Obsession - Why Do We Think This Is a Bad Thing?
Before I start writing this, I want to give thanks to the inspiration for this blog. I am not a huge reader, but have been reading a book by one of my favorite sports personalities, Colin Cowherd. If you want to read a great book that talks about sports in a very different way, I'd suggest ordering "You Herd Me! I'll Say It If Nobody Else Will." Thanks, Colin, for the inspiration for this blog.
One of the things that so many of my friends and colleagues say to me is, "Andy, you always seem to be doing something. Don't you wish that you had more balance in your life? You know, more time to hang out with friends, relax, and be happy?"
That's very true, I am not a person who handles lots of downtime well. Generally speaking, I have always enjoyed life more when I am busy, running from one thing to the next. In a typical day now, I might teach 3-4 students, rehearse or perform with a group, and conduct a pep band, all in one day. There are very few days on my calendar that have nothing on them. When I do have days like that, I generally try to fill them.
Why do I do this? Why am I always wanting to be busy? Shouldn't I want more balance in my life? Is balance really a key to happiness?
Lots of research has been done in recent years to find out what truly makes people happy. It's amazing to read the different results of these studies. Some suggest that independence, sex, and exercise as some of the most common ways people can overcome depression and gain happiness. Other studies suggest diet, regular sleep, and charity work are solutions to sustained happiness.
But none of the studies that I have been able to find list balance as a method to sustain happiness.
Think about it, everything that we have around us, from televisions to houses, classical music to Smartphones, all came from people that were passionate about what they do. When interviewees discuss what they are looking for in a new hire, words often used are "Attentive, committed, dedicated, diligent." Where is the word balance?
Let's look at popular culture. The vast majority of people that we idolize in this world, such as LeBron James, Steve Jobs, Warren Buffet, Yo-Yo Ma, and others. Do you think that they have had long periods of balance in their lives? Do you think LeBron James ever said, "I think I'm going to take a break from practicing my jump shot, so I can stay happy and have balance in my life."
So why is it that so many of us think that balance is a key to happiness?
In my experience, the people that seem to be obsessively dedicated to something seem to be able to handle the minor ups and downs in life with much more ease than those who aren't passionate about things. I think that those who are more dedicated to something in life seem to take these ups and downs as challenges, and not as something that could potentially derail them.
Find what it is that you truly love, and be obsessive. Sure, no one is suggesting that starting at a Powerpoint presentation all day is good for you, or that you should never leave work early for a golf outing with your friends, but truly, finding things that you are passionate about can really make you happy.
When I was an undergraduate student, I remember the many days that I could have spent out partying with my friends, I spent them practicing, listening to music, or reading about music. Sure, I took time to hang out with my friends, play video games, and do other things, but more often than not, I was obsessive about my music.
When you perform, one of the greatest quotes I've ever heard was from Mark Hetzler, who is Associate Professor of Trombone at the University of Wisconsin. He told a student, "Offend me with your musicality." When I heard this comment, I remember vividly thinking that the musicians that I always connected with most were so overtly musical. I think this quote is great advice for all of us.
I hope you have found this post to be thought provoking. I am really looking forward to hearing what others think about this. One last quote to finish
"What moves those of genius, what inspires their work is not new ideas, but their obsession with the idea that what has already been said is still not enough." - Eugene Delacroix
Andrew Smith currently serves as the Director of Athletic Bands at and Assistant Professor of Low Brass at Campbell University and is Principal Tuba of the Fayetteville Symphony. Andrew also maintains a low brass teaching studio in the Triangle region of North Carolina.