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.”
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
Wiki "Return To Forever"
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!
ELP: 36 tons of equipment - that's different
- Emerson, Lake & Palmer - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Before settling on Carl Palmer, who at that time was a member of Atomic Rooster, they approached Mitch Mitchell of The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Mitchell was uninterested but passed the idea to Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix, tired of his band and wanting to t
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
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?
Jimmy Schrader still plays weekly!
- BadMannerz - Home
Bad Mannerz - based in Florida
White Summer - James 'n' Jimmy with band
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
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
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!).
Gain personal insights :)
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
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
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 :)