How would you define success?
Google? Steve Jobs and Apple? Oprah? Bill Gates? According to TwitterCounter.com, Katy Perry, Bieber, Taylor Swift, Barack Obama and Rhianna are the top 5. Is success someone like Mother Teresa, the Pope or Joel Osteen? Maybe you think in terms much closer to home like your mother, someone in your family working tirelessly to raise an autistic child or your favorite teacher that made a life-long impact on you.
I’m 41. Over half of my life was pre-internet. Until we moved past dial up to high-speed and smartphones, we only knew of celebrity or public figures on television, magazines, stages and newspapers. Easily accessible internet changed everything in terms of celebrity. With the rise of Twitter, YouTube and viral videos, anyone could be a household name overnight. Candace Payne, better known as Chewbacca Lady could attest to that. A few years ago I remember hearing my daughter chuckling in her room from across the house almost everyday. Turns out it was Rhett and Link. Who?!? The YouTube sensation of “Good Mythical Morning” and my son soon followed suit.
Growing up on a farm in rural southwest Ohio, I was an average boy that enjoyed sports and hanging out with friends. A couple years into college, I was around some guys who played guitar. I had never known any guitar players up close and personal. It was cool. I decided I wanted to give it a go. Somehow a friend heard I was interested in guitar and gave me one. I enjoyed singing but I was too self-conscious to consider singing in public but I practiced in my room, much to the detriment of the guys in the next room over in the dorm.
One thing led to another and I eventually became the song leader for a home group that was a part of our church. I remember the very first time I led the music. There were only about eight people in a circle in the living room but it felt like the entire world was watching and waiting for me to mess up. I’m sure I did a few times. I could still barely play the guitar and sing at the same time and had to stare at the fret-board the entire time to see if I was actually hitting the right strings. Thankfully, I didn’t pass out in the middle of it but my shirt was drenched with sweat by the time I finished a few songs.
I continued to work at it and eventually began leading music for church, first in a smaller Wednesday evening service and then Sunday mornings. Somewhere in that process I began writing worship songs and through a process of many people encouraging and prodding we captured some of those songs on a live recording called ‘Angels Shouting.’ There were a number of times I heard people make statements like “this music is going to go way beyond here for a lot of people to hear.” It always invoked a number of thoughts and emotions when I heard that statement. That wasn’t the point of how the songs and the music came about, but I liked the idea of lots of people hearing it for a couple of reasons. I hoped the songs would encourage them like they spoke to and encouraged me, but I also liked the notion that I could “be somebody.”
When an artist writes or creates something, in its purest form, it isn’t for the purpose of being marketed. It is something that is created from an expression of who someone is and what is happening inside or around them as a person. The tension of creating art is that it is, but it isn’t for anyone other than the artist. Anything we do – not just art – can be enriching and encouraging to someone else but that isn’t necessarily the purpose for it.
Somewhere in the process, I embraced the idea that “success” as a music person was being seen and known far and wide for my music (which I was not :). What began as something pure and personal with songs that I sung in my car driving down the road, became “if this music isn’t heard by thousands it isn’t successful.”
Since we recorded that CD, there have been other songs written and occasional requests to record and make them available as well. I admit I have been gun-shy to pull the trigger again to record music. What if it isn’t received? What if only my immediate family and friends enjoy it? What if I don’t meet my own expectations? What if .. what if.. you get the picture.
One day Father God finally said this to me, “Bob, what if you record music again and no one embraced it. .. …. is it enough that it makes me smile?”
Honest answer? No. … .. . and there you have it.
Visibility and accolades replaced the original purpose, motive and joy of me singing to my Father and seeing Him smile.
Turns out success had nothing to do with Twitter followers and recognition. Success is living honestly for the purpose of making Dad smile and. . .. .. .I am working on that being enough.