Originally published May 31, 2015
The other day a friend of mine was confiding in me about this difficult time in his life, as he goes through the steppingstones of what he thinks he wants to do, slowly approaching how to really do it. He was upset that he had moved out of state in hopes of giving himself a new life, starting on a fresh page, and hopefully entering a more creative community than the one he'd left behind.
His three years there have left him unsure of himself, which ironically is the exact opposite direction he was hoping to go in. Now he's going back and scrutinizing his every step, trying to determine where he went wrong or what was missing.
At that moment I decide to pull a couple pennies out of my pocket and jump in. As I point to one of the coins, I start to explain how an art director I'd met once was able to pull me out of my tunnel vision, and show me that the real imperfections weren't in the little details -- I flip the penny over -- but in the letters as a whole. I'd been looking too closely. He shifted my perspective. When I reexamined the logo from the outside, I saw what he meant.
Maybe focusing on where we've been isn't the best way to figure out where we want to go. Maybe there's something else going on, some sort of perspective we have, that doesn't quite do it for us. We're so busy worrying about the details of our lives that we don't see the overarching story slowly building up, slowly filling us with meaning.
He tells me he feels purpose but can't seem to fulfill it. Like a can of soda that never quite leaves you quenched. I want to get serious with him. I grab him.
"Are you learning?"
"What've you learned so far?"
"Are you making time to enjoy life?"
Pointing to the other coin, I tell him to flip it. As he touches the penny his eyes light up, and he picks it up with a grin.
"I have no idea what I'm supposed to do next, but I'm not going to think too much about it."
That week he learned the basics of music theory and picked up a dusty old acoustic at a garage sale. That guitar hadn't seen so much playing in decades. He hadn't lit up like that in years.
Never did make much money from his music, how can you these days? but he made some of his best friends in the industry, and he made a lot of people really happy. Including himself.