Straw to Gold

Straw to Gold (1,157)

May 25th, 2011

I was thrilled. I was just twenty-six years old and our group, Soul Purpose, was in Nashville, Tennessee. I had just signed a song with Dottie Rambo and Heartwarming Music and had many of the Nashville executives, record companies and publishers lifting their heads to look in our direction.

It was exciting. Honestly, I was too young to appreciate much of the nuance and importance of the moment. After all, I had grown up believing that life was about a “big break” followed by a brief period of work, which hopefully would culminate with an existence of ease earned from the success of the process.

It is an applicable rendition of The American Dream. None of us can imagine what it’s like to work hard enough to make six million dollars, so we buy lottery tickets. No one is particularly interested in struggling, making two hundred dollars a day to try to save fifty of it to accumulate wealth over a thirty-five year period of time. Although we may end up actually attempting to do that, it certainly is not anyone’s idea of being fruitful.

So back to my story. We were given the distinct honor of performing on the stage of the Grand Old Opry. We were jazzed and giddy, because on top of that invitation came the information that there would be a talent agent there who would be checking us out to see if she was interested in signing us to a contract.

Wow. Two stones with one bird—or something like that. All we had to do was impress her and we would be signed to a contract and whisked away to a life of touring, money, praise, opportunity and comfort.

So we worked very hard to get ready for the show. And honestly, our performance was superb. It was so good that as I walked off stage, this dear lady—this miracle worker for bookings and engagements—grabbed me by the hand and told me that we sounded great and she wanted to meet with us at ten o’clock the next morning in her office, to negotiate the deal.

I couldn’t sleep all night. It was finally here. My ship had come in. Not only had my ship come in, but I was already unloading the cargo, thinking about owning a car that did not require a screw driver to start it.

The next morning the three of us dressed up like little lord and ladies and went to her office. She sat us down and explained the contract to us. We were almost to the point of signing when I posed the question. “Now, ma’am, when are we going to get the schedule of the dates you have for us, so we can get ready for the tour?”

She looked at me, a bit perplexed, and then she suddenly realized that I had totally misunderstood the procedure. With all of her southern charm, she attempted to deflate my balloon without using a pin to pop it. “Listen, sweetie,” she said. “I don’t think you understand how things work. There are no magical tours out there, waiting for groups to come along and fulfill them. All I do is work off the leads and opportunities that you already have. My job is to just make sure that you make a little bit more money at them and that they have all the things waiting for you that you need to create your particular magic.”

I was devastated. Here I’d thought, in my pea-brained logic, that someone was going to come along and solve all my problems, do all the work, bring me all the available potential and all I had to do was stand up there and sing.

She continued, “You see, Jonathan, there is no one that can spin straw into gold. More or less what I do is take the gold you bring me and form it into really nice pieces of jewelry.”

I left sadly—unsigned. For you see, I had no gold, just a barnyard of straw.

I learned a lot that day. And every time I watch a show like American Idol, which takes advantage of young people. portraying they can be turned into overnight successes, only to cut one album that sells enough copies to make an annoying and limited fortune, and finally proclaiming them, a year later, the “ex-Idol”—a very young “has been”—I wonder why people try to be so misleading, and therefore cruel.

Because it is cruel to tell people that the American Dream can be achieved without putting some dumb ideas to sleep. So please learn with me what I found out that day:

1. There is no substitute for hard work.

2. Miracles happen because God sees that you are on the way to living without one.

3. Life is always better when it’s absorbed a little at a time instead of pelting us like torrential rain.

4. And finally, it’s not so bad to just make a living doing what you love to do.

I thought about that last night when I walked out in Platteville, Wisconsin, and the crowd was smaller than we expected. My dear, sweet friends, the crowd will always be smaller than we expect—because our anticipation is always larger than our effort and talent.

Learn to enjoy what’s before you and understand that gold may adorn, but straw makes for a nice bed.

Published in: on May 25, 2011 at 12:48 pm  Leave a Comment  
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