My eyes were glued to the TV. I couldn’t look away except to glance at my parents long enough to say with confidence, “I’m going to do that one day.” There was a band playing live and I could’ve sworn I found my destiny that day.
I also was four.
Yet, as soon as I was old enough to drive I started a metal band with my drummer friend, Zac.
It was a two man band for about a year. I would go to his house almost daily and shred on my cheap Jackson guitar while he wailed on the drums in his bedroom. I still can’t believe his parents let us get away with the racket.
Once we wrote enough songs to play a gig, we added two more members. Zac had a friend who couldn’t sing at all, but he could scream. He became our front man. We hung flyers in a couple music stores to find our second guitarist, Jana. She loved pink, wore Converse everyday of her life, and was a better guitarist than I was.
We played any gig we could get. Barns, event centers, churches, high schools, you name it.
The whole experience was awesome for about six months. Then I graduated high school and made the difficult decision of moving 928 miles away to attend music school. I started working my way up in the program, and within three years, I was touring with some fairly big names in my genre. We even played for packed out stadiums. I thought my destiny was practically set.
Except that it wasn’t.
Touring was still part of the music school, which meant I didn’t get paid. After two years of sleeping on host home floors and eating from the McDonalds dollar menu three times a day, I’d had enough. It was time to leave and find a “real job” so I could support myself (and also marry the piano player in the band).
I left the band and tried to start a career. The problem was, I was twenty-three and hadn’t gone to college. While my friends were off getting degrees, I’d been busy trying to become a rock star. Thus, the only job I could find was in sales.
You know that guy who interrupts you while you’re shopping and tries to sell you stuff you don’t need? That was me. I sold satellite TV systems from a booth in Sam’s Club.
There are no words to describe how it feels to go from playing music for a several thousand teenagers every weekend, to being ignored by shoppers who just want to get their groceries and go home.
Yet there I was, starting over from scratch. The promising future of stardom slipped through my fingers, and there wasn’t a Plan B. All the dreams and aspirations I once had seemed to have come and gone. Sometimes it still doesn’t feel like I have much to show for it.
I had this mental checklist of things I would accomplish before I was 30. But as I inch closer to that date, I become discouraged.
I know I’m not supposed to find my self-worth in what I do or what I’ve accomplished. But I can’t help looking at my life and asking, “Who am I? Am I valuable if I don’t measure up to my definition of success?”
I think most of us feel that way. Maybe it’s getting married, having kids, finishing school, earning a certain level of income, or owning a home. We have this checklist in the back of our minds of what we need to accomplish in order to be valuable. That list, however, is a threat to our identity.
So if you’re like me, here are three internal lies you’ll face as you grow older.
Lie 1: Your Value Is Determined By Your Accomplishments
One of the first questions we ask when meeting someone new is, “What do you do?” Maybe for you that’s just small talk. But for many of us, it’s also a way to size the other up. I know, because I do it a lot.
What we do is often closely tied to our identity and value. But when all is said and done—and you breath your last breath on this Earth—who you are is what will matter, not what you do. You will be remembered not by the money you made or the Twitter followers you have. Instead, people will remember you by your authenticity, vulnerability, generosity, and most importantly, how you treated people.
That simple fact reminds me of the wise words of Jesus Christ, “What do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?”
Lie 2: It’s Time To Grow Up And Give Up Your Dreams
I don’t know about you, but when I see 12-year-olds becoming YouTube sensations, I feel more than a little discouraged. Despite their fame, the truth is that we all have different talents and we’re all on our own journey. Most of the time, we’re exactly where we need to be.
Your dreams may look different than you once thought they would, but that doesn’t mean they’re over.
I once heard a quote from Howard Thurman that goes:
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
Never stop pursuing your passions and hobbies. It’s what makes life worth living. Not just for you, but for others too.
Lie 3: You Are Behind
The lie playing on repeat in my brain this year is, “You’re behind.”
It’s a lie that comes from the comparison trap.
Comparing ourselves to others is one of most powerful weapons against our soul. It keeps us discouraged. It keeps us from trying. We believe up front that we don’t measure up, and that’s almost never true.
Know this: we compare everything we know about ourselves to what other people choose to show us—which is usually their best side.
But we don’t know their inner struggles. We don’t know the lies and insecurities they deal with. It’s an unfair comparison that will always leave you feeling like a failure.
Finding New Dreams
After I stopped touring, it took several years to recover and find myself again. While I still play music, it’s nothing like it used to be. I’ve had to discover new dreams and reinvent old ones.
I’ve always been a writer. I used to write songs, but now that opportunity is gone. That chance may come back one day, but for now it’s shelved. Instead, I’ve found different ways to chase my dreams.
Instead of wishing for opportunities that are no longer available, I decided to do what was in front of me. For me, that was writing and creating art in different mediums, which has led to some incredible opportunities.
Your opportunities await you as well. If there is anything I wish someone would have said to a young, defeated twenty-something years ago, it would be this:
If your life has taken a turn, remember to lean in. You never know what new opportunities might be waiting around the corner.
Author: Ken Reid