Have you ever felt stuck?
Like truly, “what-should-I-do-with-my-life” stuck, or “what’s-the-purpose-for-my-life” stuck?
I have. Actually, it was the latter, the “what-should-I-do-with-my-life” kind.
It was between my Sophomore and Junior years of college, during which I was studying Music Education at Texas State University. You see, I was a trombone player from when I was about 12, all the way through college graduation. Why?
Because I was good at it.
I wasn’t world-class, by any means. But when you grow up and go to the type of middle school I went to, you don’t need to be very great to be the best in the band hall.
So I played trombone, and did well. All through grade school, and into college. By then, I loved music–the pedagogy, the theory, everything. It was such a rich world to me; vastly different from what I’d grown up with, and I loved it. Late-night gigs that forced you to miss 8 a.m. lessons, marching band until 10 p.m. on Saturday nights (but I went to every football game for free!).
But then I got stuck.
After awhile, I no longer cared as much. I didn’t want to teach kids how to play trombone, or any other instrument for that matter, and I didn’t like the idea of composing music for an academician to declare it “obtuse,” or “grandiose, yet lacking in pomp,” or my favorite, “good, but maybe it needs more accidentals?”
I just stopped wanting to study it altogether. Sure, I still liked music, in the same way we have books from our favorite authors on the shelf. I wanted to have music be a part of my life–not my entire life.
Maybe you’ve been stuck like this?
Maybe you’ve struggled to figure out where your life is leading you, or what God has in store for you? Trust me, I’ve been there. I was pretty upset, and confused, wondering why I’d spent the last 10+ years of my life doing something that I thought was going to be my career.
But it was okay, because I realized something:
I was in “The Dip.”
Seth Godin, writer of a little book titled “The Dip,” has this to say:
And then you find yourself asking if the goal is even worth the hassle. Maybe you’re in a Dip-a temporary setback that will get better if you keep pushing. But maybe it’s really a Cul-de-Sac, which will never get better, no matter how hard you try.
What really sets superstars apart from everyone else is the ability to escape dead ends quickly, while staying focused and motivated when it really counts.
I’m not going to ruin the book for you. Go read it. I just want to help plant the idea in your mind–the idea I came to a few years ago–that it might not always be worthwhile to push through The Dip.
Sometimes, we just need to stop and start over.
If you haven’t heard, I’m in the middle of a 30-day fast that’s changing my life. It’s not changing it drastically, but it’s giving me new perspectives on God and life itself. I love it, and I hope everyone can do their own fast, in some way or another.
For me, it’s kind of like the fast is helping me “start over” with food. I’ve grown up in a world that encourages me to eat whatever I want, whenever I want. It tells me to indulge myself, whether or not there’s a reason to indulge. It’s been great to see how much I don’t need all of these extra things.
And like changing my career path halfway through college, it’s kind of scary.
I didn’t know if playing trombone, or teaching band, or writing music was going to be a career for me. No one can predict things like that. But I knew back then that I was far away from working at a Christian marketing company and writing books and blogs on the side.
Still, though, I was stuck hard enough that I decided to start all over with my career. I switched to studying business (they wouldn’t let me do it as a main degree since I already had too many music classes, so I did it as a minor), and I started absorbing everything I could about starting and running a business. I was addicted, too–I bought about $500 worth of books (not textbooks, understand–real books. A lot of real books) and began blogging.
What “restarting” taught me.
Part of me felt like a failure–how could I not feel like one? I’d pretty much given up my career as a band director, trombone superstar, or composer, for a dream of running my own business someday. I was scared my parents would be upset that I’d essentially wasted their hard-earned money they spent on my education (oh yeah, did I mention they were awesome enough to pay for my education?).
Turns out, they didn’t care as much as I thought. They had a feeling I’d find a way to be successful, no matter what, I think I’ll prove them right.
The next semester, I walked cross-campus to the shiny new School of Business. Even with that small feeling of failure in my stomach, I sat down in my first business course (Managerial Accounting) and had a sense of something else:
I felt as though I’d reached a turning point in my “Dip.” I’d switched gears, and I was lucid. This was going to be the “new me;” the one who builds things and creates things and starts things.
Reaching “The Dip” and having the very difficult self-realization that you don’t want to go on down the same path can be a very eye-opening experience. If you’ve been there, you know.
But you probably also remember the clarity that came with it. Choosing to set off on another path; one that’s unexplored and leaves so much undiscovered, is awesome.
What happens before “The Dip” becomes our background.
We all have history; a past. We all had a childhood, and we’ve all taken and left jobs. These things, now, are easy to talk about as things “that happened.” They’ve become our background, the types of events we relegate to resumes and CV’s.
If we’re at a crossing or a chasm, it’s hard to know if what we’re about to do (or what we’re considering doing) is just a “Dip” or a full-fledged warning sign that’s telling at us to change direction. It’s almost impossible to know for sure, but I’m not sure it even matters.
You see, when we look at “The Dip,” stick our chin out and prayerfully decide which way to go, we’ve won the battle. Sure, the war’s still going on around us, but we’ve put the proverbial foot down and said, “I’m choosing.”
It doesn’t (always) matter what the choice is–the growth comes in making the choice.
So if you’re in the middle of “The Dip,” the point at which clarity becomes a foggy windshield and the “right way” seems obvious yet so hard to grab, make the choice.
Take the step, make the choice, and commit. It’s the only way to truly defeat “The Dip.”