December 18, 2017
I was looking over my last entry about Steel Panther and was struck again by how much willingness goes into their story. Their willingness to keep going in the club scene. Their willingness to roll with a concept that works. Their willingness to consider a different approach to music and the music industry. It got me thinking about how important willingness is to anyone who has a dream or wants to make a change.
People talk a good game. They want to do this or they want to do that, but for some reason it doesn’t happen. A lot of the time, I think the missing ingredient is willingness. I see this in the music world quite a bit. People say they want to jam or start a project, but when push comes to shove they back out because they’re afraid or it’s inconvenient or they don’t really want to put in the work. Even when a golden opportunity comes along they find a reason to turn it down. They’re just not willing.
I’ve been guilty of this many times, musically and otherwise. One of my great regrets happened when I was in high school. My Theatre Arts teacher, Mr. Murphy, offered me the chance to appear in a crime re-enactment video for the CrimeStoppers show on the local community television station. Talk about perfect casting! But I chickened out. I had work or some other commitment I could have changed, but I wasn't confident enough to try. I wasn’t willing, and 25 years later I still think about it. Where might it have led? Maybe nowhere, I don’t know. What I do know is that instead of a memory for life, I have a regret for life.
The willingness to consider a new idea really speaks to me. I’ve seen what happens when you’re willing to open yourself up. For example, I was never a big country music guy, but then one day I was offered a very last minute gig with an alternative country band called Lindsey Burns & the Lonelies. I could easily and justifiably have turned it down. An outdoor festival show with strangers on three days’ notice? No thanks. Too risky. Not my kind of music. Not enough prep time. Who would have blamed me?
But I was willing to try a new genre, put in the work, and take the risk. The gig went fine and I thought that was the end of it, but my willingness was further rewarded a little over a year later when Lindsey moved to my town. Guess who she called when she needed a drummer? Again I was willing to put on the cowboy hat and say yes, and so began an extended run in her band, including recording what I think is a fabulous album that will be released in 2018. The Lindsey band is on semi-hiatus right now because Lindsey was willing to move to Mexico with her husband for a while to live one of her dreams.
Another example: Early last year I was challenged by a prominent life coach to take on a coaching client. I’ve been unwilling to do that until now for a lot of good reasons that all basically come down to fear. I’m willing to try it now, though – for free with a small catch – because I see that it might be a pivotal experience for me, positive or negative.
In fact, this blog exists because of so many layers of willingness I can’t keep track of them all. Fundamentally it exists because I was willing to take a shot and do it. It exists because I’m willing, at least for a while, to look a bit ridiculous while I explore some of this stuff. It exists because I was willing to accept Sarah’s offer to go to Europe. You might be rolling your eyes at that one – everyone would be willing to do that tour, right? Maybe, maybe not. It still meant being willing to leave my life and home for a month. It also meant being willing to put in the work before and during the tour. And the opportunity only came because I was willing to bust my ass on gigs that weren’t in Austria first.
Yes, I was willing, and the rewards have been incredible.
Being willing doesn’t mean you have to be a doormat or say yes to everything, by the way. You don’t have to compromise on principles or do things that genuinely don’t serve you. But if you’re not willing to chase a dream or take an opportunity because it’s a bother or it’s too much work or it’s not how you usually roll, you might want to think about how badly you really want it. If it’s fear, figure out where the fear comes from and consider how much it’s limiting you. This willingness to take a real look at yourself might be the most important willingness of all. It’s made a big difference for me.
So what’s in front of you right now that could change your life for the better if you were only willing to try? What are you hiding from? What are you not willing to consider? What conversation are you not willing to have? What are you making excuses for? My experience says you know when willingness is holding you back. If it’s stopping you from doing something, now’s the time to check it and take action.
You and me both.