Sunday, August 5, 2012
The “B” Side of Music
I am forever analyzing every possible scenario for points of failure and escape routes. It is so bad that, to an extent, I have spent a large portion of my time watching my life and doing risk assessment instead of living it.
May you breathe easy, May your heart be light
May you open your life to each joy, each delight
May you walk in assurance that your way is blessed
May you dwell in the spirit of YES!
“YES!” by Barbara McAfee
This month’s lyric is written by Barbara McAfee. Barbara lives in Minneapolis, MN, where she is a singer-songwriter, keynoter, author and voice coach. I met her last year when she helped facilitate a songwriting retreat I attended in northern Minnesota. This song has a unique one-word chorus that joyfully repeats “yes” as an affirmation and a mantra. When I first heard the song, I was surrounded by other songwriters. We all raised our voices in unison and enthusiastically sang the chorus. For a guarded and negative person such as myself, the effect was life changing. I would like to share that inspiration with you in this month’s column. Barbara has a fearless spirit and unflappable cheerfulness. Visit her website and make sure you check out her video for “Yes.” It features the coolest transparent canoe you have ever, never seen.
To tell the truth, if you knew me well, you most likely would call me a pessimist. I think I have always been a pessimist. I don’t think it was a conscious decision I made but rather, I think, it is the way I am wired. I am forever analyzing every possible scenario for points of failure and escape routes. It is so bad that, to an extent, I have spent a large portion of my time watching my life and doing risk assessment instead of living it.
Well, as I told you last month, I am in the process of retiring from my day job and taking on the mantle of a full-time artist. For someone who has always prided himself in making good decisions based on logic and caution, that was a huge leap. In the months to come, I will be writing more about this transition, and I will be the first to admit it isn’t all fun. It is stressful. (Isn’t all change?) But, more importantly, it is exciting and inspiring. The most powerful lesson that I am learning through this process is that I have to leave myself open for failure in order to accept success. I am learning to do that by saying yes.
As artists, we have to say no a lot. Art is all about making choices and choosing one path over another. So, for every path we take there is another we have said no to.
I have also noticed that through the years my choices tend to be similar. They more often than not avoid the road of uncertainty in favor of safety. However, recognizing that art is seldom about the safe choice, I wanted to start making the more challenging choices. They are the ones that tend to make me a little uncomfortable because, for me, when I finally get myself out there into undiscovered country, that is when the real creation process starts in earnest. Now when I am faced with a decision, I try not to look at the possibility of failure but instead at the possibility of success. That encourages me to say yes to things I would never have had the nerve to do before. An example of that would be self-promotion.
Until recently, I have been too afraid of being turned down to ask to do performances that I think might be over my head. I have put that nonsense behind me. I had convinced myself to be afraid of being told no. So, consequently, I never asked to do the shows I really wanted to do. I was always waiting because I felt I needed just one more accolade in order to to be considered for a certain performance opportunity.
Yes is powerful in much more than self-promotion. It affects how I write this column, how I write songs and how I live in general. By saying yes to paths I would not have taken previously, I have discovered new and wonderful aspects of my art that I did not know existed.
An unintended bonus of saying yes is that I believe my attitude about life in general is better. Now, some of that attitude may come from the fact that a little later this year I will hit the 60 year mark and, for many things, it is now or never. But for whatever reason, I have suddenly become open to the possibilities of saying yes.
So, say yes to that weird idea you had for a song that you threw out straight away because “it will never work.” Heck, just give it a try because you never know where you might end up. Will you fail? Probably. Will you waste time? Possibly. Will you wind up at dead ends and have to start over? Absolutely. But every once in a while when you say yes to a direction you would have normally dismissed, you will find yourself in a magical place – a wild and wonderful place that you never dreamed existed. Instead of that expected dead end, there appears a new world – terra incognito – that unknown country where everything is fresh and the possibilities are once again unlimited. Is it worth taking a chance by saying yes to end up there? Or would you rather keep on going, not exactly failing but never really growing as an artist? Ask yourself one simple question: What would a fearless artist do? Then, simply put your fears aside and say yes. Once you start down that road, it gets easier, and who knows what you might find. But you will never know until you say that one little magic word: YES!
As always, thanks for reading and if you have comments, suggestions or criticisms about this or any of my columns, feel free to send them to me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are ever simply get curious about what the heck this rambling old man does, then go to my website. Listen to a few songs and let me know what you think.
See you next issue.
Randy Brown is a small business owner and singer/songwriter living in East Texas and has been involved with many sides of the music business over the years, from being a sideman, a sound man, touring songwriter, venue operator, and a recording studio owner/engineer. He has told himself no for so long, learning to say yes is not very easy.