Passions Redux: The Greybeards Edition

When I began this blog, I did so for a simple reason - to get all of the crazy and disjointed ideas I had swirling around in my head out of there and into somewhere more productive, like paper. Okay, maybe not productive per se, but just out of head so I could free up my limited brain space for some other things. Presenting at conferences has the same affect on me; somehow just saying it out loud helps me crystallize my thinking a bit. Over the past several days, I've thought more about passions, and so I'd like to share those.

Some of you know I was traveling for a while (combo of personal and business), and then came home for a few days before we headed off on vacation to Good Vibrations. In essence, I was gone from the office for more than two weeks. Of course, the work did not stop during my absence, and I came back a couple of days ago to an absolute hellstorm. I have a few folks ticked at me for missing some deadlines while I was out. Whatever. Happens all the time. Still aggravating, though.

Tensions at work are high all over, I guess. That happens at work sometimes. Work, in my experience, tends to be place in which concepts like good/bad, right/wrong, and success/failure have deep meaning. People tend to think that their time and effort is more valuable than anyone else's, and that what they want and need takes precedence over anything else. So I was sitting in a meeting today that I found extraordinarily productive and informative, and as we were leaving one of my co-workers said something that really struck me:

"Well, there's an hour of my life I'll never get back."

I hear this a few times a week at work, when someone wants to convey their impression that there time was not well spent. It's one of those cutesy little Workplace Bullshit Bingo phrases that we pull out once in a while to which everyone gives a polite giggle and nod. But not me, and not today. I stopped in my tracks, looked at her, and said:

"Which hours exactly will you EVER get back? None. There are just the moments you have had and the moment you are in. Nothing else. I'd rather live my life fully than worry about what hours I'm never going to get back, because I'll never get ANY of them back."

And then I walked away.
Haven't heard back from her, she might be a bit freaked out. Too bad.

But we never do get any of our minutes back, ever. Those experiences that we table for "next time" may bump against the possibility that there is no next time; the times we put off our children with a "wait a minute" fail to account for the limited amount of minutes we have with them; and each time we put the pursuit of our own passions on the back burner in favor of pursuits more "grounded" and "productive", we miss the opportunity to share our passions with the world and allow people to see how amazing we can when we are each at our most engaged.

When I was ten, I somehow got it in my mind that I wanted to play the guitar. I took lessons and practiced semi-hard for a few years, and then moved on to other things that a teenage boy might find interesting. I always wanted to take it up again, to play in a band, to hear the applause, and to know the joy of pure abandon and trust that musicians need to have with each other in order to perform with joy. But I never did take up music again. Oh, you could never keep me seated at a karaoke bar, mind you - but I never picked up an instrument again. About three years ago, though, I bought a little acoustic bass that I plunked around on every so often - never seriously, never for long, I've just always enjoyed what a bass can do and the role it plays in good music. I would jokingly tell people that I "played" bass once in a while, which was technically true. The truth is, though, I bought it so I could have it around to do when I wanted to, and because I enjoyed the few things that I could do with it once in a while. I never thought I could be good enough to play in a band, and never had any interest in making a living at it - it was just a pure passion, enjoyed for passion's sake.

And then I got roped in to playing the bass for one song as The Greybeards at Life is Good last May. And then we agreed to play a few songs at Good Vibrations. And then we agreed to perform a whole set. And then we agreed to play 23 songs and be the house band. And then we actually had to LEARN 23 songs, and learn them well. And then we had to PRACTICE as a group. And throughout it all, I learned, and played, and listened, and loved, and relaxed enough to have an amazingly wonderful time as we played our "gig" last week. I don't know if we were good; I don't really care. I don't want to go on tour, or cut a CD, or be famous. I just want to play. Because it feels good. Because it makes my heart feel good. Because I smile when I play. And so I do.

That's what passions are all about. Doing something because you like it. Not worrying about if you succeed or fail, but doing it for the sheer joy - like a dog chasing a ball in a park on a spring day. No preconceived notions of right and wrong, good or bad - and most critically, no fear.

Because we will NEVER get one minute of our life back.


  1. That sounds awesome!!! I'm so sad we weren't there, but we were in spirit--and so happy for those who made it there.

  2. Wonderful post, Jeff. Well said. And while I agree that what was important was the experience, not the quantifiability of the result, let me hasten to add that you were absolutely magnificent! The shared joy between the audience and the band was palpable.

    This makes me think of the advice my primary flight instructor once gave me when I was bemoaning my (self-perceived) lethargic progress on short-field landings. He turned an old saying on its head and told me:

    Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly.

    It's an aphorism which I find worthy of contemplation once in a while.

  3. "Because it makes my heart feel good. Because I smile when I play."

    Yes. Yes. Yes.

    I have smiled and laughed so much over these last weeks, prepping for the show, and the show itself was Pure Joy. And watching the video (5 times in two days so far) with Frank, reliving the moments, has been warm and snuggly and romantic.

    The best part of it all--second only to getting to spend so much time with seven of the coolest people I know--was that our kids were out in that audience, watching what we had put together, knowing what we put into it and what we were getting out of it. Talk about modeling! It's powerful stuff.

  4. Loved reading this.... I just wrote a blog post about passions.... Its amazing when you peel back all those societaly taught layers of crap to locate that pure sense of passion..... Something that comes easily to my always unschooled child, and something that i am still re-finding in myself.....

  5. Just wanted to say I am really enjoying your blog. I also shared it with my husband who remembered you from SSUDS year before last at LIG. This was a great post!

  6. And I was passionate about being the groupie! Yeah to the Greybeards...and the joy they had/brought to Good Vibrations.