Cover image by Frank Claeys.
To borrow a line from the Steve Miller Band’s epic song, Jet Airliner, “I’ve been down before.”
Many of us these days are going similar emotions. If you’re feeling scared. I know how you feel. If you’re feeling inadequate and betrayed. I know how you feel. If you’re feeling lost, confused, and disconnected. I know how you feel.
The first time I lost my job after college was when my six-month contract didn’t get renewed from a government department I was working for. That employer actually did me a favour because it was a terrible job and a terrible place to work. Soon after, I joined a company that eventually defined my career to this day.
Funny thing, the same thing eventually happened close to 19 years later, in 2009, from that very same company. I suddenly found myself without work after being full-time (well way more than full-time, the way those guys did things) for close to nineteen years. I had a young child at home, a wife, a mortgage and car payments. Nervous times indeed. Fortunately, my wife had a good job and we weren’t totally without an income. I thought I would be at the company for life. When I left, it felt like a kick in the gut…or somewhere around that area. I was upset for quite a while after that incident but eventually got over it and moved on.
The key is not to tie your identity too closely to your job, as many people do. Your job is how you make a living; only you can make your life.
If you find yourself without work, find a new purpose. Give yourself a reason to get out of bed every morning. Don’t succumb to your habits and vices, and above all, don’t get lazy. Make it a point to go to bed at a reasonable time every night and get up early, just as though you are still working. Don’t lose the habit of sticking to a schedule and following a routine. Give yourself tasks to accomplish and give yourself purpose.
In 2009, when I found myself without work, I signed up for government sponsored programs to help older workers re-enter the workforce. I participated in two successive programs over the space of eight weeks. Not only were they very educational and useful, but they also gave me somewhere to go every day and gave me a reason to get up in the morning – I suspect they were designed that way.
After that experience, I dabbled in starting my own company, but a severe lack of disposable funds put a damper on those ambitions and I wasn’t prepared to go into all kinds of debt or do something crazy like mortgage my house to launch a new venture. I ended up working for one of my few clients and began to learn commercial HVAC. At the same time, I started my own mobile DJ company, which I did on the side regularly for a about three years. (I still DJ occasionally for friends and family, for free, just as a favour. It’s fun and I like doing it. I’m also pretty good at it). I also taught guitar on the side privately and was even hired by the City for a little while to teach guitar part-time.
The second time I found myself without work, was only a couple of years ago, in the middle of the Covid 19 pandemic. During that short period of unemployment, I vowed to learn as much as I could about blogging and digital marketing. I completed a Digital Marketing Certificate with the University of Ottawa’s Telfer School of Business. It was an online, part-time course. Very interesting and very educational. Not bad for someone in his mid-fifties.
After only about two months of unemployment, I ended up working for the competitor of the company that cut me loose. Talk about landing on my feet. During that same brief period of unemployment, I dedicated a lot of time and effort to the In-Tune Guitar Academy website and YouTube channel, and still do today. It’s an ongoing quest of continuous improvement. I want to master video production and video editing. I want to keep on perfecting my writing, guitar playing, and photography. And of course, do my best at my day job. I like to keep busy.
Through it all, my love of music and all things creative kept me sane and kept me motivated. I can remember an incident a few years ago, driving home from another day of drudgery at a job I no longer liked very much. I was listening to Dr. Wayne Dyer’s How to Be a No-Limit Person for the umpteenth time on the car stereo. In the segment I remember so clearly, Dr. Dyer asked the audience to describe themselves without referencing their family, wealth, education, job, nationality, etc. Just describe yourself as you see yourself. I remember it clearly, blurting out my answer to his question, even though it was just a recording and Dr. Dyer was already deceased,
“I am a frustrated creative!”
There it was, out in the open. All the years of doing what was right and safe, the root of many of my anxieties laid bare for me to see. I NEEDED to live a more creative life. Those were the seeds of In-Tune Guitar Academy. I decided to go for it.
If you want to be a writer, then write. It doesn’t matter if you’re not Hemmingway, Steinbeck or Shakespeare. Just write, if that’s what you want to do. If you want to be a singer, then sing. If you want to be a musician, be a musician. If you want to be a photographer, be a photographer. Learn your craft. Practice and do.
You don’t have to sell all your stuff and quit your job. Just carve out time to learn, practice and do. Maybe turn off the TV and put away the phone or tablet once in a while. Stop wasting time. Learn. Practice. Do.
That is what we’re all about at In-Tune Guitar Academy. Find meaning in doing what you want to do. What turns you on. What makes you click. What makes you come alive. For me, it’s music. Always has been and will always be.
Sure, learn songs. Learning songs is fun, useful, and makes you a better musician. But also learn your theory to understand how those songs come together and what makes a good song good, and other songs not so good. Learn your scales and arpeggios. Just don’t forget to practice them over and over. Muscle memory is what makes you a better musician. You’re never too old to learn. I know a lady in her nineties that is taking lessons to better use her new iPad.
Practice every chance you get and try to make it a routine. Practicing 15 – 20 minutes every day is more useful and productive than practicing once a week for 2 hours. It has to become part of you if you want to advance as a musician, no matter the instrument. Rehearse the songs you and your friends want to learn and play together. Each time you do, you will learn something new about that song, especially if you play along to your favourite recorded version of that song. Your version almost takes on a life of its own. And if you play in a band, you will find that each cover version of the songs you play will become unique in their own right. As I mentioned, practice your scales and arpeggios, and practice your fingering exercises daily, if you can.
But above all, DO. It’s what makes the other two worthwhile. Record or video yourself and post it. By doing so, you will learn what clicks with your audience and what doesn’t it. It may seem vain – and maybe it is – but posting your work to social media can be very rewarding and very educational. And sometimes, quite humbling. Play live, if you can. Try out at an open mic. It doesn’t matter if you bomb because we’re all amateurs and nobody paid to see you. You will definitely cut your teeth, but you can’t be too sensitive to criticism. Playing live is the sincerest form of honesty you will encounter. It may sting a little sometimes, but it makes you a better musician. Form a band or just play music with your friends. You will learn so much from the people you play with and it’s really fun….usually, if everyone keeps their egos in check. With musicians, keeping egos in check can sometimes be a tall order.
Yeah, I meandered around a bit in this article, but I really hope you draw inspiration from what I wrote. Setbacks are often just temporary and usually very necessary. You can’t appreciate the sun if it never rains. Above all, don’t lose hope. In the words of Dr. Wayne Dyer, “do something, do anything.” As long as it’s legal and moral, doing something, anything, is better than simply languishing or wasting time watching TV all day.
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