Did you know that Dave Matthews, singer, songwriter, and now famous rock star was a bartender? He’d written 4 songs and it took the urgings of one of his customers to get his music out there. He got up the courage to approach some local musicians he’d heard in the places he worked and they skeptically listened. “How should we play them?” “Well I like the way you play, so play it however you would interpret it.” Enter stardom, right this way please.
I’ve been learning a very sad song, Grace is Gone, one Matthews wrote after his stepdad died. (Grace was an analogy for their loving relationship.) Grace has been a theme this week and the story of Dave Matthews’ success fits in with much of what we’ve been talking about here on M.A.C. As you know, I’m a big believer in personal responsibility, creating your own success and putting yourself in the right environment. I have no time for toxic people, for cynics, for meanness. It’s as easy to lift someone up as it is to put them down. At the same time, It’s impossible to release your Creative Beast if you are a hermit and don’t get some help; some grace. You get what you ask for, if you are surrounded by toxic people, you might want to find out if that’s what you are putting out there. Getting help from supportive and loving people is one of my favorite forms of Grace.
The Dave Matthews story is quite a parable. First off, he’s a bartender, he’s not a professor of music, not a Music Row executive, not some famous guy. He was the guy who fixed your rum and coke and got you a bag of Doritos from the black metal rack next to the lottery tickets. It’s obvious now, but who knew he was a genius when he was wiping down the bar? It makes me wonder, how many talented people do you see everyday without knowing it? How many artists are delivering your packages, teaching in your kid’s school or standing next to you in line at the movies? Do you look for the genius in people? In you?
The next part of the Dave story is he just had four songs. He didn’t have a catalogue, he had FOUR songs when he got together with his band. He didn’t wait for his work to be “finished” he had the faith in his inspiration to go with what he had. How many times have I let work die on the vine, waiting for it to get “finished”? Perfection is elusive and it’s perfectly alright to put your work out there. Your message is your message, don’t be too harsh a judge, waiting for perfection is just another form of procrastination. Creative resistance knows all of our weaknesses!
Next, it took a friend to encourage Dave to pursue his music dream. Dave was reluctant to play or sing his songs in front of others. Attorney Ross Hoffman, Dave’s customer, convinced him to show his work to the folks who became the members of his band. Did you hear that? A famous rock star was afraid to play his stuff for a local musician! It took the encouragement of a friend to bring out his music, to set him on the way to fulfilling his destiny. Don’t you wish you had a friend who believed in you so strongly that he was willing to push you out of your comfort zone? Wouldn’t it be great if you could do that for someone? Today Dave is a famous singer, singing his work and that of others’ and he was reluctant to sing at all! Thank you Grace, for friends!
Next lesson? Dave trusted his fellow musicians. Trust and teamwork are a big part of success, success is a team sport. Dave realized that his musician friends were good enough to interpret his work and let them have the creative freedom to make his songs their own. When I am tempted to show I am the smartest guy in the room, it’s nice to remember to breathe a little and listen. Sometimes collaboration is just what the doctor ordered. The Dave Mathews band, born of this collaboration, is still together, making music as a very successful team.
Even the song Grace Is Gone has a graceful ending. After Dave recorded the song a recording label executive pronounced it to be too sad for his album. The song was relegated to the place unrecorded songs go, right next to rejected manuscripts and unmet dreams. The song got out to fans anyway and became a stable of his shows. Grace was the centerpiece of an album of other rejected songs, Busted Stuff, a year later, one of the band’s best works. Grace abounds, it can’t be hidden in a closet forever.
So, no, I don’t have the time or energy to waste on those who think grace is a myth, who think giving is another form of enabling. Giving encouragement, learning to trust, helping each other to rise up is why I founded Middle Aged Crazy and I am so happy to see that so many people are connecting here. After all, if one of the most successful performers in our times was willing to ask for a little help from his friends, who am I to be a hermit? What else? When help is offered, when inspiration shows up, when Grace is everywhere, you have to allow it and accept it. Dave did, otherwise, he’d still be getting your refills.