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December 2014
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30,000 Days

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Last Call September 13


During seven years of making music, the Randy Owen Band has been through almost everything. But through all the personal battles, sorrows, and struggles, we’d play gigs and all of that real-life stuff would move to the back burner for a bit. Photo by Linda Bingham

If you take care of yourself, dodge the early cancer bullet, and don’t get run over by a beer truck, you may live 80 years. Sounds reasonable. Not sure why, but I’ve grown a bit macabre of late and perhaps a bit obsessive about number patterns. (Not a healthy sign, psychologically speaking.)

Break it down. I did the math: 80 years breaks down to 29,200 days, not figuring in leap years or any of that weirdness. If we round it up to 82.1 years, we get 30,000 days. I don’t care for that number—it seems a bit like a death sentence with no chance of a last-minute call from the Governor to stay the execution. The fact that the date is somewhat distant does not mollify the anxiety of inevitability. In a matter of days, we are going to die.

Newly aware that life is a ticking time bomb, I’m feeling considerable pressure to do more fun stuff and fewer things that suck. Why the hell am I wasting so many precious days? I should be living like I’m dying. (Thank you, Tim McGraw and Chris Allen.)

Here’s the rub: If you live like there’s no tomorrow, you’re not worried about paying bills, maintaining your health, or obeying the law. If I were to truly follow my mad impulses and proceed as if there are no earthly consequences, within a month I’d end up penniless and incarcerated with liver failure (and perhaps all types of scary venereal diseases). Given that hedonism remains impractical for the long run, the only sensible course is to make the most of a career in music.

Working for a living. I’m glad I have to work for a living. If you’re doing it right, work gives you much more than money. Work forces you to be involved with life, gives you relationships with people, and offers access to experiences you wouldn’t have if you were living the life of the idle. Aside from love and family, work provides life’s richest aspects.

For example: A week ago I played a fan appreciation show with Randy Owen (the lead singer and principal songwriter for the band Alabama). I met Randy seven years ago, when we worked together on Nashville Star (an Idol-esque singing contest series on NBC/USA). At that time, Alabama was on hiatus, so Randy asked me to put together a band to tour while promoting his solo record. I’ve played with this band on and off for seven years.

Given that hedonism remains impractical for the long run, the only sensible course is to make the most of a career in music.

During these seven years, this band has been through almost everything. Two members battled cancer, some battled debilitating depression, some suffered horrible loss, some got married, and another had kids. We all had our private battles, sorrows, and struggles. But through all of this, we’d get together to play gigs and all of that real-life stuff would move to the back burner for a bit. It was a combination work/therapy/play-cation that made the rough parts of life far more tolerable, while providing us all with a much-needed paycheck. I hate to get mushy/touchy/feely, but today everybody in this band truly loves each other. This all began with the pursuit of money, but led to a much richer life.

In a 2010 Psychology Today blog, Paul Thagard asked the age-old question: What makes life worth living? Popular responses are:

(1) Nothing
(2) Religion
(3) Happiness
(4) Love, work, and play

Thagard goes on to explain: “Evidence from psychology and neuroscience supports the fourth answer ... Neuroscience provides a deeper understanding of how brain processes generate needs for relatedness, autonomy, and competence that can be satisfied by the successful pursuit of love, work, and play. Such satisfaction yields happiness, but even the pursuit is enough to give life meaning.” (You can read Thagard’s entire blog here.)

In short, if you want to make the most of your 30,000 days, you need love, work, and play—three things music conveniently provides. Even if you’re not a professional musician, find some people online in a meetup.com music group. If there aren’t any in your area, start one. Hang out at a music store and find people to play with or go to open mic or jam nights. Find people who seem like a good fit, get their numbers, and meet for a jam. You may feel shy and it may be awkward, but fortune favors the bold. You’ve nothing to lose and much to gain. Working up songs together may give you what you didn’t know you needed. What are you waiting for? 29,999. 29,998. 29,997 . . .

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