You don’t have to be Bob Dylan
I was having coffee with a dear friend of mine the other day and we got to talking about art and music and our shared desire to pursue these avenues. My friend told me that often the problem is, we begin any meaningful pursuit in the arts with an end goal in mind. We believe we are supposed to be like him or her, and we measure our success against theirs. Deep down, we know this is completely unfair since we often judge the end of someone’s career with our beginning, but at the same time, it’s unfair because we are not a carbon copy of that person. As my friend said, “You don’t have to be Bob Dylan.”
You get to be you. Now, this might mean you don’t become a world-famous platinum selling artist, or find yourself on the New York Time’s Best Seller’s list, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t in the game. This doesn’t mean you aren’t pursuing your work in a meaningful way.
Too often we’ve believed a rampant lie perpetuated by the media that true artistry means fame. The elusive lime-light beckons us into a world of hacks and go-getters who are shallow mouthpieces for the industry. But that is not artistry, that is commercialism.The world would be devoid of a tremendous amount of writers and musicians and painters if this is the only way we measured success and artistry.
The truth remains: You don’t have to be like so and so. You don’t have to settle for a pop cultured version of success.
At the end of the day, whether you are writing at home or for the New York Times; whether you’re performing at the Grammy’s or a local coffee shop; whether you have paintings hung in fancy galleries or in your garage, the truth is, you’re still doing it. Don’t look past that important kernel of truth–to do is important.
Truthfully, this was a lesson I needed to hear. It’s okay to be in the process. It’s okay to be in the grind. Keep at it. Your craft is yours to develop, not contingent on anyone else. So at the end of the day, work at it with all your might because this is your journey. Focus on who you are becoming, not on someone else’s story.
I remember this insight I heard from the late great John Wooden, who once quipped that true success is finding the best in ourselves. He taught that success is becoming the best that you are capable of. So often we focus on success as reaching a certain place, like so-and-so, without realizing that we are being detrimental to who we are. Because you’re not Bob Dylan or J.K. Rowling or Vincent van Gogh. But you are you, and that is exactly who you should be.
In the words of Edwin Mccain, “Just do your thing.” The rest will take care of itself.
Be okay with where you are.
Be okay with the art you are producing.
Be okay with not being Bob Dylan.