This is not a test.
In high school, I wanted to be a famous musician. It wasn’t so much about the money. It was the idea of gaining notoriety for an elusively acquired skill set: my musical ability.
I considered myself a talented and hardworking musician, and still do today, so it seemed natural that it was only a matter of time and persistence before my aspirations became reality.
Soon I realized that being an accomplished musician wasn’t the hardest part.
I loved playing. I felt an emotional connection to music that I never experienced with any other medium. I was driven to develop my skill.
The thought of showing up to next week’s lesson without having spent time practicing pushed me to remain consistent. Getting compliments regularly didn’t hurt either.
Here was the difficult part of fulfilling my musical aspirations: getting folks to come to my band’s shows and getting them to care. I knew I received more than just superfluous adoration from friends and audiences. There was palpable appreciation for my developed musical skill set. So it wasn’t that.
Turns out the issue was simple; my musical ability had no practical application in people’s lives unless they were poised to benefit from it.
Even if there was appreciation, the majority of the audience wasn’t willing to go out of their way to grow awareness for my musical brand. Playing random gigs, due to my then band’s low notoriety, meant that audience engagement was hit or miss. The hits were far and few between.
That was an early lesson for me on the importance of identifying your target audience. One that I didn’t even realize until I typed this very sentence.
Ultimately, I grew out of the notion that I would become a famous musician.
When Your Car Gets A New Coat Of Paint
So what changed?
Nothing explicitly. Although, over time, responsibilities and expectations placed upon me grew out of proportion in comparison to the joy I found in music.
My dream of being a famous musician began to disintegrate.
There were a few moments during college where I was forced to make pointed decisions on my direction but for the most part, it didn’t change instantaneously. It was more akin to the slow lifting of a morning’s fog.
My desire for greatness hadn’t disappeared. It was merely the face of my dream fading, that in hindsight I diagnosed as a superficial desire to be a famous musician.
The chassis of my dream persisted. To be great.
Greatness still felt eminent.
My once narrow and defined path was now shrouded in debris. The landscape became unmanageable.
I was lost. Or so it seemed.
At The Core Of Purpose
When I dig a little deeper, I have a much better understanding of what being famous really meant to me. It was about impact.
There was a definitive element of having my own self-esteem heightened through recognition that originally drove me.
Although secondary to increased self-worth, providing hope to someone through my music that could alter the course of their life seemed incredibly impactful. I remember how it felt when I listened to Songs in the Key of Life as a budding musician.
Reframing For Success
6 years after graduating high school, I began teaching music lessons at a music academy. I got the opportunity to teach kids from a wide range of backgrounds and age groups about making a commitment. I emphasized the importance of staying the course when learning to play a musical instrument.
Every evening of back-to-back lessons gave me a chance to make a small impact on these students, through encouragement and guidance. My advice to those students? Avoid succumbing to doubt that they weren’t good or talented enough to become a great musician.
When I look upon the scope of my time at that music academy, I realize I was teaching children between the impressionable ages of 4-17 that every little bit of work you complete will determine your future performance.
In this, I was having an impact on people. Oh, sweet irony.
What I was so clearly unaware of when my dream of being a famous musician fizzled was the capability to make an impact on people without being a superstar.
Especially in the developing mind of a child, being influential in either a positive or a negative way will have a huge impact on not just them but also on society as a whole.
So even though I settled into my role as an undecided college student and member of the retail workforce during my earlier years, I was actually still on track to have an impact on people.
It just wasn’t on the path I had imagined when I originally started my journey.
But C’mon, A Millions Dollars?
I set goals and I miss them.
I set goals and I reach them.
However, one of my goals isn’t to become a millionaire. In the same way I didn’t care so much about making gobs of money as a musician, I was more concerned with my impact.
Please don’t be confused. I want to make money.
I want to turn a profit in my business. I’m not afraid to charge for products and services I offer that are incredibly value added. I also stand behind my work.
What’s the real reason “wanting to be a millionaire” is not on my radar? It’s not essential to my intrinsic goal: to be impactful in a positive way.
It drives me crazy when self-proclaimed experts at business, whatever that is, marketing, selling, etc. talk about how they will show you the steps on how to earn a million dollars. It has a certain ring to it, I admit.
If you’ve come from nothing or a very dismal financial situation, earning a million dollars seems like the answer. It could be your way out.
But here is the reality…
Majority of those who follow after the million dollar club won’t make it there.
It takes a lot of hard work and some luck as well.
If I’ve Made A Million Dollars…
Ultimately, making an arbitrary million dollars just doesn’t add any real value to my life.
If I’ve made a million dollars in gross profit, but my expenses are $950,000, what good is that million? Was it worth the $50,000 in profit?
If I’ve made a million dollars but my relationship with my wife and daughter are strained due to all the time and effort I placed in earning that money, what value did those dollars add?
If I’ve made a million dollars and during the time I’ve dedicated to earning more money I’ve missed opportunities to be helpful and impactful in my family and community, then how does that million influence my impact?
Millionaires who are successful, based on our societies definition, may talk about what it takes to be successful.
“You have to have complete focus on your dream and nothing else.”
“You have to sacrifice time with friends and family.”
“You have to be all in.”
What do they know?
I agree with the sentiments behind these phrases. But your path is yours alone.
Don’t get me wrong, not all paths are created equal. Some people face different types of adversity. We aren’t all given the same skill sets. Metrics that determine success for you could be meaningless for the person standing next to you.
You will have to make sacrifices. You will have to be all in. In those ways you and your neighbor are the same.
But we are all different. What we deem appropriate sacrifices and how we define “all in” will undoubtedly vary.
For me, being impactful isn’t contingent on being a millionaire.
For you, maybe being “all in” doesn’t mean you quit your day job in order to start a new business. If you are the sole provider for your family, taking such a big risk in quitting may not be realistic on your journey.
If you can find a way to make it work, then that’s your “all in.” Your dedication and sacrifice of time with your family is something that is worth it in the long run, as you reach for your dreams.
Legacy Over Everything
There may be a point where you have to give up on part of your dream. Maybe you started down a path that isn’t right for you and you do a little backtracking. Remember, whatever you take away from that experience is part of the overall process.
In other words, you may wander but you aren’t lost.
Does setting a goal of making a million dollars add value to your life? Maybe it does.
A goal in and of itself isn’t substantial enough to add significant value. It’s how you perceive your experiences on your journey towards that goal the either develop or destroy character. That’s how your legacy is built.
Being impactful in a positive way is my overarching goal. My attitude and malleability when facing the inevitable ups and downs of being a human is where the value lies.
In general, I’m more concerned with my legacy than the amount of money I stack up in the bank.