Lately I have been spending a lot of time thinking about my life; what I have done, what I have not done and where my choices have taken me. I have been thinking a lot in terms of success. What is success? How do we measure it and what exactly would I describe as “successful”? Everywhere around me, it seems success is measured in money and possessions, connections and some sort of collecting of competitive facts for our life resume.
I keep seeing charts and lists about the average income, rent and education in the different parts of Austin, this city that I love and I feel a disconnect from reality. Who are these people making all this money, or maybe rather – how come I make so little, and by the way, why should I have to spend so much time thinking about money? Is having money success?
I believe that being a good, honest, compassionate human being equals success. I try to practice this all the time. Whenever I have been through tough times in my life, no matter what it might be, I always find time and energy to be there for others, if they need me. Often, it seems that people don’t do the same. Many times, my wife and I have been there for others going through crisis, but when we have a rough time, suddenly those same people seem to disappear. It hurts, but I could never do it any other way. I know how much it means to have someone listen when you need to talk and get your worries off your chest. If I can be that someone, I will. My wife is the same, if not more so than me. A long time ago, there was a guy who played music with me. He had decided that he did not like y wife and he made sure it showed. Yet, when his sister passed away, my wife was the one who called around to collect money to get flowers for her funeral. At the time, I didn’t understand why she wanted to do that, but I understand now. Sometimes doing the right thing might be hard at the time, but I have found more and more that it gives me energy and it enriches my life. It has forced me to make difficult decisions, but at the end of the day it has made me a richer man.
Once upon a time I was somebody others thought was successful. I had a band, my music was played a lot on national radio, I did interviews with countless newspapers and magazines, I was on TV and I was on the “who’s hot and who’s not” type of lists, I was on the cover of the biggest newspaper in Sweden, I was even nominated for a Grammy. I toured extensively throughout Europe and was celebrated in many reviews of the albums I wrote. I am extremely proud of all that, obviously, but at the same time I look back at it and I wonder what it all meant? The people I had around me then are all gone. In terms of building lasting friendships, it was all pretty unsuccessful, I must say.
Every now and then I will get an email from someone who used to listen to my music, telling me how much it meant to him or her at some point in life and those emails mean the world to me, they really do. It means that what I did all those years really did make a difference. I was never involved in my community, I never had any feelings of love towards the city I lived in. I liked it there, sure, but I never felt like I really wanted to be a part of making it better. I didn’t care. Since moving to Austin, since giving up on everything I had in my previous life in Sweden, and literally giving away most of my material possessions, including most of my instruments (something I really never imagined I would EVER do), my perspective on what is important in life has really changed. I think I have a greater understanding of the real meaning of home. I see the guys standing by the viaducts and overpasses on Mopac and I35, holding up signs saying “Anything helps” etc and I can somehow relate to them. I relate more to those guys than I did with the people at the Grammy Awards in Stockholm back in 2004. Having a place to live, a safe haven, is so important. Sometimes we forget, we’re busy shopping for a new Iphone or getting a good deal on that new flat screen TV that Walmart are almost “giving away”.
Now, once more I have to look for a home, for reasons I won’t get into here. There was a situation, several situations, and I tried to do the right thing and it has jumped up and bit me in the ass, real good. But you know what? If the same situation occurred in the future, I would do the same thing. The right thing. If all of us did the right thing all of the time, the world would be a better place. All I can do is try. Try to do the right thing. Try to be a good human being.
That, to me, is success
Firestation on Blanco.
Colorpencil on paper