My Own Personal Mt. Everest

Hugh MacLeod says “Everybody has their own private Mount Everest they were put on this earth to climb.” and I know what he’s talking about.

For about two decades now I’ve know that my greatest contributions to this world, apart from my personal love and service to those around me, would be my songs. And I’d say that for at least the last decade I’ve known that the Mt. Everest I need to climb is the one I create out of those songs, that I write, sing, and record. And that mountain is the catalog I build and will leave behind.

The mountains on my bookshelf are The Complete Beatles, Dylan Lyrics along with Leaves of Grass. But my medium is the Web, and my song page is where I collect my completeness.

I know that apart from loving and serving my people, the thing I gotta keep doing to keep my soul engaged, my heart alive, and brain on fire is add to that catalog as masterfully and urgently as possible. Especially now that I am a happy family man, well employed and content, it is imperative that I share my joy and not to lose that sense of urgency and craftsmanship.

Every time something interrupts my making music I am pulled off the path, and boredom and misery creep in when I am not writing songs. My job is to climb, and filter out all that does not help me further and faster up the mountain.

"Ignore Everybody" (except Hugh MacLeod)

Hugh MacLeod’s book on being creative and successful is full of frank advice. He never mentions a family but it feels like, having run the marathon of 26 years or so of adulthood trying to make it, and having made it, Hugh is scratching his fatherly itch to pass on what he’s learned.

He’s a cool, cussin’, self-appointed, tell-it-like-it-is dad to all the creative types out there who’ve  got a dream and want to quit their day job knowing that they’ll soon get discovered if they do. But with tough-love, MacLeod delivers the hard but clear advice: don’t quit your art, but don’t quit your day job either. “Getting discovered” isn’t a realistic plan.

I’m lucky to have had a “cast-a-cold-eye” mom who has always supported my art but never minced words about my needing a day job, a backup plan, so I recognize MacLeod’s advice as the tough love that I, thankfully, got. I wasn’t always thankful, but at 37, with a wife and a two-month-old baby and a great day-job, I sure am glad I had someone hammering me in my early, optimistic 20’s, about what else I was going to do but believe in my dream of being a rock-star.

When I arrived in Austin 15 years ago from DC to be the next Guthrie, Dylan, or at least Townes Van Zandt, I met most of my close, lasting friends at the Cactus Cafe’s open mic night. We were bound together by the same talent and dreams.

Many of those friends didn’t have a parent nagging them not to put all their eggs in one basket, and almost all of them have tried to make a living as a musician at one point or another. And they’ve all suffered the dream-crushing burnout that follows. Most are still in the game, but have had to come around to plan B later, when it’s much harder to start a new career or just find a good day-job.

So thank you mom, and thank you Hugh for taking the unpopular position with the wide-eyed dreamers that their dreams are not all they need. We need to hear that, though I’m not sure it’s possible till we’ve tasted enough of reality’s blows.

The book is broken up into 37 rules. Here are seven that stuck with this musician:

1. Ignore everybody.
3. Put the hours in.
7. Keep your day job.
9. Every body has their own pri vate Mount Eve rest they were put on this earth to climb.
22. Nobody cares. Do it for your self.
35. Savor obs cu rity while it lasts.
36. Start blog ging.

Somewhere along the way I modified my dream to what I call the “Willie Nelson model” which boils down to one principle: never quit doing your thing.