The first time I spoke to Mark I asked him what he did. Like, for a living.
He answered, “I’m a songwriter.” And he said it with the same honesty that I use when I say things like “I have brown hair” or “I cry at jewelry commercials”, those things that are just at the heart of who you are.
Looking back, the odd thing about his answer was that he wasn’t really doing the songwriting thing. He was actually managing a flooring company. He wasn’t writing or actively pursuing the dream. More than that, a few months later, when I asked him if he had any regrets about life in general he said, “No, not really. I tried the songwriting thing and it didn’t work out. But I don’t regret giving up.”
“Bull $#*^!” I thought, but didn’t say (because that would be rude, and we were only on, like, Date #3. And he was my Sunday School teacher. I did not want to fail Sunday School.). Everyone regrets giving up on dreams. Everyone.
Mark’s a musician. It’s just who he is. The difficulty was that his heart (“I’m a songwriter”) didn’t match his life (“I’ve given up. I sell flooring now.”) And I would say that matching your heart to your life is probably the most wonderful gift you can give to yourself and the people around you.
Funny thing is that people who hide from their heart usually attract others in a similar situation. In Mark’s case, he attracted his best friend Ben, a saxophonist too afraid to go after the music dream. There are lots of music dreams in Nashville.
Mark used to rag Ben all the time for giving up, for not chasing his dream of being the next great saxophone player. And Ben would get mad. And Mark would get confused. He was just telling Ben the truth, right?
When Mark and I got married, I told him I’d rather be married to a poor person with a dream than a rich guy with no heart. And he took me seriously. He started playing the organ at church, and writing songs any chance he got. His dream is being revived, and I think it’s, honestly, the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.
The other night Mark hung out with Ben. They talked about life, and Mark began to rag on Ben for not chasing the dream. Same words, same message.
“It was so weird,” Mark told me the next day. “Ben didn’t get mad at me. He actually listened. He never listens when we talk about music.”
“Maybe he listened because this is the first time you were following your own advice,” I suggested.
Mark says “Maybe”, but I know I’m right.
It’s why we don’t take marriage advice from Donald Trump, or money management advice from M.C. Hammer. If they aren’t following the advice, why should you?
And all of a sudden it makes sense to me why Rebecca has the power to advise people to job-hop. She has power because she does what she says. Or how Jamie has earned the right to have an opinion worth listening to because she didn’t simply give tips on how to get noticed by the company you love, she actually got noticed by the company she loves (and pretty much everyone else on the internet, too).
Do your advice. It matters.