Why I am comfortable with mediocrity.
This might seem like a weird concept, especially if you have a strong desire to succeed like I used to, but I've recently realized that my happiness is not dependant upon my success or income. I live a fairly comfortable life with a rather low amount of my time dedicated to working.
As a dueling piano player, a lot of work was required at the start of my career learning songs, bits, jokes, toasts, and how to carry myself on stage, and I spent 7 years in college working towards becoming a better musician and composer. But now, as I'm writing this at 34 years old, my work week basically doesn't exceed 40 hours unless I'm working on something that I'm truly enjoying. Aside from my gigs, I create my own projects and pursue my own interests. It's not very stressful, and my time is split working on so many things that I never really get bored.
The whole idea of, "Are you working to live or living to work?" always comes to mind. I guess some people are content working 60, 70, or 80 hours a week, and their success is usually manifested by their dedication. While a higher income might be able to buy more creature comforts or experiences like expensive vacations if you don't really get to enjoy them, then what's the point? Mostly, I think it comes down to finding a balance in what you want, but I feel as though I've reached a new level of "maturity" finding the balance I want and realizing that I may never write an award-winning piece of music or play on a stage in front of thousands of people, but I still get to write music or perform, and that's perfectly fine for me.
One thing you will realize, or maybe you have already, is that there are external forces that sometimes play a role in deterring or slowing the successful realization of our dreams and aspirations. They can be financial, emotional, mental, physical, etc. That’s not to say they’re unobtainable, it’s just that roadblocks can and most likely will arise from time to time, and these can be a draining force on your energy to achieve those goals. For me, I have realized that I don’t care about being a popular composer, and I will most likely never be as good as some of the other piano players or musicians that I have encountered. I don’t strive for fame or fortune in any real regards. It doesn’t mean that I have stopped trying to better myself, but I have found comfort in a life that is not in the spotlight or overtly luxurious. Being able to make a living doing something I love and unbound by the banality of a corporate-style job is far more enjoyable to me.
As I talked a little bit above, I have a lot of interests that divide my attention, and I am perfectly happy being kind of good at the things I enjoy instead of the best at any one thing or even a few things. My schedule is inconsistent, but it allows me to pursue what I’m interested in at any point in time. If I want to take an entire day shooting photography instead of working on music, I can, and if I want to write instead of practicing, I can do that, too. I do have certain obligations to gigs for income, but I enjoy what I do, whether it’s practicing, writing, composing, updating my website, editing photos, or anything else, and I never feel pressured by deadlines. Although deadlines can be a great motivator, they can also be fairly stressful. I prefer to work several hours a day at my leisure rather than be forced into a grind that makes the process feel tedious or makes me resent whatever I’m working on. This usually means longer production times for whatever I’m working on, but I’m content with that as I’m continually making progress. This blog post, for example, has been a work in progress for several weeks, but there's no real pressure for me to complete it, and that means when I decide to work on it, it's because I'm going to enjoy it.
And that's a pretty great feeling.