Life Versus Livelihood
by: Bob Dare
Harry Chapin was a balladeer. He wrote a number of songs that spoke of life, living, people and relationships. One of my favorites is “Mr Tanner”. It is a story of a humble man in the Midwest who is a drycleaner. Mr Tanner is happy with his profession but he is also gifted with the talent to sing. The local people persuade him “to pursue music fulltime.” He finally capitulates but in the end the attempt fails because of a professional critic who is unkind in his review of Mr Tanner’s ability. My favorite line of “Mr Tanner” is, “Music was his life, it was not his livelihood”. Mr Tanner returns to his dry-cleaning business and to singing as his passion and, as the lyrics say, “…. he sang from his heart, and he sang from his soul. He did not know how well he sang, it just made him whole.”
I was listening to “Mr Tanner” the other day and it occurred to me that probably there are many of us who have a talent, a capability, a “life” that does not connect to what we have chosen for our livelihood, but unlike Mr Tanner who was perfectly content with dry-cleaning and found personal joy in his singing, we allow our livelihood to be our “life”. We make plans to enjoy our “life” just as soon as _____________. (You can fill in the blank)
The problem is that while we are mired in our livelihood, before we know it we have missed opportunity after opportunity to experience the joy, happiness and rewards that are found in our “life”. Unlike Mr Tanner we can’t find the balance needed to enjoy each day as we should. We find temporary outlets that we believe will provide relief from “the grind” but we soon grow tired or lose interest as we “have to” give priority to making a living. Before we know it, days become weeks, weeks become months and months become years and our livelihood has stolen our life.
So, let me ask you, what is your “life”? Is it balanced with your livelihood? Is there a hidden talent or desire inside you that you have been holding back until, “just as soon as ___________”? Is there something you can give or do that will bring you real joy, happiness and sense of worth? I believe that each of us has the ability to do something special, to make a meaningful difference. We just have to take a moment, step back from our daily routines and be introspective. Wouldn’t it be a shame if after we have departed this world others are heard remarking, “He was always going to do that just as soon as ___________”?
Why not take the steps now to ensure that those words are never spoken of you? Don’t let your livelihood rule your life. It is never too late to make a positive change that will bring happiness and joy to you and those around you.
True Growth Takeaway: Don’t let your livelihood keep you from living your life.
Journal Question: Are you living your life? If not, what changes do you need to make?
About the Author: Bob Dare served 28 years in the United States Army. He held every noncommissioned officer leadership position culminating with his last three assignments as Command Sergeant Major for the 25th Infantry Division, United States Army Pacific Command and United States Army Forces Command. Bob is also an executive coach and facilitator for LWM III Consulting.