When you choose the extraordinary, people will become uncomfortable.
When you say to yourself—to your innermost being—“I want to live a life full of meaning and purpose,” those who haven’t made the same declaration will challenge you.
When you refuse to settle, the people who know you—love you, even—will tell you you’re being unreasonable.
I used to believe those voices were worth listening to, at least in part.
Now, I think differently. I think you should too.
Ignoring these voices (or, at the very least, quieting them down a bit) is essential to your success. Here’s why…
A story of what never was.
When I was 16, I bought my first pair of turntables. Two Gemini TT-2000s, in fact. I had a picture of those beauties taped to my wall and saved up all the grocery-sacking money I had to buy a pair.
They weren’t Technics by any stretch of the imagination (the Holy Grail for DJs), but they put music in my hands and gave me the ability to create. I had never been musical growing up, but turntables made me feel like Mozart.
See, I took a huge interest in DJ’ing after seeing Malcolm Michiles from Citizen King live and in concert. The band’s not around anymore, but that one show made an imprint on my life I still feel to this day.
Malcolm made sounds with two turntables (sadly, no microphone) that can only be described as other-wordly. I could not believe one person could shape sound the way he did with only a few records and some record players.
Developing the dream.
So, as I mentioned, I raced straight home and worked to save up the money to buy a pair.
About a month later, a big box arrived on our doorstep. This was before the days of Amazon, so I had no idea when they would actually show up. The anticipation of not knowing only added to my joy when I finally got my hands on those gorgeous tables.
For the next week I spent every waking moment with my turntables.
I watched instructional tapes on how to be a DJ (VHS tapes I bought off eBay).
I pillaged my parents old record bin. “Thriller” became a favorite, as did anything from Earth, Wind & Fire.
I practiced and practiced and practiced. I tried to recreate some of the breaks, loops, scratches, and transitions I heard in my music.
It was the stuff dreams were made of. I knew I was in a sweet spot when some friends called me up and asked if I’d bring my tables over and join them for a jam session. A JAM SESSION.
(Remember, this was in the early days of the rap-rock fusion. Every garage rock band had to have a DJ to be legit. Here’s a good example of the sound from this era.)
When the bottom drops out.
Everything seemed to be going so well and I was having such a fun time making music, exploring new sounds, and finding new ways to express my creativity.
Then, as they say, the bottom dropped out.
I had someone close to me tell me I was wasting my time with the turntables. This person said they were a waste of money and I should send them back. There were other, more important things to spend money on.
Within the day I had them boxed up and shipped back to the good folks at Musician’s Friend. No more records. No more mixing. No more music. It was over.
Keeping those gorgeous turntables was no longer an option. The pain of foolishness was too great, the shame too significant, the joy had been taken out of the whole experience for me.
“Who am I to dream?” was the lie I bought into that day and it stuck with me for a very long time.
What I choose to do now.
I wish I could tell you I came to my senses and have since had a long, illustrious DJ career. I haven’t. That dream had been nipped in the bud so early it didn’t have a chance at survival.
The closest I got was when I DJ’ed at a dive bar in college. I had the right equipment, but the *ahem* clientele was not interested in much more than J Lo and “Blister in the Sun”.
If we’re honest, we all have experiences like this. Times in our lives when we’ve been told we’re:
Stupid for dreaming…
Foolish for trying…
Silly for striving…
The implied message is always a different version of the same chorus: Who are you to dream?
While I’m not a DJ anymore, I’ve stopped listening to those voices. Most of the time they’re rooted in good intentions. Sometimes they’re not. But they’re all based in fear. And fear, if you haven’t already figured it out, is a lousy motivator.
One thing I’ve learned in the past few months by pursuing the dream of working for myself is that nothing good happens without risk—and fear hates risk.
I wish I would have had the inner strength as a 16-year-old to stare fear in the face and say, “not today, dear friend.” But I didn’t and it cost me dearly.
Now, I see what it cost me and I’m determined to not let fear win the day again.