It was November, 1971 when Jim stepped foot on Key West for the first time. His friends Jerry and Theresa had brought him there in the midst of his crumbling marriage, to get away from his troubles and the cold of winter for a while. Jim would turn 25 that Christmas, and though he had managed to earn a Bachelor’s degree in history, and find a decent job reporting in Nashville for Billboard Magazine, his life wasn’t what he had hoped it would be financially or relationally. He felt like his life was wasting away.
The problem was, He really didn’t know what he wanted to be when he grew up. He had started playing guitar with a band in college. He had even managed to record an album the year before, but it hadn’t really sold much. He had been busking (playing guitar and singing on street corners for tips) in New Orleans quite a bit over the last year, and he had hoped to try his luck doing more of that in the Keys.
The trio’s first stop was the Chart Room bar, where the bartender, Tom Corcoran, gave Jim his first beer on the house as a welcome to Key West. Jim took this welcome as a sign of great things to come, and stayed in Key West for three years.
For three years, Jim played for change in and around the Chart Room bar. Occasionally, he was joined by friends who would visit, like Steve Goodman (who had just written The City of New Orleans, but hadn’t yet sold it to Arlo Guthrie) and the legendary Jim Croce, who would die in a plane crash just a year later. Jim played country, rock, and pop music for the ever-changing vacation crowd. And as he did, he began to get a feel for the crowd, the island, and the perpetual mood of escapism, party, and drink. At the same time, he deepened his appreciation of the Caribbean music so common on Key West at that time. And he began to incorporate that sound in his own music. Along the way, he developed something unique and powerful. A whole new genre of music, as it turned out. And a multimillion dollar business empire.
How do you experience the perfect life for you? A huge part of the answer to that question has to do with how you make money, and how much money you make. And for almost everyone, having control over how we make money, and making enough money for a good life means we choose to run our own business. No one is going to pay you as well as you would. And no one is going to value your contribution like you will. But more important that either of those factors, no one is going to encourage you to do your own thing if you’re doing their thing. So to have a better shot at a great life, you’ll probably want to start your own business. Of course, starting your own business isn’t just about getting paid well. It’s mostly about having creative control over what you do, and when and how you do it.
So how do you start the perfect business? You’ve thought about it, right? Lots of people want to be entrepreneurs, business owners, and empire builders (especially online), but have no idea of what to do or how to do it. It’s easy to imagine what your life would be like once you had a prosperous business that you could run with little effort from anywhere in the world. You can picture how much more you would enjoy your life. You can envision how much better you would feel about yourself. You can dream of how your financial situation would change. You can imagine what it would be like to set your own schedule, make all your own choices over what you did and didn’t do, or maybe just never get stuck in rush hour traffic again.
But if you’re like most people, you either have no clue, or only a very fuzzy picture of what you would do or how you would actually make money at it. Or if you’re like many entrepreneurs, and like Jim, you’ve already been enjoying the ability to call all your own shots for a while, but you’re still living month-to-month or season to season. Maybe you’ve even built some passive income, but it either isn’t enough, or isn’t consistent, or neither.
For years I struggled with things like these, like Jim did. Like you probably do. I owned dozens of businesses. And many of them did very well. But for twenty years I lived season to season, always looking for more. Then I discovered something simple but profound that changed my life forever.
And that seems to be a reality of having creative control over what you do, and how and when you do it. Even if you don’t know what you want to be when you grow up, you get to pursue what you like. You get to play with ideas, and experiment with your actions, at least some of the time. And when you pursue your creativity, and take control of your time and energy, you make it possible for magic to happen.
Over the years, Jim crafted and honed the unique Caribbean, country, rock sound that he called drunken Caribbean rock and roll, that eventually came to be known as Gulf and Western music. It took another six years and four more albums for Jim to write what would come to be known as his theme song. Since then, Jimmy Buffet has built a multimillion dollar empire out of that one song, Margaritaville.
The first step of creating the perfect business for you is to ask yourself, “Who am I?” And then be completely honest with your answer. Get help if you need to. Jim decided he was a songwriter and musician. No one told him he could do that, he just did it. Had he asked, someone might have pointed out that he should pursue a career more aligned with his history degree. I’ve struggled with that same question, ‘Who am I?’ Chances are, you have too.
After ages of struggling to get ahead I used that question, “Who are you?” to create massive change in everything I was doing. I realized that there was one very specific thing that always kept me from doing my best and making the most of my life. And once I dealt with that one thing, the problems I seemed to face over and over started falling one by one before me like a really big, really fun domino line. One after another I was able to knock down everything that stood between me and the things I wanted to do, become, and experience in my life. All because I changed just one thing. And that one thing was me.
I had the power to make the changes I wanted all along, I just didn’t realize what I was doing wrong, and what I wasn’t doing right. I didn’t realize how frequently I chose to believe that I had no choice, or chose not to choose, or simply chose the path that seemed most conventional and safe, and kept me focused on conforming to other people’s goals instead of setting my own.
It wasn’t that reaching for my own goals was impossible, I just didn’t know how to make it possible for me. And the reason I didn’t know how to make it possible for me, is because I didn’t really know the answer to that question. (Who am I?) But once I answered that question, I immediately began to answer an even more important question.
Knowing who you are is tremendously important. At that time, I could describe all sorts of stuff about myself, but all of that didn’t fully answer the question of who I was. I could list degrees and achievements, but that didn’t do it. I could express how I felt about the people who were most important to me, and what I wanted to do for them. But that didn’t help me actually do any of it, and it didn’t fully express who I was either.
Who I am – who you are - isn’t an easy thing to fully express or fully understand, because it isn’t ever exactly the same from one moment to another. Who I am today is very different from who I was 40, 30, 20, 10 or even 5 years ago. And who I’ll be a few years from now will be different too. I have values and standards that I’ve kept for decades, but then I also have new ideas that have replaced older ones. I have newer ways of doing things that are better than the ways I did them years ago. And then there are physical matters that are not as good as years ago. I don’t see as well. I don’t hear as well. And the sorts of flavors I like have changed.
Answering the question ‘who are you?’ isn’t easy. And it isn’t ever a once and for all answer. I struggled for years with who I was and what I wanted to do with my life. And I tried lots of occupations that didn’t seem to quite fit me. I struggled with success as I kept redefining who I was and what I wanted to do.
Then I chose to choose. If I wasn’t suited for this or that I could move on, or I could become more aligned with what I was doing. I had options. I had control. Once I chose to choose, success became inevitable. Massive success. The life I had been looking for and working for was readily available. And here’s the exciting bit for you: You have the same choice. And if you choose, you’ll experience the same sort of change.
Once I chose to choose in every moment of every day, lots of things I had struggled with for decades started falling into place. I couldn’t recognize or understand the whole deal until I took chose to master my own personal development. But once I recognized and understood myself, my eyes were opened to more opportunity and possibility than I had ever imagined before.
I started experiencing more and more success. I saw where my creativity made other people’s lives better. And like Jimmy Buffet, I started playing for the crowd. You can too.
‘Who are you?’ is a starting point, but “Who are you becoming?” is what matters. That’s what choices do for you. I believe in you. I believe in your ability to be significant, be powerful, and be loved. Even if you don’t feel capable or prepared to do that right now, I want you to have every opportunity to do that while you still can. You’re not getting any younger. So choose now. Who are you becoming?
The 9th Day - 7 Ways