#4 We are all individuals, each one of us. We are God’s unique creation. You can never be what others are, be the best you.

– from Lessons from my Father

How can we not compare ourselves?

How early in our development do we start comparing ourselves with others? It begins even before we are born. What percentile are you in? Small for your age? Tall? Heavy? Talking? Walking? How do your test scores compare? Sports scores? Reading level? Attention span? 

The list is long and it never stops. We are conditioned to compare. We are lumped into the world with averages and expectations. What are the odds in your favor? Why should you pursue an education? You won’t succeed unless you… 

We are bombarded with expectations and comparisons. It drives our world, and it drives our economy. How one investment compares over another? How does one company compare to another? How one job compares to another? How one person compares to another?

Does it matter?

Wondering how I am doing in comparison with others has never helped me. It’s only led me to discouragement and despair. I don’t know if I will ever match my hero’s abilities, and there always seems to be someone better than me. Why even bother?

I gave up on my dreams.

I gave up on my dreams of being a musician. I set it aside to pursue a career where I could pay the bills. I actually stopped playing piano for years. Like many people I said “I’ll do that later after I’m successful in my career.” And I kept pushing out the goal line for when I can come back to it.

There isn’t one reason I did that, there were many. The world around me seemed to agree that being a musician was not a wise decision. Especially a jazz musician. There were my counselors at high school, there were my fellow students, fellow musicians, even my parents. Everyone told me it was not a wise decision. So I listened to them.

I’m glad I took their advice, and I tried what they suggested. But the one thing that it taught me more than anything else, was that they were wrong. I could make a life, playing music, and even more than that, be extremely happy doing it. I tried their way and made some money, but I failed at finding fulfillment. Now I’m doing it my way.

What if you’re not the best?

If only the best produce their works, we would have very little art in this world. 

What if every great composer was discouraged by their predecessor or their hero? Would Beethoven have even started? Would Picasso have painted? Henry David Thoreau?  Ralph Waldo Emerson? 

Oscar Peterson said that when he first heard Art Tatum, he quit playing piano.  He couldn’t believe how amazing Art was? What if Oscar had never started again? 

The world is full of people who are discouraged, and somehow manage to keep going, and somehow manage to succeed anyways.

My father taught me that despite all the great writers having gone before him, his experience was still unique. While he did not have their wisdom, they could not have his. So he was driven to write and share his ideas until a few weeks before he passed away.

We are all different. 

My father shared with me that I inspired him, that he learned from me. How could this be? I’m a high school drop out. My dad had five college degrees, and was knighted. He was a theologian. He was 90 years old when he told me this. He had a life rich in experiences and amazing stories. How could I inspire him?

My dad said he was inspired by my music and the community of people I created around my music. He was amazed at how many friends I have. He was amazed by the culture that existed in my bar. In my jazz club. He was amazed by how many friends he found there. It’s not the he expected to find so many good people. He called them the Jazz people.

It’s because we are unique.

When I think of the people in my life, each one of them inspires me. My friends inspire me. One on one, I have met very few people that I can’t be friends with, and whose story does not inspire me. 

What about making money?

This is probably the number one question I get when it comes to deciding to make a career in music. “What are you gonna do to make money?” Well, I teach piano lessons. I perform music and get paid to do it. I create products (music) and sell them, but that isn’t really what’s most important. What’s more important than making money is spending it. If you make a lot of money and spend more than you make, you are broke. If you make a lot of money and take on debt many times your income, you are going to be broke for a very long time.

The key to financial success is to spend less than you make for a very long time. The key to making a lot of money can come down to luck in the market, or it can be measured by how many people you touch with your product or service. If you touch millions of lives, you probably can make millions of dollars.

They key to getting paid to do what you love, is to get good at you. Create you. Create what is uniquely you. Pursue that excellently. And then share what you have created. Don’t supress it. Don’t hide it.

If you are waiting for some event to “pursue you”, you may have to wait a very long time.

More than anything, doing something for the money is the wrong reason to do it. Whether it’s a job, a life doing something you don’t enjoy, or even worse, a relationship. Yes, people even do marry for money. 

Defering the pursuit of what you love based upon some market condition, or some other event may prove futile. Long-term investing may or may not work out. Take a look at the losses for this year alone. Many of the tech companies that I was invested in long-term, didn’t work out.

Maybe you should just get started today?

Remember we are all individuals. Be one!

“It doesn’t matter how much money you make, how high you rise in rank in the world. You do what you love, and do it for the sake of loving someone else. There is nothing more beautiful, nothing more precious. Our treasures are our children, and they are the reason to live and to love.” – Dan Kolke, Sr.

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