So, what do you do, really?”
Damn – I’d only paused to snatch a lungful of air before I started on the good bits...
We laughed and pinged back and forth until she (sort-of) got the idea that what I do is hang out with my wonderful friends, laugh, tell jokes, and play guitar – all the while infecting people with insane positivity.
“How long have you been doing that?” She asked.
“Nineteen years, with the last ten being full-time.” I said.
Then it hit me: TEN YEARS!!!!
That’s why today seems like an opportunity to mark that anniversary and remind myself that I’ve been blessed to make my living doing what I love most: helping people to get what they want.
Ten years ago I quit my job in finance, because I didn’t think that the company’s products were something I wanted to be a part of.
My old boss, David, was probably glad to see the back of me, and at the time I was glad to be getting away from him, too. With hindsight, I recognise what a good, honest and diligent man he was. I didn’t see it back then and missing the opportunity to learn from him was a great loss and my mistake.
David thought I could do better with my abilities – and I think we all can. Every single one of us is capable of way more than society thinks we are, whether that’s behind a guitar, singing, in business, relationships, health...every single thing you can think of, you can be better at it than you think.
I reckon that if a washed-up pudding like me can turn themselves around, anybody can.
It takes effort, but we can all do, be and have more of what we want. Most people won’t try, because they’ve been told not to be “too ambitious / driven / weird / selfish / rich / successful /etc, etc, etc.”, they’ve been told to fit in.
For the last ten years I’ve put in more time and effort than most people would consider sane, worked 90-plus hour weeks and earned a First, written a couple of books, a lot of songs, and a ton of other cool stuff.
Maybe I’ve been lucky – maybe I’ve just worked really hard.
But here’s the thing: I haven’t done a day’s work in ten years, because my work is my favourite game.
Every day I get to follow my natural inclination to teach what I love and to help people see themselves better, to rekindle the vital spark of humanity and creativity, fun and joy that school, university and the world of work bullies into submission, causing the spark to die down to acceptable, manageable levels.
But the spark never goes completely out. It flares when we sing in the car, dance in the kitchen, marvel at a sunrise or cradle our firstborn.
In those moments we remember what we were before we learned to turn down that flame until it dimmed to almost nothing...
My friend, fight, every single day to keep that spark alive. Guard it, nurture it and feed it, then fan it into flames, then make it grow into an inferno.
That spark is the essence of who you are when nobody is around to make you fearful, to make you need to fit in, submit or conform.
I ask you, “Why do you work so hard to fit in, when you were born to stand out?”
© Neil Cowmeadow 2018
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