If you read this column often you will know that I write a lot about work and vocation, about the choice of profession, about attitude toward one’s chosen path and the dreams and goals that accompany the sincere desire of one who is serious about choosing a line of work that will hold their interest, their energy, their patience and perseverance for as long as they care to pursue it.
There are several reasons why I devote so much time and energy to this subject.
First of all, I do because it holds such a vital importance in my life, coming in right behind, God, family and country.
Secondly, I do because if a person is to have any kind of quality of life, their job and its rewards are the means by which to fulfill at least the financial part of that purpose.
Then, as one who has devoted sixty years of my life doing exactly what I want to do for a livelihood, and who has lived the dream for six decades, I know the value of hard work, good choices and choosing a profession that you can passionately devote your sweat and labor to and basically enjoy every minute of it.
Many times – this means taking some pretty wild chances – flying high without a safety net, working while everybody else is playing and going against the time-honored, “mother knows best” adage.
Now, please don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that mother doesn’t know best in most life experience cases, but when it comes to how you are going to spend half your life and what you’re going to devote it to, neither mother nor father necessarily know best.
Only you can make that decision because if wherever your parents, in all loving intentions want you to go, to pursue a higher education and play it safe, if you can’t take the fire that’s in your belly with you, you shouldn’t go.
If you don’t pursue your dreams, take my word for it, you’re going to find yourself somewhere down the line wondering, “what if.” What if I’d taken a chance on that job with the new, struggling company that has ended up doing so well? What if I’d tied in with that bunch who offered me a chance to chart some unknown territory, or that crazy dreamer I went to high school with who took off to Australia after graduation?
That’s a big question and one that is impossible to answer. Maybe you would have failed miserably or come back home with your tail between your legs, or maybe you would have been successful beyond your wildest dreams.
The problem is, now you’ll never know.
Now, I have absolutely nothing against people who are content with a nine-to-fiver, a house in the suburbs and a membership at the country club. May you thrive and be happy all your years.
But if I’d done what my well-intentioned father wanted, I would have gotten a degree in either civil engineering or forestry and gone into the timber business.
It would have been easier going that route. I could have avoided the nights of little sleep trying to balance my daytime job with a semi-professional career driving one hundred miles round trip to a six night a week gig playing in a beer joint.
I could have managed to have a social life, traveled in the settled circles where civilized people got married, had kids, paid their mortgages and looked forward to retirement.
But the only time when I was happy at work was when I was on stage, and I needed to make a choice as to which fork in the road I would take.
I had a good chance of advancement, security and a normal life if I stayed with my regular job.
I had only the opportunities my band and myself could create for ourselves by bringing people through the door of a honky-tonk in my night time job.
I was actually making more money from my music than from my regular job, and in the summer of 1958, I made my choice and followed my heart’s desire and became a full-fledged professional musician.
If you look at only what is on the surface, you’d probably think that it’s been an easy ride. But what’s hidden below the waterline is countless hours of practice, traveling hundreds of miles, six people to a car, dealing with obstinate musicians with drinking and drug problems, the loneliness of being away from a wife and infant baby for sixteen weeks at a stretch, and much, much more.
The previous paragraph is not complaining. It goes with the territory. I just want everybody to know that the trail to pursuing your dreams is fraught with many pitfalls, setbacks, disappointments and disillusionment, but it’s worth every bit of it when you’re pursuing your dream.
Yes, I could have avoided a lot by traveling the road most taken, but I’d have missed a lot of problems. But as Garth Brooks so poignantly put it, I would have had to miss “the dance.”
So, if you’re a young person just starting out, think seriously about which fork in the road you want to take, and even if it don’t work out, you won’t have to sit around and wonder what would have happened if you had left town with the circus.
What do you think?
Pray for our troops, our police and the peace of Jerusalem.
God Bless America
— Charlie Daniels
Charlie Daniels is a legendary American singer, song writer, guitarist, and fiddler famous for his contributions to country and southern rock music. Daniels has been active as a singer since the early 1950s. He was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry on January 24, 2008.