I was listening to an old podcast by someone I consider a valuable mentor in my life. In his podcast, Orrin Woodward shared a story about Josh Bell, a a very famous violinist who plays at the Metropolitan. Apparently he took his $100,000 Stradivarius violin into the subways below the Metropolitan and began playing. And no one stopped to listen to the beautiful music created by one of the most talented artists being played on the highest quality instrument, an artist and instrument accustomed to massive audiences at the Metropolitan and around the world. Woodward asked the question, “What if no one had ever recognized his talent and desire, and Josh Bell had never played his music anywhere except the subways?” Or worse, “what if Josh Bell had been convinced that because no one stopped to listen, he wasn’t good enough, and gave up his craft?”
I can recall dreams I’d had as child, then as a young adult… dreams that at different times in my life seemed to be nothing more than childhood fantasies, to remain forever buried in the constructs of my own brain. Dreams others told me were silly, unpractical, or only happened to “other people.” It pains me to think I spent so much of my life believing those lies. And as I listened to the podcast, I realized that despite living in Metropolitan Phoenix, (where there is no subway), I had been living in the depths of a subway as Orrin described, and had been doing so my entire adult life.
Now don’t get me wrong, I tried to get out. I knew there was something bigger, better, and more fulfilling for me somewhere, but somehow I’d come to believe the only way I would ever have that was to win the lottery or perhaps be in the right place at the right time and simply be “discovered” by someone who had the power to make those dreams come true. I embarrassed to share this, (partly because young readers likely won’t have a clue what I’m talking about and the story certainly dates me, and partly because I truly believed that spending money I didn’t have on magazines I wasn’t likely to read, was my way out of the subway) but, I remember ordering magazines from Publisher’s Clearing House, thinking to myself, “maybe if I order a bunch, they will pick me” and then fantasizing about how I’d remodel my condo and take amazing vacations, quit my job and live the life I wanted after Bob Barker showed up and gave me my prize.
I’ve come to realize, that no one is searching the depths of the subway to come find me and give me the life I’d always wanted. And while there were stairs to lead me out of the subway, not all of them lead to my “Metropolitan”. The idea that Bob Barker would somehow rescue me was nothing more than wishful thinking. At some point, I guess I knew I had to find my own way out. Over the years I tried stairways with different labels. I tried the military stairwell, the employee stairwell, corporate ladder stairwell, the self-employed stairwell, the stay-at-home mom (who also works from home) stairwell. All of these are viable stairwells that for some lead to a fulfilling life full of passion and purpose each and every day. For me, those stairwells would excite me for a bit. I had fun learning something new and having different experiences. There were public victories and achievements that provided me short-term validation, yet my soul hungered for more.
The stairwells were not by any means, dead ends, and each one brought me closer to finding the one that was right for me, and taught me valuable skills that would be necessary for success, once I began to climb my way out of the subway. On the other hand, there were experiences on those stairwells that tainted my belief that I would ever live the life I always wanted. There were failures and obstacles on those stairwells that led to bad habits, stinking thinking, and the belief that while others may have success in life, I simply wasn’t good enough and I was destined to remain in the depths of those underground tunnels.
I was introduced over and over and over again to the stairwell labeled, “Entrepreneurship”. It was scary, mysterious, and completely unknown. There were no safety rails, the stairs went both directions and were seemingly endless. There seemed to be no floor, but there was no ceiling, either. The idea that I could take those stairs anywhere I wanted thrilled me, but not knowing where the bottom was scared me. And every time someone shared an opportunity with me, I balked at the idea of having to “sell” something. I mean, sales wasn’t sexy for one, and two… weren’t sales people dishonest?
Should I take a risk?
My dear reader, perhaps you can relate to having that feeling deep down in your soul that you were meant for more than what you are doing in the here and now. If you don’t then I am truly happy for you, as it stands to reason that you’ve likely found that one thing that fills you with fire, passion, and fuels you to push through every limitation that may have once stood in your way. I, on the other hand, was blind to the possibility entrepreneurship offered for many many years. I just knew I wanted more time, more fun, more travel, more peace, more security, more precious moments with family. I wanted more. I wanted to squeeze every drop life had to offer, but was so busy, so tired of the grind, I didn’t have the strength to squeeze.
I say, “take the risk”… so I climb, with fire, passion, and excitement up the stairwell labeled “entrepreneurship”, fueled by the dreams once buried and forgotten, searching for others who have that same burning feeling, deep in their soul, that they were meant for more…