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It’s Got to Be the Going, Not the Getting There That

One of my favorite singers and songwriters was Harry Chapin.  You might know him from his number one hit, “Cats in the Cradle”, a song about a father’s frequent absence from his young son.   I had the pleasure of seeing Chapin in concert decades ago at the Jersey shore and have thoroughly enjoyed reconnecting to his music via old concert clips on YouTube.

I was reminded of just how humble and down-to-earth Harry was as a performer when he took questions from the audience in between sets.  An audience member asked Harry if he smiled while he was sleeping because he always seemed so extremely happy singing on stage.  Harry’s answer was profound. I not only went back and listened to it multiple times, I took notes.

Harry talked about; 1) the importance of finding a career where you enjoy the work. Then he cited a line from an old Greyhound Bus commercial; “It’s got to be the going, not the getting there that’s good”. Chapin’s philosophy was; 2) find a career that you’re willing to be bad at for a while. He added, “I can say with a certain amount of honesty that I’ve written about 200-300 really horrible songs.  It took ten years of wading through those and that learning experience before anybody started paying attention to me.  But I enjoyed the process”.  And; 3) Be willing to stick your neck out and risk making an ass of yourself. “I’ve done it about a million times, and I’m sure I’ll do it another million”.

What followed was the most prophetic advice of all. “The thing that you learn in life, strangely enough, is that if you’re not willing to take all those little risks for making a fool of yourself as you go along, you’re taking the biggest risk of all.  That is, at age 60 or 70 or whatever, that you haven’t tried all of the things that you want to try—so you’re taking the risk of not having a full life.  So, yeah, I try and smile”.

Sadly, Harry Chapin never reached the age of 60 or 70.  He died at the young age of 38, on route to a performance.  His words proved prophetic because he did indeed, live fully, in a career that kept him continually smiling.

What about you?

Are you playing it safe with your career…and your life?  Will you arrive at age 60 or 70 with regrets for not sticking your neck out and making mistakes?

As Harry’s life attests to, tomorrow is not promised to any of us.  So, what are you willing to do…and not do?  Whatever your choices, remember, “it’s got to be the going, not the getting there that’s good”.