How To Design Our History and Accept Destiny

[ Back by popular demand: Chapter 1 - Chapter 365 Ali :) ]

"The world is but a canvas to the imagination." - Henry David Thoreau

Circumstances may require us to change our entire outlook and career paths these days. Many are tempted to shy away from the 'American Dream' believing, “its different now” or “it was easier for them”, or “I can’t do those things”. Yet is it really any different now than it was then? Is one person or group more capable? What criteria dictate success and/or fame?

Privileged to obtain an interview with one of our own dynamic and extremely successful Hubbers, James A Watkins, I asked what advice he could give for others to realize as great a degree of success as he has achieved. His story parallels many of our own, although he seems to have reached much greater heights. He offers some helpful suggestions that can improve our own journeys of success, as can those who inspired him. Their valuable advice may be even more applicable as we age and are forced to start over.

James, “I believe it’s important for everyone to have something they want to do, or be. Once you discover your natural aptitudes, you have to apply yourself with discipline and practice. Unless incredibly gifted, there are no shortcuts. Even if you are talented, the work has to be put in. So once you figure out what you have a knack for, apply yourself, and don’t give up.

 

SET GOALS

FIGURE OUT WHAT YOU HAVE A KNACK FOR

One day, my dad accepted a set of drums in lieu of an I.O.U. and had them displayed for a quick sale. No one was home when I first saw them, so I sat down to play”. From then on, James Watkins’ natural talent earned him the title of “Boy Wonder”.

He had a dream to sing in a band. With his natural musical ability discovered, desire, practice, discipline, and vision, he began to believe fame in the music industry was his destiny.

APPLY YOURSELF & DESIGN YOUR HISTORY

It is all the rage these days to hire a personal mentor. Then, successful people inspired us, but our mentors in the same context, were from whomever we admired in our own particular field. White Summer Reunion quotes James as saying he was a musician first, and thus he focused on exceptionally talented musicians who changed history with creativity, conviction, and displaying unprecedented momentum - not merely famous personalities...

Their lessons may be eternal.  

Chick Corea - true to his desires

"For years I wanted to..."  Courtesy of Rolling Stone magazine
"For years I wanted to..." Courtesy of Rolling Stone magazine

INSPIRATION EXAMPLE #1 – BE TRUE TO YOURSELF

“Romantic Warrior” was renowned as one of the best fusion albums ever. It helped shape our lives, music and made history. Yet James had an epiphany he wrote about in Rock Music in the 1970s“. This supergroup performed in my hometown on the same night as Kiss. Kiss drew maybe 15,000 fans to see them play simple bar chords while their amazing light show, blazing fireballs, and costumes kept the audience distracted. Return to Forever played in front of perhaps 2500 souls on a simple, stark, white stage wearing casual attire”.

Wikipedia explains a difference between success and fame:

Return to Forever is often seen as the core of jazz fusion music in the 1970s.… In 1972, after becoming a disciple of Scientology, Corea decided that he wanted to "communicate" with the audience. This essentially meant that he wanted to make more commercial music, since avant-garde jazz had a relatively small audience.”

Did Corea “sell out”, or did he simply choose a different avenue truer to his heartfelt goals? In the article, he can be quoted saying, “One thing I’ve missed for years is a vocalist – the songwriting, lyrical part of it… For years I’ve wanted to write solo orchestral concertos… At some point I’ll finish this f-----g project I started 9000 years ago called ‘Children’s Songs.’ ”

ELP - Unique and celebrated in that!

 - courtesy of Rolling Stone
- courtesy of Rolling Stone

INSPIRATION EXAMPLE #2 – CELEBRATE YOUR UNIQUENESS

Carl Palmer’s energy used to amaze James – and all of us!

They too changed history, set records (35 million sold), and reached fame. They would most often play in parks to accommodate Palmer’s 20 tons of equipment (36 tons for the whole group!)...

"Why does the tour need so much equipment?" I (Judith Sims - Rolling Stone) asked. Lake stared defensively. "It doesn't take priority over the music," he said. "We don't have to tour. We sell a million records every time we release one, but we like to tour. I like everything we do... I'm in fact a believer in theatrics. People buy records to listen to music but they come to a concert to be entertained with their eyes and their ears."

"These drums are like a dream," Palmer rhapsodized. "When you get so far in your musical career it's time to make a personalized instrument for yourself; it fits me like a glove."

"Title: Sex and the single organ: Emerson used to hump it, lie under it, plunge knives into it, kick the hell out of it. Was it good for it, too?"

- they were unique and celebrated that.

Mitch left Experience due to money arrangements

Jimi Hendrix - lives on forever
Jimi Hendrix - lives on forever
Mitch Mitchell - well, you decide...  - courtesy of Rolling Stone
Mitch Mitchell - well, you decide... - courtesy of Rolling Stone

INSPIRATION EXAMPLE #3 – DON’T LET IT BE ABOUT THE MONEY

In Rock Music in the 1960s, James said, “When I heard Mitch Mitchell swinging on those drums, I was in open-mouthed awe.”

Mitch Mitchell’s reputation lives on as we can see on YouTube: The legendary Mitch Mitchell pioneered a style of drumming, which would later become known as fusion. This is a "lead" style of playing distinguished by interplay with lead instruments such as guitar or keyboards, and the melding of jazz and rock drumming styles. Alongside Hendrix's revolutionary guitar work and songwriting, Mitchell's playing helped redefine rock music drumming. Mitch Mitchell playing style is like one big solo and sounds far more impressive when it has not intended to be. He does everything he needs within the songs. Mitch Mitchell, the best, the intuitive, the creator of the fusion, the innovator, and versatile drummer ever. R.I.P. Mitch Mitchell. Forever in our hearts.”

He too celebrated his uniqueness, as did Jimi Hendrix. But as an article of the time in Rolling Stone magazine shows, it was all about the money. "Redding and Mitchell were also dissatisfied with the financial sleight of hand of comanager Mike Jeffrey."

"Once you're dead, you've got it made," said Jimi Hendrix, and he wasn't joking. (estimated sales were at 3 million albums internationally in 1992 alone with additional millions generated by publishing royalties, home-video sales, T-shirt merchandising and other deals...)

Maybe to really live on in the hearts and minds of fans, it takes more than one - with many getting a piece of the pie?

White Summer - James 'n' Jimmy with band

1984 White Summer
1984 White Summer
1986 White Summer
1986 White Summer

SET HIGH GOALS AND KEEP GROWING

True to his dream and goals, James hired Jimmy Schrader in 1976. Jimmy too had found his natural talent in guitar playing and would practice endlessly by himself- applying his talent with discipline. Jimmy’s goal was to become as good as, or better than the musicians he admired.

Since White Summer's reunion was on the day after Michael Jackson passed, the subject came up. Although Jimmy had roots from Motown (originally Michigan based), he said he “liked Michael Jackson as a kid in the Jackson 5, but wanting to keep young with surgery turned me off because it was as though he didn’t want to grow”.

This emphasizes an extremely valuable point.

No matter how talented we are,

no matter how much discipline and practice we exercise,

growing personally and in our field with strategic planning is essential.

EXTREMELY VALUABLE TOOL!

CULTIVATE YOUR TRUE STRENGTHS – TAKE OTHERS WITH YOU

Let’s not scoot past one of the most important lessons mentioned though. Just because every opportunity is available at our fingertips, just because we have access to learn or do everything ourselves, does not mean we should try. James not only hired fellow players (his mastermind group), he also hired managers and roadies to fulfill his dream.

Discovering and practicing our talents with discipline leaves little room for wasting time trying to do all the things we are not good at. The “Strengths Finder” has surveyed millions and concluded that even in our upbringing and schools, we are trained to focus on and improve in areas we have little or no aptitude for.

With the internet, everyone seems to be trying to do it all – be creative and run the business aspects or marketing. When selling art it became apparent to me that the artists who tried to sell their own work, failed miserably – CREATIVITY was their forte, not public relations. For decades in network marketing, this concept has been misinterpreted to believe that one person can succeed by doing it all. It just will not happen – we cannot be good at everything – we need other people.

We have to offer something unique or could be eclipsed

Rolling Stone magazine. This may be even more appropriate these days...
Rolling Stone magazine. This may be even more appropriate these days...

TRENDS/ CIRCUMSTANCES

Around the time James discovered his musical talent on the drums, Jon Landau, a writer for Rolling Stone magazine, explained his view of some musical trends at that time: “One of the dominant qualities of the popular music media that emerged in 1967 was the speed with which some new trends could be created, disseminated, and be eclipsed.

Whole styles can come and go in a matter of months… People who can relate to the blues as the basic element of their musical diet are not constantly searching for new extensions…

With this comment, today, just as it was then, we have to offer an edge, something different, something unique that only we can give to the world or we may be “eclipsed” in months. So how do we find that unique, something different?

Janis Joplin - felt deeply

"I've made feeling work for me..."
"I've made feeling work for me..."
"If I hold back, I'm no good now..."
"If I hold back, I'm no good now..."

INSPIRATION EXAMPLE #4 – FEEL IT ‘NOW’!

James said, “Most guys didn’t care that Janis Joplin was ugly [ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JjD4eWEUgMM ] they heard that voice and dug the sound.

Janis clearly knew what she wanted. Perhaps she grew to realize that it was her fans that helped her succeed, despite singing “…with no help from my friends”. In her own words though, she reveals another key that many of us miss – that is the intensity of feelings legendary creativity require:

“In April, 1968, shortly after Janis hit New York for the first time, she told writer Nat Hentoff: “I never seemed to be able to control my feelings, to keep them down… my mother would try to get me to be like everybody else… And I never would. But before getting into this band, it tore my life apart. When you feel that much, you have super horrible downs. I was always victim to myself. Now though, I’ve made feeling work for me… Maybe I won’t last as long as other singers, but I think YOU CAN DESTROY YOUR NOW BY WORRYING ABOUT TOMORROW. If I hold back, I’m no good now, and I’d rather be good sometimes than holding back all the time…” (R.I.P. J.J. – we will always love you!).

open up to others

White Summer Reunion touches a little on the “Secret Language of Destiny” for each of the men in that band. It is a fascinating book and as much as we would all like to disprove the unusual, in the last 10 years, it has proven to be as enlightening as metaphysics with individualized insight. For our purposes, let me specifically focus on a point it suggests for James that we can all utilize:

One peril is believing that one has no freedom of will in the face of larger forces, thus declining to choose to be the master of one’s destiny and leaving oneself open to fate… The more direct and well articulated the message these souls have to share, the further they will progress along their karmic path, so they should be given every encouragement to open themselves more fully to others.”

Alvin Lee - true example of what our destiny ought to look like

- courtesy of Rolling Stone
- courtesy of Rolling Stone

INSPIRATION EXAMPLE #5 – WELCOME CHANGE & HAVE FUN!

“Alvin Lee didn’t have any teeth when he played “I’m Goin’ Home [to see my baby] - it didn’t matter - it was fantastic! Alvin Lee did not grace any teenage girls’ bedroom walls – I guarantee it… WOW – that dude can rip”. - James

“…after five or six years the fun went out of [TYA] for me, a lot of the music went out of it. And,” he smiles shyly, “all I wanted to be was a musician. With this new band I feel relaxed. I have enough freedom that I don’t feel pigeonholed anymore…

This band is just good fun. The excitement of not knowing what will happen next is great; it’s a welcome change. It really is like going back to the roots; feeling enjoyment in the music again is how TYA (Ten Years After) used to feel.”

If what you are doing now is not fulfilling, welcome change.

Multi-aptitudinal and inspiring fellow Hubber James

James singing at reunion in Michigan June 2009
James singing at reunion in Michigan June 2009
just a small aviation business to 144 employees. Now that's bouncing back with gusto!
just a small aviation business to 144 employees. Now that's bouncing back with gusto!
See: "Rock Music in the 1970s" by James
See: "Rock Music in the 1970s" by James

Accepting destiny and moving forward with added insight/wisdom

Perhaps James (as I know I have had to for sure), found out the hard way that one is either being creative by opening up to deep feelings, or running a business. Although extremely talented with music, running the business aspect of it and playing drums may not have been fun anymore. James moved on with other aptitudes and, once again applying himself with discipline, set new records:

After beating my head against the wall in [the music] industry for 20 years, I quit playing music and in 1996, started a little business in Aviation. Pretty soon we were flying the people with the very careers I thought I would have around the world in private jets of ours -John Travolta, Matt Damon, Alex Rodriquez, Willie Nelson, Van Halen, Al Gore, Jesse Jackson, George W. Bush, George Sr., Yianni, Jackson Brown, Whitney Houston… I built it into 5 companies, one at a time, until we had 144 employees and grossing $53M a year”.

James said his next goal is to finish the book he started about 5 years ago. As with Chick Corea, perhaps he has now found a calling deeply true to himself that will take all the emotion and love he can give. His book is about the life he lived in the band. He added that he’s glad he didn’t finish and publish it then because he’s learned so much in the years since. Now he can share not only what they did, but with added spiritual insight, “why they did what they did”.

Thank you for the interview James! I very much look forward to reading your book. I can attest to the fact that you continue to be an inspiration! Please remember to - HAVE FUN :)

 

Hope you have enjoyed James' life examples and find them inspiring and helpful.

As a final touch, please review the following video as often as you want to, for that little boost or reminder we could all use from time to time :)

More by this Author


Comments 26 comments

Hawkesdream profile image

Hawkesdream 7 years ago from Cornwall

Hi Sem, deff gonna come back and reread, so much information to take in, great research , also I find James an inspiration too.

bookmarking!!


SEM Pro profile image

SEM Pro 7 years ago from North America Author

Thanks Hawkesdream and you're right. The interview with James in MI was so extensive, could have written about 5 hubs on it. Plus, just got that Rolling Stone - 40 years worth. The only time I'd seen it offered before was on our Public Broadcasting as a gift at $300. Amazon has it for 34.99 - wow - should have looked before lol. It's great.

I was a DJ when James was in White Summer - went to hundreds of concerts, had my own mini studio and was blessed to be in on a few album productions in a studio. His reunion re-ignited a whole aspect of my life that had been dormant.

Looking forward to hearing what you have to say when you return :) Thanks for stopping by - always glad to hear from you!


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago

SEM Pro— This is a great essay.  I am humbled and flattered to be a part of it.  You are an excellent writer and a wonderful person.  It was a pleasure to meet you in person.  I haven't punched up all these links yet but I will come back and do so and then comment further.  Thanks much!


SEM Pro profile image

SEM Pro 7 years ago from North America Author

Thank you so much dear Sir. It's you really, you're the one who is so inspiring! I didn't add a single person or band you hadn't mentioned - just perhaps a jewel or two of what motivated them from historical articles :)

The 212 degrees couldn't help but spring to mind after meeting you. I look forward to any further discussions. Your own writings have always made me want to chat at length. It's my honor to know you James.


Pearldiver profile image

Pearldiver 7 years ago from Tomorrow - In Words & NZ Time.

Cool.. This takes a lot of reading Sylvia.. I'll be back to enjoy this soon. Then I can mark you up again too.


SEM Pro profile image

SEM Pro 7 years ago from North America Author

Thanks for coming by Pearldiver - it's good to see you again! With the articles having to be in jpg instead of bitmaps, don't believe one can read them clearly - they may have to be referenced by getting the Rolling Stone special. Is that available down under? Did my best to put the pertinent phrases in the text.

By the comments, I ought to have made this much shorter :( Sorry - it became a labor of love... I look forward to hearing your views when you return Rob.

BTW - Janis' Mercedes Benz was supposed to set a little lighter tone


Kidgas profile image

Kidgas 7 years ago from Indianapolis

Very nice. You are a gifted writer. Love Jimi Hendrix.


SEM Pro profile image

SEM Pro 7 years ago from North America Author

Thank you so much Kidgas. Appreciate you stopping by and you're not in love alone :)


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago

I'm going to email this link to my friends so that can read this. You are a wonderful writer. Thank you very much.


SEM Pro profile image

SEM Pro 7 years ago from North America Author

Thanks James - without a single change? You are special dear Sir. As the song goes, I do hope you find the dream that "will take all the love you can give". You deserve to have it returned tenfold.

Perhaps though, if you get back into music, you too will make a drum set that fits you like a glove? Can't imagine carting around 20 tons worth but Carl Palmer sure did create unique sounds - sounded like a whole darn orchestra! Just the right percussion, at the least expected but perfect second... whew

Even I would have loved to jam with the set he had. Bongos and wine bottles are about all I've tackled - and even then, had to empty some of the bottle myself first. The only exception was one time in the Universal Garden (between US and Canada) when the Aurora Borealis danced in the sky - God's gift to be sure. You could make that happen if you set your mind to it I bet. Magic - you're good at magic James - don't forget that :)


DGMischSr profile image

DGMischSr 7 years ago from Maricopa, AZ

Damn James I love the pictures when we were younger. We really kicked butt then. Can't wait for 2010 Reunion. I'll be there for sure no matter how far I have to travel.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago

DGMischSr! They let anybody in here!? (That's Danny on the left in the 1984 WS pic.) Fine bassist and singer he still is. I told you to join us Danny! SEM Pro— I just re-read this and you are a gifted interviewer and writer! BTW—my drums DID fit me like a glove. I played with my eyes closed—they had to! I am listening to Romantic Warrior right now. Amazing! My favorite album of all time. Thanks for including it! And for everything. My new friend. Ten Years After! Beautiful song of the times. I love the aviation photo you chose too. Gorgeous, eh?And your quotes about Mitch. Perfect!


SEM Pro profile image

SEM Pro 7 years ago from North America Author

Danny thank you for stopping by and commenting! Sorry I missed hearing and meeting you. The picture of you does look great :) Hope thousands come to see you next year!


SEM Pro profile image

SEM Pro 7 years ago from North America Author

Your compliment warms my heart and motivates me to write more James - thank you so much. Yes, my mistake, playing with your eyes closed would require a tight fit. Glad you enjoyed the links. Thank you too for turning me onto Romantic Warrior - it is a sad reflection of the times that I'd never heard them before. The photo is indeed gorgeous.

Might take a little research but it would be great to hear "where they are now" concerning your inspirational models in your book. I didn't do that for this hub but sure would like to know - as would everyone I'm sure. Maybe you'll consider that so your book could become a timeless movie too - they deserve to be remembered with their own added insight and wisdom. 


Ken Carnegie 7 years ago

Hello Sem Pro, James told me you were an excellent writer. After reading the two Blogs on White Summer and my good friend James Watkins, "He was right" . I also traveled to Czars to watch the show. When James told me they were doing a reunion tour I knew I had to attend. I flew from Anderson SC, I also had the privilege of attending his family reunion that same weekend. I worked for James for 6 years as an aircraft mechanic/inspector. We just seemed to hit it off right away after I hired on. I also had the privilege of meeting and watching the King Jimmy and the White Summer band a couple of times in Florida many years ago. Adam Watkins "His Son" is also a good friend of mine, And James has taught him well on the drums. James traveled to my home in SC a few months ago and I was able to introduce him to my friends and they all were thrilled to meet him.We had the best of time. James is a very smart and talented guy and I am glad to know him. Ken Carnegie


SEM Pro profile image

SEM Pro 7 years ago from North America Author

Hi Ken - I heard you were coming from Anderson. I've been there for a gymnastics competition for my daughter. I was looking forward to meeting you - sorry I didn't get the chance. James' eyes sparkled whenever he mentioned you - verifying how special you are and how much you mean to him. Glad you made it. You have great taste in friends! Perhaps we'll get to meet next time - or you can join us for a trip to FL?

Thank you for stopping by and commenting! And for your wonderful compliment. I'm sure our writing improves when we have such great subjects to write about :)


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago

Whoops! I made a big mistake! That is Danny on the left in the 1986 picture. Tragically, the guy on the left in the 1984 photo, killed himself about 6 years later.


SEM Pro profile image

SEM Pro 7 years ago from North America Author

Wow - I am so sorry James. Some can say callously that suicide is a "cop out" but I'm sure those who knew anyone who hurt that much, cannot help but feel anguish for not being called before giving up on life itself.

Danny didn't address me personally and probably won't be back so I can say freely - YUM. Bet all the girls said that about you guys though. If it was going to go to his head, it went then LOL. Still haven't figured out how you concluded you had an "ugly" band - at any time.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago

Danny lives in Bradenton but he is planning a move to Phoenix. He's a great guy and a pretty good writer. Maybe I'll put a couple of his songs on a future Hub—from our 3rd album. That's the one he's on.


SEM Pro profile image

SEM Pro 7 years ago from North America Author

Don't tease us now James - can we expect that "future Hub" soon? I look forward to hearing them, It's beginning to sound as though a reunion in AZ might be a wonderful and viable plan!

Did you get my emails about Robin Trower's tour? If you want any help with an interview - have car, can travel...


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago

Arizona is a possibility, though we would have few fans there.  I did see that email.  I don't think I will be interviewing him.  I might want to see the concert though.  I'll have to see how things are when the date gets closer.

The Hub with Danny will have to get in line. :-) I have my next two planned out for whenever I find time to create the "videos."  The "Red Album" (with Danny) was back in 1982 and come to think of it he is also on our mini-album of 1978 (6 songs).  The sound quality isn't as good on those because they were only released on cassette and well, that is not a great medium.


SEM Pro profile image

SEM Pro 7 years ago from North America Author

Well you know best and I too have hubs lined up. Guess we'll just have to wait with that teaser in the back of our minds.

The cassette quality, or lack thereof, is what I've been attempting to find a solution for myself. As a dj from vinyl times, when we paid close attention in case their was an unexpected scratch, quality of the music is ingrained. I know not everyone thinks this way though or 8 tracks never would have made it past the drawing board!

With new technology, returning to the old leaves much to be desired i.e. once we've seen "blue ray", analog and digital just aren't the same. That follows the same train of thought as we had in person - once you've created in a sound studio, you hear all music with a more in tune ear and enhanced appreciation.

Returning to the title's mission, perhaps there's another hub there too: does the next goal have to be bigger than the last? Or just better quality? With technological advances as the example, our new goals might need to be smaller, but contain much more with great quality :)


loua profile image

loua 7 years ago from Elsewhere, visiting Earth ~ the segregated community planet

Incredible compilation; where is your instruction guide?

Thanks for being you...


SEM Pro profile image

SEM Pro 7 years ago from North America Author

Aloha again loua - so glad you came by to read and comment. Your comments are warm embraces of inspiration. I believe you have the same guide :) Thank you!


R. J. Lefebvre 4 years ago

SEM Pro,

I usually devote my attention to the short and sweet. Your hub kept me in tune. I have an a affection for folk thruogh to classical, however my wide interests has taken over, leaving me as a bystander. Thanks never the less.

Ronnie


SEM Pro profile image

SEM Pro 4 years ago from North America Author

Thanks for stopping by and commenting Ronnie :) Everything is relative they say. "Tweets" are indeed short and sweet but often irrelevent in the grander scheme of things; books are long but these days demands on our time can get in the way of reading them in their entirety. Hubs with depth are a happy medium. This one was written to honor James Watkins after an interview - hopefully to gain insight on an attitude of success. I too have wide interests but know focus in one direction is a key to rising above.

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