Lessons & Resources for Finding Fulfillment Doing Work that Matters
I've earned my living from playing music on stages large and small. Sometimes for festival audiences of thousands, sometimes to the sound of one fan clapping in a small club. Along the way, I learned a few lessons that inspire and inform other life endeavors. Here are my top 10 lessons learned from the stage that apply to living the good life.
Serve the song, don't make the song serve you. Your best work comes when you are present and generous and not attached to a self-serving outcome or agenda.
Marcus Aurelius is often called the last of the “good emperors” of the Roman Empire. A man who stood above questioning who questioned himself daily. Marcus’ reminders to himself about the importance of virtue and justice inspire me and many others to this day.
“To live the good life. We have the potential for it. If we can learn to be indifferent to what makes no difference.” — Marcus Aurelius
What does it mean to be human? What does it mean to be happy? These are questions we’ve asked ourselves since the dawn of time. Many of us are overwhelmed by such questions. But here, Marcus reminds himself of his agency over his perceptions, thoughts, and actions and therefore the power he has to maintain his sense of well-being in any situation or circumstance.
In this quote, Marcus is reminding himself of a lesson from one of the ancient world’s greatest teachers, Epictetus: “It isn’t events themselves that disturb...
I love to learn. Don’t you?
The world is full of mystery and wonder, and I am surrounded by people dedicated to developing themselves and doing good in the world. It’s all so fascinating and inspiring.
And of course, there’s plenty of suffering and cause for concern out there too. It can be quite overwhelming. I don’t watch the news much, but when I do I am struck by the level of certainty people express. Especially about things that are incapable of being “known” in an absolute sense.
“It’s impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows.”—Epictetus
How difficult it must be to prop up a “certain” posture. Especially when evidence appears that discredit your position. What recourse is there for the certain but to lash out, call names, and insulate themselves in little guilds of gullibility?
“Curiosity will conquer fear even more than bravery will.”—James Stephens
"Is it time to say 'Goodbye?'"
I ask this question often since the arrival of spring. It's really powerful for "pruning" unnecessary clutter from my life and helping me be more "present" for the work and people in my life that matter.
"We are what we repeatedly do; excellence, then,
is not an act, but a habit." - Aristotle
For instance, I said "Goodbye" to several social media accounts and forums. I said "Sayonara" to my daily coffee habit and glass of wine in addition to sugar and wheat. As a result, I said "adiós" to 10 pounds (with 10 more to go).
I said, "Auf wiedersehen" to the few remaining unhealthy relationships I hadn't yet had the courage to end. I said "Au revoir" to a long list of "opportunities" that were only getting in the way of the work I really love to do.
"Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can
start from now and make a brand new ending." - Marcus Aurelius
Saying "Goodbye" isn't always a sad occasion. Especially when...
Although the words emotions and feelings are often used interchangeably, they are very different beasts. Feelings and emotions should not be confused. Emotions precede feelings, both in evolutionary development and in your daily life. However, while emotional responses are instinctual, normal, and healthy, attachment to them often is not.
Emotions Happen to You
Emotions come uninvited or unexpected. A flash of anger when someone cuts you off in traffic. The sudden joy you feel when your child takes her first steps. A surge of jealousy when your partner glances at an attractive passerby. Surprise at an unanticipated compliment. A pang of guilt after you've yelled at your child.
These are naturally occurring, brief, physical responses to stimuli that are hardwired within your limbic system. These impulses bypass your neocortex, where your capacity for reason and language reside.
It's almost impossible, and highly ill-advised,...
Do You Know That You’re Lying?
“Let’s start with a quick poll. Raise your hand if you’re a Creative. Great! If your hand is raised, put it back down. Now, raise your hand if you’re not a Creative. That's interesting. Keep your hand raised. Alright, if your hand is raised, keep it raised if you know you’re lying…!”
This poll is how I open my workshops on becoming a “bulletproof creative” (aka a Thriving Artist). The results are always about the same. One-third raise their hands to the opening query, another third to the next, and the final third to the last (often with nervous laughter).
We Are All Creatives
Here’s the deal: everyone is a Creative. A Creative is simply someone who brings something into the world that didn’t previously exist. Every time you make a meal, make a mess, or make amends, you’ve engaged in an act of creation. Creating is an everyday human activity.
Whether you’re a musician,...
I had the great privilege of speaking with Seth Godin for a second time on the Creative On Purpose Broadcast recently. He packed our short time together with a ton of knowledge and insight. But one of the most profound moments was what Seth said about the perils of attachment for creatives (people like us).
I’ve been thinking about this ever since our conversation ended and sharing a few “aha moments” I didn’t see or articulate when Seth suggested I lead off our discussion.
Is the work you do deliberate, inspired, provocative, or significant?
Shouldn’t it be?
What “The Work You’re Meant to Do Now” Is NOT
The work you’re meant to do now is not “what you were born to do.” It’s not the one thing you’re put on the planet for. There is no “one thing” you’re meant to do. There are limitless possible roles for us to play and endless potential jobs for us to do.
We are inherently social creatures born with the capacity for reason and a creative nature. Where and to whom we’re born certainly influences the development of our beliefs, skills, and connections; but at some point, we attain agency over who we are, what we do, and who we associate with.
Discovering the work you’re meant to do now doesn’t “start with why.” It starts with who. You are not the sum of what you do, how you do it, and why you do what you do. It’s the content of your character...
“What Do You Do?”
“What you do” is not necessarily what you do for a living or what you’re employed to do. Too often your “job” employs only hard skills. These are skills you’ve been taught to achieve a specific and measurable outcome.
Hard skills are things we’ve been instructed to use to make widgets, or sales, or repairs or to turn around and instruct others to use. During the industrial economy, acquiring hard skills were required to enter the job market and make a decent living. But with the advent of the digital revolution, the information age, AI, and what Seth Godin calls “the connection economy,” hard skills are becoming increasingly obsolete. Now we need to employ soft skills, or “talents.”
Where hard skills involved physical labor and mental “smarts,” soft skills employ emotional labor and wisdom. The ability to see, hear, and engage...
You know the type. Earnest civilian crosses the aisle or the parking lot, hand extended to someone in military uniform or wearing a retiree’s ball cap.
“Thank you for your service.”
Yeah, that’s me.
The gratitude is heartfelt and the gesture sincere. But I’ve been insensitive.
In working with military service personnel and those who love and support them, I’ve learned that the TYFYS gesture often makes the recipient uneasy and it comes across as a bit hollow.
Recognition is great. Action would be far more meaningful.
And then there’s my bigger offense. I never turn to the left or right of the person whose hand I’m clasping to say to the person by their side, “And thank you for your service, too.”
It’s never even occurred to me.
That’s changed since I led a workshop in goal setting for a group of military spouses.
To prepare for the workshop, I interviewed military...
Scott shares a 3-minute read intended to encourage you to fly higher.