“Born to Sing: No Plan B”
I’m a life-long Van – ‘The Man’ – Morrison fan, and his current album, due for release on October 1st, doesn’t look like changing that, with its classy mix of Soul/R&B/Jazz. What first caught my attention, before I heard a single track, was the title.
George Ivan Morrison, now OBE for services to music, was bought his first guitar at 11 and by 12 was performing in groups. At 14 he persuaded his dad to buy him a sax and started taking lessons in that and how to read music. Although he took a job as a window cleaner on leaving school – largely because it was ‘expected’- he was still playing in bands, and at 17 toured Europe with the International Monarchs. After the group disbanded he was hired as a blues singer with The Wheels. From there a steady gig at The Maritime Hotel with the Gamblers led to the formation of Them, and the rest, as they say, is history. Definitely ‘Born to Sing: no plan B’!
For us mere mortals ‘No Plan B’ can seem like a reckless concept: we school our children to have ‘back-up’; we encourage them to have not only ‘Plan B’s’ but often Plan C’s as well. We ditch on their dreams before they’ve even got started. This often happens with the creative industries where jobs are few and competition stiff, but it happens with other choices as well: the young girl who wants to be an astronaut, the children who want to be pilots or politicians.
Thankfully there are plenty of parents who encourage their children to do exactly what they want to in life. They support them as they follow their passions and improve their skills. I have friends whose son wanted to be an actor. I’m sure they had plenty of chats about how hard a profession it can be, but that wasn’t their focus. They did everything to encourage and support him in his aspirations. He is a fine young man, and also a professional actor. He’s living his dream. I have other friends who have raised talented and artistic young people, and they too are supporting them to follow their dreams, currently with places on art, music and drama courses, and in dancing.
We all want to support our young people to get out there in ‘the big wide world’, yet sometimes this means we actively discourage them from doing what they love, what they are passionate about and good at. We force them into a ‘Plan B’, where they struggle with the skill set and the enthusiasm, without ever having had a shot at ‘Plan A’. It’s a sure recipe for disillusionment at worse, and boredom at best.
I always wanted to be a writer, from as far back as I can remember. For my working-class parents ‘writer’ wasn’t a ‘real job’. It’s not that they discouraged me as such, they simply didn’t support me to follow my dreams and desires. I am grateful that they contributed to my higher education, but find it sad that there was no belief or encouragement. My dad is an immigrant to this country. He left school at 14 and took a job as a tailor with Burton’s so he could pay his way. He became a professional footballer, a master colour-matcher, a trade unionist and a manager. I suspect his dream was to be a pro’ footballer and the fact is he achieved that; he lived the dream, albeit for a short time, due to injury.
Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying our young people don’t need the skills to follow a multiplicity of options – they do; and the more rounded they are, the more equipped they will be in a world where no job is for life and they will probably end up with at least three of four major jobs changes throughout their careers. What I am saying is, there’s plenty of time for ‘Plan B’. Life will have enough knocks and disappointments along the way. We need to build passion and resilience in our young people, so that they keep pressing on, in spite of the knock backs; so that they aim for that which they aspire to.
I’ve talked a lot about the creative industries, but it could be anything. Young people’s dreams are as varied as they are. Your daughter may want to be an army commander or a scientist, your young person may want to be a farmer or a hairdresser, it doesn’t matter. There are always avenues to pursue that will take them closer to their goals. We need people in this world that are passionate about what they do, whatever that may be.
And how about you? If you’re like me, you’re probably on ‘Plan F’ by now, never mind, ‘Plan B’. Maybe there’s no plan at all and you’re drifting through life, or you could be steaming along, head down, energies focused on earning a living. In our society money is king, and it can be hard to get off the treadmill of a job we hate, but that pays the bills: hard, yes; impossible, no. Due to difficult circumstances my life was turned upside down. I took the opportunity to get out of a well-paid, but ultimately unfulfilling job, and re-train. I spent over a decade in the voluntary sector doing jobs I’ve loved. In a way it was still a kind of ‘Plan B’, but a move to a remote location and a glimpse of how short life can be motivated me to shift track and become a self-employed cook. It was still a kind of ‘Plan B’, although cooking is one of my passions and I’ve wanted to work for myself for a long time.
A college friend of mine started writing again recently and has been brave enough to ‘put herself out there’ and follow her dreams and this got me thinking again about what I wanted to do when I was young. The truth is I’ve never stopped writing but equally true is the fact that I’ve never taken myself or my writing seriously. So, ‘Plan A revised’ is now in place. I’m not making a living from my writing. Other income streams and a the kind indulgence of my partner, are what’s keeping the wheels in motion, but the point is that I’ve made a conscious decision to write and am following that particular passion. It’s ‘Plan A’ in process, and it’s taken me 30 years to have the confidence and self-belief to follow that path.
‘Plan A’ will never be easy, but that’s not a good reason not to ‘go for it’. Life can be pretty tough whatever course we take. Isn’t it better to aim high, to dream, to follow our passions rather than consign ourselves and others to automatic second options, ‘Plan B’s and Plan C’s? You will fail. Your children will fail. That’s a given. In my view ‘failing’ trying to do something you love is better than succeeding at something you hate.
Whether it’s a job, or some other aspect of your life, remove the safety net and start flying high. You might be surprised how achievable it can be if you believe in yourself and put your efforts into something you feel passionate about. Don’t regret your ‘Plan B’s, but it’s never too late to re-discover your original dream.
I’m glad Van pursued his musical career rather than his windowing cleaning one – image what the world would have missed out on. So, be a ‘Plan A’ kind of person and pursue your obsession: no ‘Plan B’.