It’s Saturday night at a large concert venue in Chicago. About 1,000 people are cheering on a 22-year-old country singer from Nashville as she struts around the stage singing, “If I ain’t got this dance floor hoppin’, I ain’t doin’ my job.”
Behind her, on electric bass, is yours truly. I’m age inappropriately dressed in a black leather jacket, skinny (or at least skinny-ish) jeans, orange-tinted sunglasses and a silver neck chain. My adrenaline is surging.
Several years earlier, on the yonder side of 40, I walked into a local music store and bought a cheap bass and a small amp.
I had never played a lick on any instrument, not even as a kid.
Nothing particularly momentous preceded this decision. I was simply a lifelong rock aficionado and concertgoer who decided it was time to trade in my air guitar for the real thing. I also was ready for something new after an exhausting, five-year marathoning phase. Plus, a “dad band” in our neighborhood needed a bass player.
With the help of a great teacher, I made two discoveries: that I had an ear for it, and I was willing to work very hard.
Fast forward to now and I lead a double life. By day, I’m Offleash’s content director. Certain nights, I’m gigging or rehearsing with one of several bands.
I’ve performed in nine states. I’ve played with pros I once admired only from the audience, including a Grammy-nominated instrumentalist. One group I was in opened for Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Leon Russell. I’ve gotten to explore a wide variety of material — from rock, blues, soul and country to surf instrumentals to Grateful Dead covers. I’ve done several recording sessions.
Don’t get the wrong idea: I’ve also played countless local dive bars, frat parties and near-empty restaurants. Earlier this month, I played a gig on a stage in a huge field before seven people and four horses. It looked like Woodstock, if hardly anyone showed up.
Recently, a co-worker called all this a “hobby” and I cringed. That’s a dirty word to us dreamers of musical grandeur. But of course she wasn’t really wrong. The dictionary, after all, defines hobby as “an activity done regularly in one’s leisure time for pleasure.”
At the same time, “hobby” doesn’t seem to do the situation justice.
Our client, Sumo Logic CEO Ramin Sayar, also understands the the power of an all-consuming passion outside work. A recent Silicon Valley Business Journal article showed how Ramin’s intense love of soccer – he plays in an adult league in Palo Alto every Sunday, coaches youth teams and watches three to six Premier League games a week – carries over into his role as a company leader.
“If you don’t have those release outlets and that balance, and you’re constantly on edge and nerved, you can’t have a logical head,” he said. “Whether you’re a CEO or an executive of a startup, a high-growth startup, you need that balance, and you need those release outlets.”
Another client, Jamf co-founder Zach Halmstad, also talks often about the importance of finding where your passions lie. While helping build the Apple device management leader, Halmstad has played a key role in renewal efforts in his hometown of Eau Claire, WI, including the renovations of two hotels and construction of a new performing arts center.
I wanted to coin a term, “passion junkie” for people like this, but Google shows that an author named A.T. Willett beat me to it. “You want to live the little dream you keep stored deep inside your mind,” he wrote. “Shatter the illusion that society has offered and begin to ask questions, who am I, why am I here, what can I do in my lifetime?”
My music life has taught me it’s possible to work hard and play hard (with the help of extreme time management skills), and experience profound and joyous growth even in middle age.
Actually, I don’t feel that age at all. Doing the math on my music-playing years, I figure I’m still in my late 20s. I try to carry that feeling throughout my life.
I hope you have a passion too. Rock on, my friends!
Steve Eisenstadt is Content Director at Offleash. His experience includes 17 years in corporate and agency communications — all in high tech — and 15 as a journalist. His most prized possession is a 1969 Fender Precision bass. Contact Steve at email@example.com.