It's been a long time since I've written a blog. To be honest, it's because I've been spending the majority of my spare time writing music. Since I was 10 years old and wrote my first song, writing music has been as basic in my life as taking a shower or brushing my teeth. But until I was 28 and finally committed to fighting like hell for it to be my career, I had no idea how incapable I would be of visualizing a future without it. I always had a plan B. Partially because I think, like any parents, mine encouraged "planning ahead" and being at least a little realistic (something that has never been my strength. All or nothing, go big or go home is much more my speed). But now that I've spent the past couple years creating pieces I am more than proud of, I know unequivocally, this is the career I'm meant for. More importantly, perhaps, I know that my purpose is to be a storyteller and that my ability to write is as God-given as anything could be, if that's something you believe in- and frankly, I do only because I have no logical explanation for why I can do it and a stranger on the street couldn't.
But I felt compelled to write a blog today because of what the last few months have been like in my life and my journey deeper into my career. Shaun and I officially became Two Inc in 2014, and in 2015, we've written over 70 songs (so far) with over 20 different cowriters, and more than anything, the first 4 months of 2015 have been an incredible education in people.
Last night, Shaun and I watched "The Theory of Everything"- the story of the incredible and odds-defying Stephen Hawking. After the movie, we compared notes, as we do on almost everything in life, and I could only say- "That movie just obliterated any excuse I've ever had."
While I love coming into a room with sometimes-friends and sometimes-strangers to create music, the entertainment industry- like so many things in life- can sometimes feel soul crushing. I swear, I've created so many rejections in my own mind, that I'm surprised when we get a legitimate "yes"-- maybe a self-preservation strategy I made up, not knowing I was making it up, but I realized, the people who succeed- more than being brilliant, or talented, or perfect- are the people who are courageously obsessed with their journey and their ever-changing end game. The people who succeed are the ones who are told "no" over and over and still believe with their whole hearts, albeit sometimes broken ones, that they will get to a "yes" sooner or later. They are the ones who believe that despite sometimes having so much stacked against them, that it is impossible for them to not reach their destination. They are the people who are still good to other people, even when other people haven't been good to them. The people who look at what they have and how far they've come, while looking into an infinite abyss of possibilities, rather than impossibilities.
Working with different musicians, writers, professionals and mentors in the past few months, I see trends that I never saw working in the corporate world. In the corporate world, as a rule, you kinda just follow a template. If you add 1+1, then answer is almost always 2 in Corporate America: Be a good intern=getting an entry level job=getting promoted if you don't suck=becoming a manager if you're really good at not sucking=becoming an executive if you can deal with work being your life. It's kinda a no-brainer. If I had chosen to devote my life to being the best financial services employee there was, there's no doubt in my mind, I could've gone as far as I wanted to within that world. But this new world I'm in is different: There is no equation for success. There is no baseline requirement or identity for what makes someone soar, and the person next to them- perhaps equally as talented, as interesting, etc- simply...well...never get off the ground. There are so few in-betweeners; people who can exist, but never get high highs and low lows. In the entertainment industry, it seems to be feast or famine. And that can bring out the best and the worst in people. I've sat in meetings where people expressed completely "unrealistic" expectations for their life and seemingly insane optimism. And I've sat with people who curse everyone who doesn't see their vision, chalking them up as "not getting it".
And basically, what I've gotten from that is:
I want to be a dreamer. I want to be blissfully optimistic. I want to believe in the goodness of people, even when they show me over and over and OVER again that they do not deserve it. I want to be grateful for the tiny, minute miracles that seem to unfold when I'm not looking or not trying. I don't want a song of mine to just play on a 12 second target commercial. I want a song of mine to play on repeat in every car of every driver and to win Grammys and to be the first-dance-wedding song of the year. I want to travel the world because my job allows it, and encourages it. I want to be "unrealistic". I want to see dreams come true, and be forced to dream bigger ones. I want all of this, because, I've seen the alternative.
People say that the alternative to being a "dreamer" is to be "realistic". And I suppose you are. You're looking at where you are, right now, in this moment (that you're, hopefully, trying to grow out of), and being frustrated that you're still at the place that you're at. But...if you only focus on how hard things are now, how do you ever expect they will change? How do you expect to even see new opportunity if you are focused on only the opportunity you are in?
In "The Theory of Everything", Stephen Hawking, over and over again, does one thing: Pushes forward. He never looks back at his circumstances to ask how the "now" could be changed. He just keeps moving ahead to get to his next hypothesis. His next conclusion. I don't know if this is just his portrayal in the movie, or if he's actually like that, personally, but I would imagine it impossible to live with ALS, be given 2 years to live in college, and go on to live decades past that, have an internationally-esteemed career, find love more than once, and have a family, all while sitting at your own pity party. The same way I imagine Steve Jobs was no sooner releasing the first ipod that he got started on the second, or the way Oprah was envisioning having her own show when she was simply a news reporter at a local station.
Success is determined by your ability to dream, not your ability to "backup plan". Not your ability to "be realistic".
We had a cowrite with a new friend and incredibly talented singer/songwriter, who is wise beyond her early 20-something years, and she said to us, "I just stopped hearing what I didn't want to hear". She just self-booked a European tour for herself and her friends, signed a publishing deal in LA off a crappy hotel round she played in Nashville and I would be shocked if she's not a household name in 3 years time.
Another one of our writers and friends (who, is magical), told me once she told herself to "think it happen" (calm down, Grammar freaks!). That mentality put her (and us, consequently) in a room with some serious heavy hitters, got her a tour through the UK and a series of motivational music videos that will cross over with the athletic market.
One of our writers and friends is another young one, who doesn't believe in impossible. Besides being one of the nicest human beings I've ever known, opportunities seem to literally just land at her feet. Publishing deals, huge meetings, even major award nominations.
These are just a few examples of friends I would call unrealistic. Friends who have had their more-than-fair share of challenges (like, real, crappy, awful, uphill battle challenges). And friends who, every time I'm ready to curse away the world and come up with another self-imposed limitation, I remind myself I'd like to be more like.
So, the next time you hear me grumbling about some meeting gone wrong (cause those will be bound to happen), I'll remember that I plan to write in rooms with Katy Perry and Rihanna and Beyonce. That I plan to have a house in Laurel Canyon with Grammys on my mantel, a bungalow in Nashville to raise my family, and a house by my parents on Cape Cod to escape to. That someday I'll remember the days where we wondered how we'd make it, and then reminded ourselves that we didn't have to know the how. We just had to believe in the what and keep making decisions and actions that supported that.
And most importantly, if you ever hear me grumbling about anything, remind me that no one cares how hard things are for me, or anyone else for that matter. Because, more often than not, the biggest thing standing in our own way, is ourselves.