It Just Doesn’t Matter
“Nobody cares weather you succeed or not, so you might as well succeed.”
When I heard this I almost fell out of my chair. It was so simple, so direct. It’s simplicity gives it so much strength. So many times we add a lot of unnecessary baggage to our endeavors and our dreams get weighted down with expectations. But if we look at life in it’s most simple form, we can get to the crux of the matter and make things a lot easier.
I heard this quote and thought, wow, is that really all there is to it? Well, maybe it is. Let me give you so context.
I’d moved to NYC in 1997 and after 10 years I found myself in 2007 having not even come close to what I’d wanted to accomplish. A big reason for that was I’d gotten so caught up in my own mind about my own perceptions of how others thought of me, I was nearly paralyzed by inaction because I was second and third guessing myself so much.
Then I heard this quote and it broke everything loose for me. I thought hard about this. It’s true, nobody really cares weather we succeed or not. Think about it. People are so caught up in their facebook feeds, the news, their own neurotic thoughts, they don’t have any bandwidth to think about you. It’s pretty simple really. People just don’t care what others are up to. And if they do, well, it’s maybe just for a fleeting moment and then they’re off to their next short attention span moment.
Modern society has really strung our attention out, but even 50 years ago, it’s still true that nobody is really thinking about us all that much, if at all. We just think they are.
Right now, think about it and ask yourself if anybody is really seriously thinking about you. I mean, maybe our family is thinking of us to some extent, but really, everybody’s just too damned busy to give a second thought.
Now, with this in mind, I thought about my constant obsession with what people thought of me, was I going judged, would I fail to be liked. And suddenly, I realized, it just doesn’t matter. What matters is that we just do the damn thing and let the chips fall where they may. This thought was a major turning point for me and I have achieved more the past 10 years than in the previous 20! Like George Clinton says... "Free your mind and your ass will follow."
It reminds me of one of my favorite Bill Murray scenes where he’s a camp counselor and he’s rallying the camp kids to complete with the rival camp that’s full of rich kids. Murray whips them into a frenzy, chanting “It just doesn’t matter! It just doesn’t matter!” And this frees the kids’ minds from feeling out classed. They go to the competition, they have fun and they WIN! I love that scene and sometimes I watch a clip of that video just to remind myself that indeed, it just doesn’t matter.
I think most of us are self conscious to some extent. We care about what people think of us. I mean, nobody wants to been seen as a loser, or awkward or whatever. Nobody wants to be laughed at or to fall short and not be good enough. But think about this:
In life, nobody gets a 100% approval rating, or even 90%, or even 80%. And those who do get a high approval rating, usually experience an epic fall of some sort. Elvis, Michael Jackson, Mike Tyson are prime examples. At one point, they were the hottest thing on the planet, but that adulation and hype and money and success dramatically distorted their perception of themselves. And look what happened to them.
Give me 20 or 30% approval and I’m good. We’re never gonna be everybody’s cup of tea. And that’s ok.
I say a lot of this from my perspective as a musician, composer, teacher. In art, it’s all subjective. One man’s junk is another man’s gold. It’s just art. It’s not wall street. If one can express themselves and make a true statement, then it really doesn’t matter what anybody thinks. If one is creating their art to be liked, then it’s watered down already, it’s suspect to some degree. I mean yeah, we want our art to be “good” and to be accepted. But we serve the art first, not the perception that we think others are going to have.
From time to time I remind myself of this so that I can breathe deeper and just do my thing. If there’s somebody out there judging me and comparing me to others and all that, well, I’d bet in 10 seconds they’ve forgotten all about me and are onto that next judgement about the next person. Or maybe not. Hell, how am I even supposed to know?
That’s when we just cue the Bill Murray chant: It just doesn’t matter. It just doesn’t matter. It just doesn’t matter!
Purpose and Urgency
Language is powerful. A word, the right word, as Mark Twain once said is like the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. One of my favorite comedians, George Carlin, spoke a lot about language and perception and it was through his observations that I began thinking about the power of language.
When I think about words and the meaning they express, I think of keys that open doors, or maybe even close them. The right word, the right language can open up a door in one’s mind. Conversely, the wrong word can shut a mind down and stop it in it’s tracks.
When I began to actively work on changing my life one of the things I focused on was language. Language that didn’t serve me had to be discarded and that which served me well was embraced.
Think of the words “purpose” and “urgency”. Just think about them for a minute. How do those words make you feel? Nervous? Excited? Energized? Anxious?
I wrote these two words down and contemplated them because I wanted to embrace the energy of these two words and let that energy flow into my life.
Purpose means intent. Intent means thoughtfulness. To be purposeful means to have a goal or target and to focus all one’s energy and being into attaining that goal or to hit that target. “The Power of Purpose” is a profound phrase to me. Without purpose, we are leaving our fate to chance. And I don’t like surprises. If I’m gonna do something, then I want it done and done right. I’m not a fan of nebulous results.
However, for a lot of years I was nebulous. I didn’t get results and didn’t know why. I just figured that sometimes things work out, sometimes they don’t. Maybe it had something to do with luck, I figured.
But then, after more examination, I thought, no, it’s not about luck or chance. It’s about intention. And what word best sums up intention. Purpose.
This was a major shift in my thinking and really led the way to being more of an adult. Embracing purpose means accepting responsibility, which was something I’d tried to avoid most of my life. However, once one comes to the conclusion that luck and chance and a “so what” attitude is not acceptable and unreliable, then purpose and intent become crystal clear.
The other word I think about often and embrace is “urgency”. For one to have urgency in their life one must first have purpose. With the purpose firmly in mind, then we can have urgency in our intentions.
I was trained to procrastinate. My upbringing in a small, sleepy country town in Missouri was not exactly brimming with urgency and purpose. Thus, I tended to coast thru life and as I said earlier, accept things as chance or luck. But, after moving to New York City, it became very clear that urgency was the name of the game. That is, assuming one has purpose.
If I wanted to not only keep up, but to get ahead and thrive, I needed to discover my purpose, define it and embrace it with urgency. I did this by writing it all down because when a person takes pen to paper, they think. You must think it through all the way, on paper, first. At least, that’s what I had to do. So I did.
I wrote down everything. Goals. Fears. Anxieties. Strengths and Weaknesses. I wrote and wrote and wrote, distilling all my thoughts down to ink and a yellow legal pad. Eventually, my purpose emerged and then I could go after it with urgency.
Several years later, I find myself in a position in which I get to teach this to young music students. Many of them use language that sets them up to fail. Words like “Try” and “Hard” and “Maybe”. I am adamant they use winning language with intent. And it works.
It’s kinda funny, my mom used to say “watch your language” when I’d say a curse word or something. But now, “watch your language” means something entirely different to me. Language has a profound effect on our thoughts and thoughts determine our actions. Your thoughts become true for you.