When you’re actively seeking it, inspiration for life coaching, career and transition coaching, and everyday living comes from many places.
Given my own “music composer” side, I tuned in to Katie Couric’s recent Grammy Awards special where she interviewed several popular music stars. Among them was Lil’ Wayne, a hip-hop/rap artist known for his fiercely independent image.
What impressed me was the energy with which he pursues what he loves. He is so passionate about his creative work that he has the phrase “I am music” tattooed above one of his eyes.
Later in the interview, Couric pressed Wayne on a few more controversial elements of his lifestyle, including a few arrests for marijuana possession. He explained, “I am a rapper…I’m a gangsta…and I do what I want.”
Couric then noted that with his level of visibility, he might be considered a role model by many. To this, he suggested rather bluntly that if people really need an example for how to live, then they shouldn’t have been born.
When I hear someone talking about the “gangsta” lifestyle, some dangerous and not-so-nice things come to mind, such as anger and violence. In that world, many venture beyond occasional recreational use of substances into addictions and numbing of pain and fear.
Also, there undoubtedly are many youth who look to Lil’ Wayne and other musicians for a sense of identity. I don’t agree that seeking role models for some degree of guidance is a sign of weakness.
At the same time, I also don’t like to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Beyond the surface of Lil’ Wayne’s message and energy, there is some truth that may be applicable to many of us.
Renknowned self-empowerment guru Dr. Wayne W. Dyer, a 60-something Caucasian with a Baby Boomer-Yuppie and simple living appeal, has a strikingly different appearance than the heavily tattooed, jewelry-bearing Lil’ Wayne. However, some of the two Waynes’ thoughts run parallel, and tie into those of a renowned spiritual philosopher.
My mom had recently read Dyer’s Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao. She shared with me an excerpt that I’ve found particularly relevant, and that promptly led me to the library to check out Dyer’s book in more detail. Leave it to good old mom to chime in with those well-timed nuggets of wisdom from time to time.
Mom knew that a struggle in my own life – and one that I work with others on – has been to strike a balance between doing good in the world, fully utilizing and enjoying my talents, and earning a living.
Lately, I’ve been feeling a greater pull to focus more upon some of my creative interests like music composition, interests I’ve had since a very young age but largely pushed aside due to “practical” concerns like pursuing a stable and respected career. Alongside my bookishness and nerdiness, years ago I was in African drumming and hip-hop dance groups, and was long considered the best beatboxer (vocal percussionist) in my schools.
In his book, Dyer draws upon the Taoist teachings of Lao Tzu, including the “38th Verse of the Tao.” I had read portions of the Tao Te Ching years ago for an Eastern Religions course, but at that time I apparently wasn’t ready for this information.
The 38th Verse of the Tao, as cited by Dyer, includes the following:
“A truly good man is not aware of his goodness and is therefore good.
A foolish man tries to be good and is therefore not good.
…The highest virtue is to act without a sense of self.
The highest kindness is to give without condition.
The highest justice is to see without preference.
…The great master follows his own nature and not the trappings of life…”
A key message in Lao Tzu’s writing and Dyer’s analysis is that we sometimes become so caught up with trying to look like a “good person” rather than a “bad person” in light of societal expectations that we lose sight of our nature – and we may forget how to be ourselves. We may, as I think Lil’ Wayne intended to convey, look a bit too much to others to determine how we should live.
If we take this tendency too far, it can reduce the power and energy we share with the world, our sense of connectnedness to all things, and often our inclination to act in an innately good way. As I’ve written in Naked Idealism, I’m guilty of doing this in my own life.
Another spark of enlightenment I take from Dyer and Lao Tzu’s words is that we sometimes squelch our talents, and withhold from sharing them more freely with the world, because we fear that we may get little in return. Or, we fear that the conditions we expect in our mind won’t be met. I believe this is what I’ve done with music composition.
The truth is that we might not get what we expected, we might get something completely different, or we might experience a delayed return in response to our actions.
In some ways this different way of thinking might be considered selfish, as we’re disregarding many societal expectations. It might even be considered rebellious, or in some ways “gangsta like.” In other ways, it’s very selfless in that we must let go of our ego and stop worrying so much about what others think. This helps us to be more authentic.
Being a little more rebellious can be good for us, provided we’re engaging in courageous behavior that is truly an expression of our nature, and is not merely an attempt to mask fears, hide pain, or numb the ego that is concerned about what others think of us.
While some actions of exceptionally rebellious-seeming individuals like Lil’ Wayne might be questionable in terms of their healthiness, who are we to judge? He’s spending a great deal of his time doing what he loves, and being very successful at it, regardless of whether we agree with all of his messages. Perhaps the underlying energy of independence and connection to one’s nature is something we could all use a bit more of.
Do you often find yourself overly concerned with what the world thinks of you, and whether you’re being good enough? What are two or three things you can do over the next week to become a “gangsta of the Tao”?
Photo by Flickr user Lucas. Size and contrast adjusted. License.