I speak regularly with groups on various subjects, including leadership, personal branding, life balance, navigating change, and one of my favorite subjects, pursuing passions in life. Inevitably, when my presentation is complete, I have a handful of individuals tell me, “I have always thought about doing XYZ, but I never took the steps to do it.” For example, “I have always thought about writing a book.” - “I have always wanted to learn to play the guitar.” - “I have always thought about going on a mission trip to a foreign country.” - “I have always thought about taking acting lessons.” Sadly, these people never made the time or did the homework to figure out what to do first. They never took a risk and never stopped making excuses.
Remember when we were young: growing up through high school and college, and everything seemed possible? There was little to worry about. We had minimal personal responsibility and plenty of time for sports, music, choir, gymnastics, dance, art, and every other extra-curricular activity imaginable. But as we get older, life seems to take on added complexity and it forces us out of our creative zone and into a routine zone. The days become shorter and the hours seem to fly by. There are many priorities and most take precedence over our personal desires, interests, or hobbies. We forsake creative talents because of a lack of perceived time and resources.
Whether you recognize it or not, we are all born with personal talents and gifts. Some are small. Some are large. Some are obvious. Others are more subtle. All are significant. Many are ignored or go unused.
I wrote my first song when I was 32 years old. I was way over the hill by most music industry standards! But I will never forget the emotional impact of that first song. It was called “Shadow of the Blade” and I based it on my father’s stories of flying MEDEVAC helicopters as an Army pilot in Vietnam. I wrote the lyrics and melody and went into a small studio in Atlanta to add drum and guitar parts. When I played it for my dad he broke down in tears. Seeing that emotional impact from something I wrote was amazing. I was shocked. Then interested and excited to write more.
I began writing country music and wrote the title track for my first album, Saturday in the South, while tailgating at a Georgia Tech college football game. The song captures the essence of college football game-day. Perseverance paid off. Several years after releasing the first version of the song, I met Alex, a leader in the country music industry in Nashville. He loved the song and suggested we make a few modifications. The revised version was picked up by Grammy Award winner and country music superstar, Tracy Lawrence, who re-recorded it and released it. That version was then picked up by CBS Sports and Fox Sports to be used as part of their national college football broadcasts.
Many people initially laughed at my endeavor to write, sing, and produce music. But that’s exactly what I did. I went on to release a second album of contemporary Christian music called, Let Go & Let God, and have since written numerous singles spanning the country, Christian, and pop genres. It’s fun. It’s interesting. It’s a passion.
That passion can be contagious! Several years ago, I arrived at the office when one of my colleagues walked into my office and made this energetic statement: “I’m a whole new Heather!” Several weeks prior, Heather had decided to find time to start taking voice lessons. She had an immediate connection with her voice coach, and through that relationship, she was asked to join a performing group; all within a matter of a few weeks! Heather was thrilled, and this wasn’t about quitting her day job. It was about finding an outlet for her passion in music and being able to quickly leverage it into performance and entertainment. Heather asked me, “Why did I wait so long?” as she bounded out of the office to her first meeting of the day.
Another friend, also in his late 30’s, started taking acting lessons. He appeared in several commercials was featured in a major blockbuster movie, and has major parts in several more films in the next 12 months.. He didn’t need to quit his day job working for one of the largest technology companies. This was initially his hobby. What's interesting is that his hobby turned into a new career - in acting. He sold everything, moved to L.A. and is off and running. I expect him to win an Oscar one day.
Yet another friend, who is in her early 40’s, works in leadership development by day. She found time to pursue her passion in writing and authored a book about relationship challenges which has positively impacted many people around the world who are struggling with divorce.
The biggest failure of adults is the failure to stay curious. What story will you tell one day?
BRINGING IT TO LIFE
- Define It: What is it that you would like to make time for in life? Exercise? Reading? Writing? Singing? Performing? Traveling? Masters swimming? Competitive tennis? Playing an instrument? Start by writing it down, and make sure it is well defined. Talk to others that have done it. Learn the process, the pitfalls, and how to make it work for you.
- Make Connections: Is there anyone you know who is doing something similar, and may be able to provide coaching or feedback on getting started and making it happen? In my case, I found an article in the Atlanta Business Chronicle that profiled an executive in town who was writing, singing, and performing country music. I reached out to him one afternoon and we met the next day. We hit it off and soon after our initial meeting, he introduced me to his voice coach, Heidi (who I still work with today). It was Heidi who encouraged me to start writing songs and explore recording. Today, music is part of my life routine. Before I wrote my first book, I interviewed six different authors in my network in order to better understand the process they went through to get published. Your network can be an invaluable asset when it comes to the pursuit of creativity.
- Make Time: Despite your full calendar, it is possible to find time to pursue your passions. It will require some strategic time management and an investment on your part, and on the part of any significant other(s). Like playing the piano or singing in a band, many passions require practice and the investment of time. Are you ready to make the commitment to share your time with a new hobby or passion?
- Budget For It: A hobby does not have to be expensive, and starting small is certainly a great approach. You will make mistakes and they will have a cost associated with them. I spent time and money on music promotions and publicity that were a complete waste and generated no results. I simply did not know any better as I was new to the industry. The important thing is to learn from those experiences. What can you do to set aside time to pursue your passions? What kind of investment do you need to make? Can you budget margin into your life as well, so you can at least say you tried? No regrets!
- Celebrate It: Self-promotion is not natural. Nor is it easy as we discussed in the previous chapter. It is required for creative products that you are looking to commercialize. It’s a catch-22. Many people will truly enjoy hearing your music, checking out your work, seeing you perform at the comedy club or in a Broadway show, buying your custom-made jewelry, or reading your book. And yet they will not know about it if you do not promote it, celebrate it, and share it. When I release a new song, I talk about it across social media platforms, blog about it, distribute an email newsletter, and more. Are you prepared to self-promote? Be bold.
- Focus: Most importantly, don’t let anybody take you off track when you reveal that you are investing in a new hobby. What’s holding you back? What steps can you take to make time for that one passion, that one hobby, or that one interest? You don’t want to look back on your life and say, “If only . . . .” You never know where it might lead. You never know what might happen in life if you are not willing to be open to the possibilities. Either way, enjoy the ride. It’s your life ... make it interesting! And remember that every day is another chapter in your life story.