Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Sharing the Fire Within

I attended the LDS Music Industry workshop Saturday. One of the keynote speakers was Michael McLean, who spoke about his musical journey. He had worked for years trying to make it in the music world, and after dozens of defeats and living in abject poverty (according to his wife) he took a class at BYU from a famous professor with the intent of getting final input from someone who knew. If his professor approved, he would keep going. If not, he would go back to school so he could eventually pay the bills. At the end of the class, he asked his professor if he would ever make it in the world of music. "I don't know if you'll make money, Michael – I have no clue how that works. There are musical geniuses who have died paupers and people without talent who are millionaires." "But," he continued, after a faltering pause, "if you stopped making music, for me, it would be a personal loss. I don't know how to explain it… but your music speaks to me." Michael was shocked. That was a life-changing experience that gave him the courage to move forward. He continued his presentation focusing on the importance of sharing our personal message with the world – of being true to the thing that is burning deep inside each of us.

As he spoke, I wondered about my own life. What is the message I have to share with the world? Do I even have one? I've done so many different things and felt pulled in so many different directions. What makes my heart burn? What is it that gets me up in the morning? It's definitely not physics… that's for sure. And, smiling at the irony of the location for this thought, it isn't music, either. I looked around the room full of aspiring label artists and studio musicians and wondered how many other people were realizing that their callings in life weren't directly tied to the musical world. So what is it? And, if it really is my passion, I should be able to see how it has colored everything else I've done in my life. But is there something that ties it all together? It would be totally depressing if I couldn't find anything that continually inspired me. But what could it be? Even though I have a broad array of things I can do well, my passion for everything – dance, music, physics, horticulture, food storage and even changing the world of education waxes and wanes with the tides.


My heart perked when I thought of how much I love to write, but it's hard to imagine writing being the main focus of my life. It had something to do with teaching, performing, writing, and having long conversations with friends and strangers.


As I thought, I realized that I already knew the answer… just that I hadn't recognized how much it truly did affect every part of my life. My passion in life, perhaps one of my few real passions, is changing people's lives – enabling them to make better decisions and achieve higher goals. When I studied physics, it was to understand it so that I could apply it in my own life, and then help others do the same. It was the same for dance, music, and everything else I do. That's the only thing that keeps me going and the guiding force in my life – helping people and organizations move forward… essentially, being a missionary.


I've known that my need to help others is central to many of the things I do. But, simultaneously, I held on to the belief that, since you can't get paid for missionary work, I really can't change the world as an information kiosk attendant, and the Lord steered me away from being a Seminary teacher, I needed to find a career I could enjoy without constantly changing lives. And so I worked in game design, teaching high school, writing, film and stage acting, educational research, food service, technical support, print/media/training development… I've had almost every dream job I ever wanted. And while each one worked partially, the Lord helped me realize they weren't for me.


I think I am finally coming to grips that I probably won't be happy with a career until I find one that matches my greatest passion. I have only one passion, so that probably means I need a career where I am meeting new people and helping them improve their lives, their organizations, and their communities.


My next dream schedule? Work each day at a full-time job in consulting, public speaking, or some field where I can constantly help people improve. Teach a few classes on the side – where I can teach anything – not just physics, where I can inspire students in their pursuit of everything in the world. Write inspirational books and share them with the world – different books for people who are on different places on the pathway to conversion. Sing music and share it with the world. Maybe do occasional inspirational speaking & music firesides and help others live the gospel that way.

Which brings me to my request for help this week. Hopefully, someday, asking for help won't make me feel like a total loser or like I am loading people up with massive burdens. Whatever. I need to get over it. Watching Cookies in the Oven is a 98-page book based on some of the more compelling topics I addressed in the first few years of these letters. I'm trying to better understand what the book needs to be published. Maybe I just need to find the right publisher. Maybe I need to self-publish it. And maybe I need to be famous before anyone would buy it anyway. This week I'm contacting publishers and bookstore owners to better understand the market and where my book fits. I also need wider feedback and I'm trying to put together some music & speaking firesides. I can't just post it here on the Internet, so I'd like you to email me, ask for the manuscript, then read Watching Cookies in the Oven and identify which chapters really speak to you – things you would be excited to hear about at a fireside or other event, plus any other feedback you have. If you know anyone else who might want to read it, send it to them, too. And if there is nothing really compelling as relates to your life, let me know.


Deep inside each of us, there is something burning. It's the fire that pushed Michelangelo to sculpt the David, da Vinci to paint the Mona Lisa, Edison to invent the electric light bulb. It's the motivation that gets us out of bed in the morning and the essence of our dreams. And, I think, it's different for everyone. My invitation to you this week is to look inside your heart. Find the fire that is burning there and make a goal to share that light, in some way, with the world. One of the reasons we are here on the earth is to learn to be happy. If you will turn to the Lord and share the passion He has given you with others, you will become a greater force for good. And as you better understand your unique purpose in life, it becomes easier to live it… easier to share it… easier to find peace and happiness in the world.

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