Elvis Costello used to host a show called Spectacle. Each episode featured a musical guest who chatted with Elvis and together they played music. It was the kind of pre-Netflix television show you only watched when visiting your parents because it’s what they were watching, but you ended up loving it. On one such night almost ten years ago, Elvis interviewed Bono and The Edge. About halfway through the interview, Elvis asks Bono what success has cost them, as band mates and musicians. Bono replied,
“It’s that great phrase of Neitzsche’s, for anything truly great to happen, there needs to be a long obedience in the same direction. And I, that’s a line I dream about, and they’re not all good dreams. I wake up with a chill, sometimes, with that line. I look at Edge, to my right, and I see he has a long obedience in the same direction, in pursuit of his craft.”
The Edge practices his guitar everyday. He calls himself a student.
The memory of this episode came to me recently, like a flash point. I was sitting on a panel for women entrepreneurs, hosted by an organization for family business. I hadn’t considered myself an entrepreneur until I was asked to participate on this panel. Over the years my work has expanded and contracted with the disparate nature of freelance jobs that come with food. Some were lucrative, some not, some hugely inconvenient for my family, some worth the inconvenience. Eventually life, children, time and priorities pushed me to begin saying no to the work that didn’t serve my podcast or my family. With saying no came a clarity of purpose: to connect people and build community through music, words, sound and personal story.
The OED defines an entrepreneur as one who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise. Jen Carrington and Sara Tasker, in their latest episode of Letters From a Hopeful Creative, define entrepreneurship as ‘steering your own ship using a specific message or mission as your guide’. I qualify, as it turns out, as an entrepreneur. The title doesn’t ask how much money you make. It simply acknowledges that you’re building something, something with a mission, something with risk.
So there I was, sitting on the panel, listening to the interviewer ask how being connected to a family business has informed my journey. Me, from a creative family and married into an eighth generation family business. Me, who just yesterday began thinking of myself as an entrepreneur. That’s when Bono flashed into my head, sharing his bandmate’s long devotion in the same direction with Elvis Costello. The advice garnered from eight generations of family business, I told the interviewer, was to hang in there. Your path will evolve, you might have to pivot. But good things come from a long devotion in the same direction. It’s as slow, and as simple as that.
A Meal for Starlings
It’s hard to hate a bird. Especially one that shimmers in the sunshine and creates the most beautiful murmurations. Let me tell you why.
Last week I foraged Ilex from the side of the road. Mid-November is a little early for this; I can usually hold out until the first of December to hang the wreath on the door and stuff the window boxes with boughs and berries. But the summer flowers had frozen into sad, limp plants and it was time for a re-fresh. So I drove just outside the city with clippers in tow, to the secret ilex spots my family has been visiting for years. I clipped an armful of branches along with boughs of floppy pine until I looked like a woodland Miss America. When home I pulled out the old and put in the new. Then, I stood back and smugly smiled at my house, with its red door and matching red berries. I was ready for winter.
Then came the starlings. They’re bossy birds. They crowd out others and eat baby birds to make room for their own. Even their droppings are said to be more corrosive than any other bird. They don’t appear to migrate; these guys hang around all winter, bossing little chickadees and making nests in your gutters. And, apparently they love ilex berries. Today skeletal sticks adorn my window boxes, stripped of every single berry. It was like these urban birds had been served up country berries for the first time in their lives and they ate them all.