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Life as a Music Festival

I wanted to share something I think about, but don’t write about, very often. I have some friends going through some big scary changes, and tough times, and I thought maybe this thought process would help them. I hear a lot of things from people, especially when I head off to a trade show like I did last week, and two of them always make me really examine my place in this world. The first one is laughable, as I hear a lot “John, you’re so positive, how do you stay positive?” Those people clearly don’t know me, so I thank them, giggle internally, and move on with my day. The second thing I hear is “John, you’re always so high energy. How do you do it?” That one is true, and it’s worth examining how I stay that way. Four minutes at a time. You see, our lives are a music festival. When we’re sleeping, when we’re awake, no matter what we’re doing, we are living a shared music festival with all the other people we share our lives, and this planet, with. Sometimes in that music festival you’re Garth Brooks, the guy everyone came to see, and sometimes in that music festival you’re Murder By Death, a damn awesome band making damn awesome music that many people have never heard of.

Sometimes we are each the headliner of that music festival, and other times, we’re each a backup dancer for Taylor Swift, just hoping we don’t trip the star of the show as we tour from city to city and dance in sold out arenas. Sometimes we’re just in the crowd. No matter our role in any particular festival, each festival is just a series of songs. Sometimes the song is happy. Sometimes the song is sad. Sometimes the song makes us anxious, nervous, or feeling like we’ve lost control, but ultimately it’s one song. While the song is playing our fears may make it feel like we’re listening to Blackstar (David Bowie, at 9:57 the longest song to ever crack the Hot 100), but in retrospective we discover that song was actually The Dance (Garth Brooks, 3:03). The opposite holds true of the positive things that happen. Sometimes when we’re really happy it feels like Natural Pearl (Murder by Death, 2:13, one of my favorite songs from them) and it very rarely feels like American Pie (Don McLean, 8:36). So what does this have to do with me being so high energy most of the time? I’ve spent a lot of time self-reflecting, learning (and sometimes failing) to control my music festival all the time. I’m surrounded by great people; friends and family, customers and colleagues, and I’ve spent a lot of time really thinking about the music festival that I want my life to be; what I want to leave behind when that time finally comes. So, it’s really all about perspective. We get to do each thing we do in life just once, our music festival never exactly repeats the same song, each performance, even in their similarities, is subtly different. When I’m nervous over a big change, I try to make that song one of peace and happiness. When I’m excited over something really cool happening, I try to make that song a little more mellow, so that the cool thing doesn’t overwhelm me. Sometimes I fail at these things, sometimes the wrong song is allowed to play, or the right song is allowed to play for too long, and sometimes it’s enormously difficult to find the write song, and to understand it’s the right song. Whatever it is, embrace the music. Live your festival. Shape your festival. Lean on friends, new and old, and talk about your fears, your dreams, and your goals. Take chances. Do new things. Experience life. Until Mozart’s Requiem plays, there’s not much else we can do, so go for it all.

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