A Gaping Hole in the Safety Net

A Gaping Hole In the Safety Net

A New York Times article about how our safety net often leaves out those that are most in need of it.  Kurt Vonnegut always used to use the line from A Streetcar Named Desire, “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”  I would personally like to change it slightly to, “I have always depended on the kindness of others.”  I know that there are times when I would not have made it if not for the kindness of my family and friends.  The only difference between myself and those I see on street corners sometimes, is that I had people that cared about me, that were in a position to help me when times got tough, and those poor souls didn’t.  I believe most people, if they looked at their lives realistically, would say the same thing.  If it wasn’t for their parents, their friends, a teacher that took an interest in them, whatever, who knows where they might be.  Part of the reason to have a safety net is to extend a helping hand to those that don’t have anyone to fall back on.  Whenever I see an article like this in a nation of such wealth, I find myself disgusted.  We can do better.

Strange Success and Epic Failure

The last blog that I wrote, Where Does the Time Go?, wasn’t very good.  It wasn’t Joel Stein or Rob Sheffield bad, but it was headed in that direction.  It was a little too cute.  I meant well, but I failed.

In the past two weeks I’ve put up 90 something posts.  There are bound to be some duds along the way.  It’s just sheer numbers working against me.  As a working musician I know all about mistakes, embarrassment, and epic failures.  The only thing that separates the professional from the amateur is that we keep going.  A mistake is a mere speed bump.  To the amateur a mistake is a train wreck.  I remember one Christmas show where Shinyribs played The 12 Days of Christmas.  Kev, Winfield, and myself were all playing different chords at the same time!   Enthusiasm thankfully won out the day.

Luckily there weren’t many people in the venue last night when I got there for sound check.  I tried to jump on stage, and my foot caught the edge, and I just about did a face plant.  These things happen folks.  I remember one time on my birthday I put my foot on a monitor, there may or may not have been many drinks involved, and I fell straight out into the crowd.  I kept playing though.  I wasn’t a working musician yet, but it showed that I had the ability to one day become one.

I gave my first big speech in years this year.  I am going to school for Environmental Science and Policy.  I gave a speech in Costa Rica at an Environmental conference.  I was easily the least qualified person there concerning credentials.  Other than one five minute speech in college last year I haven’t had to give a speech in 10 years.  The speech was a success.  However, it’s something I wouldn’t have even done if I had not had people to encourage me.   If I had anything going for me personally it was just that I have read a good amount, I practiced a lot, and I have spent a lot of time on stage learning how other people watch you.  But had my girlfriend not been there to help me with the stuff that I didn’t know, and if my dad hadn’t encouraged me, I might not have done it.

Most people don’t notice the mistakes that you make in any kind of performance.  If they do, a mistake is a passing thing.  It’s transient.  It’s there one minute and then gone the next.  If you are performing in front of other people that are also performing or giving speeches, they are so worried about their own speech or performance that they are probably only half paying attention to you anyway.

I really feel like the most important thing is just not being afraid to walk through a door.  If you just try, you might find yourself in some strange new place doing something you have never done before.  You will fail on occasion, but that will just be a passing thing.

Every time I talk to someone that is successful at something or other, they have some elaborate story about all of the right moves they made.  I think most of the time this is historical revisionism of their life story.  Kurt Vonnegut always uses the line from a Streetcar Named Desire: “I have always depended on the kindness of others.”  I think most people are being disingenuous if they claim that they did it all on their own.   The only thing they did was walk through the door.

Here is the thing.  There is no such thing as magic and there are very few geniuses.  You will sooner find a lottery winner than you will a true genius.  Most people that are successful are like the Wizard of Oz.  They are putting on an elaborate show to trick you into thinking that they are something other than what they are; another human just like you.