“What this power is I cannot say; all I know is that it exists”
– Alexander Graham Bell
Words cannot do justice to how it feels to stand outside under a full moon surrounded by friends and fire and stars and the cold, fresh autumn air, watching smiles and hearing people sing along as you are pouring your heart into singing songs that you wrote down years ago when things were different but now they’re much better. It’s nice, I will say that.
This extended weekend was wonderful. I ate lots of food with family on Thursday, had my first visit to the glorious unlimited-meat Brazilian steakhouse Fogo de Chão in Philly with friends on Friday, played a really fun, long, and sweaty show at Home Grown in Newark with Erin on Saturday night, and hosted an open-mic-house-show-soup-night-bonfire at my house on Sunday night. It was fun.
So. On my calendar at work, listed above the name of this month, there is a quote by a man who invented the telephone. I assumed that this was taken out of context, so I researched where it came from. It isn’t referring to phones at all, but instead it refers to searching for what you are passionate about. There are a lot of Americans who feel that either A) if they want something hard enough or if they have enough money, they’ll get that thing, whatever it might be, without putting in much work for it, or B) you must follow the tracks that your parents and your schools set out for you in order to be a normal functioning member of society: attend high school, labor through university, and then get a job which you will work at for the next 40 years until you get to retire and relax.
What Mr. Bell was saying is that you can only be truly passionate about your work once you have determined what it is that you truly desire. My summary is rather vague, but I feel that thinking this way does not lead you down either one of these previously mentioned modern American dreams. It is more similar to the traditional “American dream” of working hard to succeed, but I feel that it also differs from that dream in a major way. In contrast to the making-ends-meet mentality of early Americans working to support their families however they can, this technology-driven-era mindset is more focused on innovation rather than survival.
Here is the full quote:
“I had made up my mind to find that for which I was searching even if it required the remainder of my life. After innumerable failures I finally uncovered the principle for which I was searching, and I was astounded at its simplicity. I was still more astounded to discover the principle I had revealed not only beneficial in the construction of a mechanical hearing aid but it served as well as means of sending the sound of the voice over a wire. Another discovery which came out of my investigation was the fact that when a man gives his order to produce a definite result and stands by that order it seems to have the effect of giving him what might be termed a second sight which enables him to see right through ordinary problems. What this power is I cannot say; all I know is that it exists and it becomes available only when a man is in that state of mind in which he knows exactly what he wants and is fully determined not to quit until he finds it.”
Alexander Graham Bell worked for years to create his vision. Sound waves being converted to electrical signals and travelling hundreds of mile on tiny pieces of copper until they are converted back into sound on the receiving end? That sounds crazy. But he got it to work, and forever improved the world in the process. This sort of passion is not common in the American mind these days. It seems to me that this generation has an endless desire for having things now, immediately. Seth’s Blog mentioned something relevant to this a few days ago:
“Now that the cycle of new is eating itself in a race to ever-faster, there’s a bigger chance to make long term change by consistently focusing on what works (and what’s important), not what’s new and merely shiny.”
– Seth Godin
Lately I have been incredibly overwhelmed because there is so much happening that I both want to be a part of and that I also want to put my best efforts into. It is hard to realize that we cannot do all the things at our best. It took me years to learn how to say “no” to people when they ask me for something that I honestly don’t have time in my schedule to invest in. We must choose either to do one thing awesomely OR to do a few things well OR to attempt to do lots of things and end up failing or burning out. It’s hard, life.