Hey Dave? I got the family blues…
Hey Dave? is an advice column. That’s a picture of me, hard at work solving the world’s personal problems. Dave is my real name, and I’m here to help. Why? There are lots of reasons, but mostly because I care about you getting good advice.
Are you in a tough spot and want to say Hey Dave? You can ask me your question here.
I am a fourth-generation, 70-year-old musician. The other musicians in my family haven’t helped my career because I play country-bluegrass music, and they are all jazz and rock musicians.
I’m tired of my family thinking I have talent, but not helping me invest in my career. Just some down-home support on the part of my family and the music world would be appreciated before I go to meet my maker.
Dear Family Blues,
Let’s talk about the two kinds of support you may be looking for: financial and moral.
Family or not, fact of life across the board, is that people don’t like to part with their money just because you want or even need it. Family or not, people just giving away money with no strings attached and out of the kindness of their hearts doesn’t happen too often. Family or not, it’s not because people are mean-spirited or vindictive or don’t want you to succeed, it’s just that people feel very proprietary about their money, and it’s always tough to convince people to dip into their wallets, especially in these tough times.
We’ve been told that money is the only thing that counts, so there are a lot of emotions that are wrapped up around money and its loss: insecurity, fear, desperation, self-worth, entitlement; people get anxious when they give money away.
So, if you’re looking for financial support from your family, that they invest money in your career, you are going to have to treat it like a business transaction. Straight, honest, above board. So, you have to be very clear about what you want from them, what they will get and how they will get it; an investment in your career means that they will expect something in return that is of equal or greater value than their investment.
Let’s say you think $1000 will help you out. You need to sit down and explain exactly – showing them in detail, broken down in numbers, charts, graphs, whatever – what you need the money for, how you will succeed in using their money to make more money, and when they can expect to get their money back.
And if you don’t think you’ll be able to return their investment in actual dollars, you have to: 1) be honest with them about this, and 2) offer them something in return that they feel is worth the same or more than that $1000.
Any which way, an investment is a give-and-take, a two-way street. Both parties have to give up something to get something in return. That said, before even going down this path, remember that family and money don’t always mix well. Proceed with caution.
Okay, onto the second, much trickier, very different kind of support; moral support. Let’s tackle this from a few angles.
If you are looking for a little support, nothing stops you from asking for it. One of our most profound abilities we have as humans is to be simple and direct. To walk up to someone you care for, take their hand, look them in the eyes and ask “Can you help me out? It would mean a lot to me” is a profound and powerful exchange that echoes throughout the ages with the spirit of human companionship and cooperation.
Being a little different can also mean a bit of a tougher road sometimes. In your case, playing your own different style of music, while all those around you play the same, you’re going to feel a little isolated. But you need to know that that’s okay, too; that’s what it is like to literally “do your own thing”. A little isolation is a small price to pay for creative freedom, right?
However, a more complicated issue may have to do with how you relate to your own life, and that has to do with how you define your happiness.
If you are upset that people haven’t shown you the support you think you deserve, then there’s a larger problem. See, nobody owes really owes you unlimited, unchecked, unconditional moral support, not even family and friends. More often than not, support you receive will be specific, in that it will be a specific kind of moral support, for a specific activity, at a specific time. Thing is, it isn’t written anywhere that you get to choose who gets to provide what kind of support, for what and when.
To dig a little deeper, I will ask you a series of questions that will sting a bit, but they will get to the heart of the problem: Why do you think you deserve their support? Or better yet, why do you even care? Why are you even playing music in the first place? Are you playing music because you want people to say nice things, or are you playing music because you love it, and can’t imagine living your life without it?
If you are searching for external approval, and you want somebody to say “well done” and “good job,” and that you are unhappy because they haven’t, then the peace you have to make is not with your family, or with your maker, but with yourself.
Happiness is measured by internal variables, not external ones. That is, if you are doing something for reasons outside of you, external variables like money, fame, glory, cupcakes, whatever, you will always inevitably be disappointed. There is a hole inside people that is difficult to fill, and if left unchecked and unexamined,will always demand more and more of those external things that provide feel like approval.
The only approval you need is your own. If it makes YOU happy, truly happy, on the very deep down insides of you, then that’s the only measure that counts.
We’re not given a whole lot in the short time we have here on this fair earth, so to have a talent and a passion is a wonderful, rare and precious gift. To have made a career of a passion is even more rare.
Don’t waste your time worrying if other people recognize you or your talent, or give you words of support or even truckloads of cash. Cherish the time you have with something that you love.
Once you can do that, once you can lose yourself in that uncanny place where body meets mind meet spirit and submerge yourself in the passion of your gift, and do it without rancor or bitterness, you will truly be set free to move on.
Are you in a tough spot and want to say Hey Dave? You can ask me your question here:
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