Don’t die with your music still inside you.
What scares you?
What are you afraid of?
A good friend asked me those questions this past weekend in response to the first Sunday newsletter I sent out on behalf of Primility.
His questions were immensely harder to answer than mine — What makes your heart sing?
At least at first glance.
But as I’ve thought about it in the days since, I’ve come to the conclusion that there isn’t a difference of magnitude at all between his questions and mine. Neither is more difficult to answer than the other, because the answers are two sides of the same coin.
What am I most afraid of?
Here is how I replied to his question on Sunday:
I think the biggest thing that scares me is being found out as a “fraud.” Not that I rationally think I am, but I am constantly afraid that I should know more, have done more, won’t be able to answer a question, or will say something that is embarrassingly wrong. I don’t really know why either. Usually it creates a positive, because it motivates me to prepare … but in moments of weakness it can create meekness, which is never good.
And this is true.
- It’s what leads me to practice over and over again like a madman in the days leading up to a presentation. (That’s good.)
- It’s what leads me to script large portions of The Lede. (That’s sort of good, but not when I rely on it too much while recording.)
- It’s what has led me, at times, to turn down opportunities that might have been great and boundary-pushing because I didn’t feel worthy or ready. (That’s not good.)
So I am indeed afraid of what I said I was afraid of … but that is not the kind of fear that I will be lamenting someday on my deathbed.
In this video, Dr. Wayne Dyer, author of many books that have helped many people, recounts the first time he read Tolstoy’s classic short story The Death of Ivan Ilytch. It is the story of a judge, Ivan Ilytch, who has lived a good life by all objective, external considerations … but who, upon his death bed, realizes the gravity of his regrets.
“What if my whole life has been wrong?” Ivan says in his final words, as he looks up at his wife who he has spent his entire adult life despising.
Upon closing the book, Dyer took out a pad of paper and wrote on it: Dear Wayne, Don’t die with your music still inside you.
That is what I am most afraid of.
How about you?
There is music inside of me (and you)
What scares me the most, and what has been driving me in the early stages of launching Primility, is that very fear: That I will die with this music inside of me.
I feel very fortunate to have been whispered this incredibly simple, yet profound concept for understanding myself: that if I make a conscious choice and create an active habit of balancing pride and humility, I can achieve anything I love and am capable of.
While it’s great that it has meant so much me, the true value of Primility will come from how many other people it speaks to. And who knows what that number is. 22? 10,000? A million? More? Less?
The only way I’ll find out is to put it out there and boldly be its advocate.
(What do you know, right now, in your heart of hearts, that you should be advocating?)
Keeping this idea to myself — out of selfishness, out of fear, out of laziness, or any other self-defeating emotion — is terrifying.
Seeing people come to the realization that they are in control of their attitudes, and that their attitudes determine their actions, and that their actions determine their outcomes … that makes my heart sing.
To know that something I did or said may have contributed in some small way to it? That makes my heart sing even more.
I can’t die with that music still inside of me.
Passion is everything
Steve Jobs was a man of passion. And Steve Jobs’ passion changed the world.
Consider what he said to a group of employees upon returning to Apple in 1997:
What we’re about isn’t making boxes for people to get their jobs done. Our core value is that at Apple we believe that people with passion can change the world for the better.
What made Jobs such a fantastic presenter was, above all else, his passion.
And Steve Jobs’ passion was a belief that he, through the company he co-founded, could empower other people with passion to change the world. Which is exactly how Steve Jobs and Apple did change the world, many times over.
But “passion” is a nebulous word. For Jobs, there was nothing nebulous about his passion.
As he said in one of his final presentations before he passed away:
It’s the intersection of technology and liberal arts that makes our hearts sing.
Can you find seven letters than better sum up Apple, and Jobs’ contributions to Apple, than “the intersection of technology and liberal arts”?
The heart of Steve Jobs sang. And he listened to the music. Which is why we look at Jobs as a man who likely died without regret. He even said:
Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me. Going to bed at night saying, I’ve done something wonderful. That’s what matters.
Whether Jobs had any private Ivan Ilytch-like realizations on his death bed, we can never know for certain. But it sure seems unlikely. For Steve Jobs did do something wonderful, and it was in perfect tune with the music his heart sang.
What makes your heart sing?
It’s worth listening.
For this music will serenade you on your path to a life lived without regret.
It is the music that should never, ever be allowed to die within you.
What should you do when you hear it?
Some of us have trouble even hearing the music in our hearts, so loud is the cacophony of the Resistance rattling in our heads.
Which is why you have to listen closely for it. And do it whatever it takes to hold onto it.
- Recognize what you were doing … so you can do it again.
- Recognize who you were with … so you can be with them again.
- Recognize where you were … so you can go there again.
This is what takes the music from a faint melody we can barely make out and transforms it into a boisterous fight song played perpetually by a marching band that is in step with us each and every day.
It’s not always easy. It requires effort and vigilance. It’s a candle that sometimes needs to be re-lit.
Which is why, no matter where you are right now, and regardless of the current volume level of the music in your heart … you can feel positive and capable.
Maybe the music in the beating iPhone of your heart isn’t as loud as Steve Jobs’ was, but it can get there. Or at least close to there. Or even, heck, a quarter or an eighth of the way there. That would still be more than enough to leave a lasting mark on this world (because, let’s face it, the music in Steve Jobs’ heart was pretty doggone loud).
But how? How can it get there?
By taking pride in what you are capable of achieving, and by believing you are meant to do something wonderful …
And by having the humility to realize it will require work, patience, and both the help and servitude of others …
Day in, day out …
Then you can achieve anything you love and are capable of.
So … what do you love?
What is it?
What makes your heart sing?
If you didn’t reply to my email on Sunday, feel free to leave a comment below. Or send me an email now (jerod at primility dot com). Or just say it to yourself. Or write it down.
But take it one step further: after you identify what you love, that thing that makes your heart sing … identify something, anything, one thing, you can actually do about it.
Because there is something wonderful inside of you … but you can’t do something wonderful without doing something.
What is it?
Thank you for reading. I look forward to your answers.
Flickr Creative Commons Image via The Peppermint Otter.