I drove cross country last week. This time it was Texas. I’d forgotten what seeing America can do for you. I’m back now and everything looks different.
The thing about tunnel vision is you don’t know you’ve had it until you lose it. I need to remember to see America every once in a while.
Speaking of America, I read Bob Dylan’s autobiography. It appeared, unexpectedly, on my Kindle for free.
I’m not sure what I expected him to be like. The last I’d heard of him was in Seth Godin’s blog.
Seth lives in New York and describes how he knows dozens of people who have a story about someone, who knows someone, whose had some random encounter with Bob Dylan.
Dylan must be some sort of a superman, I thought.
What Is The Magic?
Before reading it, I remembered the first time I heard one of Bob Dylan’s songs. It was like seeing Lonesome Dove for the first time, in the mid-90’s.
Robert Duval talked about pigs and whiskey the way Dylan sang about “Napoleon in rags and the language that he used.”
I also remember when Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature last year; how he declined the invitation to the ceremony; one of the requirements for receiving the cash prize component.
I think they eventually made an exception for Bob Dylan.
Before reading this book, I thought he was the standoffish celebrity who had better things to do.
Now, it seems more likely one of his grand kids had soccer practice. Or something like that. After reading the book that seems like a reasonable thing for Bob Dylan to do, instead of attending the ceremony to receive his Nobel prize.
It, also, seems reasonable, now, that if he weren’t that person, he wouldn’t be receiving the prize in the first place.
The question is how to make that seem like a reasonable thing for us to do. How to do what makes us so happy we don’t need the prize.
Take A Break
Going to his grand kid’s soccer practice, or taking a motorcycle ride, south, out of New Orleans, to Thibodaux, Louisiana, in the middle of a recording session, appears to be as much a part of Bob Dylan’s art as actually recording hits.
If he stopped what he was doing to react to all the things his success created, he would have lost touch with what he loved a long time ago.
Sometimes, we just need a break to recalibrate. It’s amazing what a change in scenery can do for creativity or inspiration.
He’s A Believer
He doesn’t rock the audience with his voice or amaze with his guitar skills.
But, in the book, he describes the first time he heard a Woodie Guthrie song. It’s probably very similar to the way most people feel the first time they hear a Bob Dylan song. It’s a feeling he believed in. A story he believed in.
He believed in that sound. He knew it when he heard it. And, eventually, he made us believe it too.
Somewhere, here, there is the “follow your heart” lesson. I hate to say it that simply. But, reading the book, that’s what it sounds like he had–the courage to follow his heart.
He’s extraordinarily observant of everyday detail, and believes in his own eye for quality. But, he has a good filter. You can’t obsess over everything. There is too much. The filter is key. I think reading can help us learn to filter out the wheat from the chaff.
By doing this, Dylan seems to express that what’s important to him is what is in front of him at any given time. Soccer practice and motorcycle rides out of town.
Food, Shelter, Story
As people, we crave these three things. So, it follows that there are economies built around them. Supply and demand.
Bob Dylan tells stories. And, there is nothing as specialized as a good story teller. They can’t mechanize it or digitize it.
Whatever industry you are in, you can fit it into one of the three foundations of food, shelter, or story. Go ahead and try it out.
Sports is all about story. What is a team but the story of caring for each another while in the pursuit of a common goal? In sport, the goal is fictionalized prize (a trophy is meaningless in itself).
But the story is always real.
Take any profession. Engineers, for example. They design shelter. Or, they design the infrastructure we need to get food to people or people to food.
But, an engineer turned manager? That one’s a little trickier. But, a closer look shows it falls under story. To lead, you have to tell a story about the world your people believe in.
But it goes deeper. In all three pillars, there is a story you tell yourself about what you do. Whichever of these three you are working in, there is a use for good stories.
Even if you are in the business of food or shelter, the story you tell yourself–your “why” for doing what you do–makes a ton of difference. “Find Your Why.”
This is what Dylan can teach us. He didn’t fight a war. He wasn’t persecuted or forced to overcome some incredible disadvantage. He simply weaves stories out of the, seemingly mundane, stuff of everyday life.
Fine-tune The Story
I needed to recalibrate my story. It needed a tune up. So, instinctively I took a trip with a friend. We saw some country.
Maybe you’re in the business of story. Leaders, managers, teachers. Or, maybe, you build shelter, or grow food, or serve dinner at a restaurant.
Nine times out of ten, the outlet for those skills exist in your job already. If I get stuck, I just need to rework the story; always remembering that the most important story is the one you tell yourself.
Mark Cuban says excellence does not follow passion. Passion follows excellence. A good story can turn a seemingly mundane thing, dragging your fingers over taught metal wires, into Like a Rolling Stone.
I think we’d like to believe we aren’t confined to one path in our career or lives. We’d like to believe we can control our destiny at any given time. You can. Just write your story.