“Many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.” – Obi-wan Kenobi
Yes, he was a fictional character, but it is very appropriate for discussing why I’m an optimist. I know that there are atrocities committed every day. I’ve had many bad things happen to me as well. However, I choose to see the positive. I choose to believe that the best will happen, and I choose to focus on the positive aspects of life because it makes me happier.
I think part of my optimism is genetic. My father always tells me that for the first six months of my life I was constantly smiling, as if even then I’d rather be happy than be miserable about a dirty diaper or hunger.
There are certain things you can’t simply choose to be happy about. When my mom died, I couldn’t muster up optimism. I simply kept going, partially because my dad kept going. I felt like if he could, so could I. To this day, I miss her greatly, but I also appreciate the time I had with her, and will always remember her for the amazing person that she was.
After working my way through college, I graduated to find an economy that wasn’t hiring, so I ended up homeless for a day. I ended up delivering pizzas longer than I thought.
When I graduated college a second time, in 2008, I moved to Chicago just as one of the worst economic collapses in our nation’s history was transpiring. Everything that could go wrong on a personal level did, culminating in getting robbed at gunpoint in January of 2009. 2009 turned out to be the best year of my life because I knew my situation wasn’t working out, so I visited Tokyo for 10 days, and then went on tour, living out of my car for a couple of months. In that time, I lost 40 pounds because I was the happiest I had ever been.
I came back to Oxford, homeless, with all of my credit cards maxed out, and $5 to my name. Thanks to some good friends, I had a couch to sleep on for a few weeks, and got my old job back.
Now, on a simple level, I choose to focus on the positive and believe in the best because I’d rather be happy than be right. Bad events only inherently have certain negative values. When someone doesn’t tip me on a delivery, inherently I’m only losing out on whatever that person should’ve tipped me, or on whatever tip I would have received from someone else. I can choose to respond in any number of ways. 1. I could react in an extreme manner and go on an expletive filled tirade, and probably get fired. 2. I could get upset, but not show it to the customer. I could then either get over it in my car, or let it keep me upset for a while. If I choose to stay upset, it can negatively affect the rest of my night, or even just upset me for a few minutes. 3. I could genuinely be happy even if I don’t get tipped. At least 90% of the time I choose option 3. Why? Because I’d rather be happy.
On a larger level, as far as music goes, I can look at the numbers and let them dictate how I feel. For example, I have generated a total of $6.99 in sales through the first 25 days of January, and probably a total of $30 in the last 6 months. In the month of January, I have spent about $200 in marketing expenses. Nothing about the financials tells me that there’s any hope of me making a living from my music.
I can react to this one of several ways. 1. I can give up, acknowledging that the task of making a living from my music is impossible. This could lead me to give up on many other things, and change many of my life philosophies. It could lead to me being driven by money and therefore taking a job I know won’t make me happy, but will make me lots of money. 2. I can be thankful for the $6.99 in sales, and accept that the money I’ve spent on marketing is necessary for me to build something strong. I need to get the word out about my music, which involves constant effort, a deep commitment, and financial expenditures. I can choose to believe that with enough effort, time, and money, I can build something strong enough to make a living from. I know it’s a long road, but doing it the right way makes it completely worth it. That’s why I choose option 2. I can also look at other numbers to show that while my sales aren’t high, my following is increasing. I can see how many people have viewed my videos (my top viewed video as of the time of this writing is the official music video for “wonder,” which is at 1994 views). I know the number of fans following me on Facebook has increased. They’re also talking more.
When I play at my regular open mikes, someone almost always recognizes me now. That is something special. I’m very excited about the Stadium open mic in particular because it’s in my hometown, and it’s led me to success before. After 3 months of playing at Stadium’s open mic in 2004, I booked my first Oxford show in January of 2005, and over 100 people came to see me. That is still my most well attended show. I believe that kind of thing can happen again because it’s happened before.
In general, life presents us all with circumstances and information. The only thing we can truly control is how we react to them. I choose to focus on the positive, and react as positively as I can because I’d rather be happy and make those around me happy. I understand that my reactions can affect others. If I choose to dwell on the negative, I can bring friends, family and fans down. I choose to focus on the positive, and continue doing what makes me happy. I know it will positively affect those around me as well. I hope I have positively affected you in some way.