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Every Day Can Be A Starting Point: Make a New Beginning

“Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.” ~Carl Bard

Birthdays. They’re supposed to be a joyous celebration, right?

That one special day each year when we throw a party and reflect on the day our amazing journey began.

The starting point.

I’ve had quite a colorful journey and certainly enjoyed many wonderful birthdays in my life.

Turning 50 this past year wasn’t one of them. Here’s why.

When we’re little every birthday marks a major accomplishment. We learn to walk. Then we learn to talk. Then we go to school and learn our ABCs.

Everything is brand new.

When we graduate high school they tell us we have our whole lives in front of us. Whether we’re off to college, exploring the world, or entering the work force, we begin a whole new chapter. Independence.

A starting point.

You can just picture that open highway stretched out to infinity before you, beckoning to a future somewhere out on that horizon that calls you to adventure. All that you will become lies out there.

In my twenties, I was a freewheeling single young man touring the world with rock stars. How bad can that be, right?

Turning 30 was awesome too! I was living in sunny Southern California, playing music, and making records in recording studios. Life was good.

Even 40 was great. I had moved back to New York to play in my own band and got married. Our life together had just begun. Then came children. I became Dad.

A starting point.

But 50?

You’re supposed to have accomplished your greatest life’s work by now, right? Achieved all your major goals. Changed the world.

But what if you’re still working on that? What if you’re just now starting to figure out what you’re really supposed to be doing with your life?

You can say many things about turning 50, but one thing you can’t say with a straight face is that you still have your whole life in front of you.

At this point in the journey, life has shown you many of its cards. Not all, mind you, but you’ve got a pretty good grasp on how the world turns. If there are still any surprises, they have mostly to do with learning to change the way you see things.

But something else happened that was very difficult to escape. Much as I hated to admit it, I found that I was looking around and comparing myself to my peers.

This person has kids entering college and I’m looking at two young children and the reality that I’ll be close to 70 by the time the youngest is out of school.

That one is retired at 50 and buying their second Ferrari while retirement doesn’t seem to be in the cards any time soon for me.

When you view life this way, there’s always going to be someone who you feel is ahead of you by your own estimate. And you’ll never catch up to them. So that leaves you feeling behind in some imaginary race that can’t be won.

And when the game is comparing yourself to others, you will never have enough. Ever.

Unknowingly, you build this imaginary scale to see how you measure up against your peers. Let’s call it the Success/Happiness curve. Yet, no matter where you believe you fall on that curve, the moment you mark your place is to engage in a losing battle.

You believe that if you can just obtain that (figure of money in the bank, job title, certain car) that you will have arrived at your destination and will find happiness there.

But you won’t. Because it’s not out there.

Not in any material things you can obtain. Whatever it is will begin to lose its luster the moment you acquire it. Then you’ll have to look for something new to replace it and give you another fix. And the cycle never ends.

So how do you break out of this destructive cycle?

Well first, I needed to learn how to let go of a lot of my preconceived notions about where I thought I would be by the time I reached 50.

Ultimately, I found the answer in meditation.

Through meditation you learn how to become present.

Most of us never learn to appreciate where we are at this very moment because we’re so focused on what happened (or didn’t happen) in a past that no longer exists and worried about a future that hasn’t happened yet.

Meditation taught me that to compare ourselves to others is the root of human suffering, or samsara. Because it creates a separation between ourselves and someone else. A duality. A them and an us.

Armed with this new perspective, the next thing I did was to review my life and my experiences to figure out what was working and what was not. This brought me face to face with a rather harsh reality.

As much as I liken myself to be a caring person, I realized that I’d spent most of my career focused on my own self-interests.

Sure I spent a lot of time making music, which is something very personal that you put out into the universe in the hopes that you will connect with an audience and make them feel something.

But it turns out the giving was conditional.

It was like, “Enjoy this music and help support my dream. Please vote for me in this contest and buy that CD and help me or my band out.” The focus was all wrong.

And that’s when I realized what had been gnawing away at me all these years. It was a yearning to connect with an audience in a meaningful way that focuses on helping them. On seeing the world through their eyes.

Empathy.

And so at age 50, I am only now seeing the light.

Only after allowing the hidden writer within to finally emerge did I realize that I have been telling stories my whole life.

With that came the realization that each of us has a unique story we’re supposed to tell. That’s why we’re here. And I’m supposed to help people to tell theirs.

The epiphany was that as a music producer and a songwriter, I had been doing this already for many years helping artists to realize their vision.

Suddenly everything felt different. Like I had steered the boat back on course. Like a new chapter.

A starting point.

Suddenly that really successful person I follow who I want to emulate, the one who seems so far ahead in their journey, finally, it all gets put into perspective.

We think they just arrived where they are today.

We never got to see all the years they spent toiling away in obscurity. Experimenting, missing the mark, failing. Trying to figure out the very things we’re looking to figure out now.

Until they honed their craft to excellence and were finally rewarded by the world for their efforts.

We never stop and give ourselves a break for simply being on the path. It may be a path of discovery. It may be a path toward a specific destination. Or it may be a path away from our old ways.

But you’re walking the path. Celebrate that.

The law says that if you take steps in the direction of your destination every day and keep walking, no matter how slow or how far you must travel, you must one day arrive there.

In Tibet they have a tradition. After a long and arduous journey, no matter how difficult, they seek a high vantage point and look back to see just how far they have come.

Age is irrelevant. Wherever you are in your journey is a starting point. Whoever or whatever it is you’re chasing, slow down.

Realize there is no race.

Whether you’re 20 or 50 or 80, if you never stop seeking then you’ll never cease to be amazed by what you might find.

And if every point is a starting point then every day can be your birthday!

How will you celebrate today?

Photo by girish_suryawanshi

Avatar of Mark Hermann

About Mark Hermann

Mark Hermann is a music producer, songwriter, and blogger with the occasional whimsy to create mosaic art. He teaches musicians & other creators how to unearth their inner rock star and deliver the soundtrack to their story. Read more of his stories about how to discover your own personal legend at Rock andRoll Zen. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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  • Guest

    excellent piece

  • Gin

    Wow, mind blowing words, really felt them and they made me smile, thank you. Such a soulful post.

  • Mark Hermann

    Thanks Gin! Glad you liked it.

  • Dochy

    This is just brilliant Mark! At your age, most people I know, (like you’ve mentioned) are settled into a routine that they find so hard to get out of. I really admire you for having the guts and will to turn around, look at yourself and have life-changing realizations!!! Hats off to you :)

  • Guest

    Very much enjoyed this piece. Thank you for sharing.

  • Mamasun3

    I turned 50 last year and am struggling with similar thoughts & feelings. THIS is where I am? And so many of the possibilities are now clearly not possible anymore. Contrary to you I’ve spend the last 25 years caring for husband and children and now parents and at 50 wondering what to do with myself and who I am when the caregiving is over. Thank you for the food for thought.

  • Razwana

    Mark – the comparison to the Jones’ is something we do at all ages. Appreciating what is, and not wondering what could have been ‘if only I had done x,y,z’ is an ongoing journey in itself.

    Thanks for making this your mini-vantage point !

    - Razwana

  • Mark Hermann

    You’re very welcome Razwana.

  • Mark Hermann

    Forget the number and make some space for you, Mamasun. All those things you mention like taking care of parents become “realities” at this point in the game. I’m right there with you. But the only thing that can stop you from any of those possibilities you think may be gone is in your mind. Don’t let that happen. It’s an illusion.

  • Guest

    Thanks Gin! Glad I made you feel something. Peace, Mark

  • Mark Hermann

    Thanks Dochy. Yeah, it blows my mind and makes me sad sometimes when friends tell me they’re old. That’s the beginning of the end. I’d rather look to the beginning each day.

  • http://www.facebook.com/scholley Austin Scholl

    This post is AWESOME! Thank you for your Authenticity and Love!

  • Mark Hermann

    You’re very welcome, Austin.

  • Akemi Gaines

    Hi Mark,
    I enjoyed reading this post! I mean, the title sounds so cliched, but I like the way you tell your story. A rock star who meditates! THAT’s really cool.

    Well, really, I think the kind of motivation that only benefits oneself can only go so far and last so long. The true motivation goes beyond the “self” and connects us all. And you are never too old to notice this.

  • Mark Hermann

    I couldn’t agree more with you, Akemi. Sometimes you have to get very quiet if your words (or your music) is going to speak loud. Glad you enjoyed it!

  • le blanc

    Nice one!

  • cary

    Hey Mark. Nice post. Closer to 60 than 50 I often find myself falling into the trap of comparison. But as you say, “age is irrelevant and life is not a race”. While still searching for my true purpose in life, I may be late to the table, but find no reason to hurry. I am who I am, and a few minutes of stargazing, or a few moments of friendly conversation quickly return me to the path that only I can walk. I believe life to be an endless opportunity for gratitude. Thanks for reminding me that life is indeed a celebration. Cary

  • http://vhanna26.typepad.com Vera

    Fabulous post. I turned 50 last year, and feel that my life hasn’t been the success it should have been nor can I go back and start all over .All I can do–all I have–is this present moment to begin again. Thanks.

  • Mark Hermann

    Vera, I could go on about how it’s never too late but if you haven’t read Eckhart Tolle’s The Power Of Now yet, you should. It speaks exactly to your comment. It will change your life. It sure changed mine :-)

  • Mark Hermann

    Cary, you’re more fortunate than you can ever imagine. You’re alive! The only drag is there’s just not enough time to be thankful for all those things you mention and all the other small things that are right in front of us every day to enjoy but never fully appreciate. Glad I could help.

  • http://twitter.com/RiskDelight Bethany Cox

    I’m 26, soon to be 27, and I do feel that I’m constantly chasing something, seeking happiness I believe will come in the future. Thank you for the reminder that there is a path. The reminder to slow down. Each day is a beginning. I love this. Thanks, Mark.

  • Mark Hermann

    You’re welcome, Bethany. I wish someone reminded me of these things when I was your age. I was going a million miles an hour at your age having a blast. But it would have been nice to savor those days too. So just savor the now. The future hasn’t happened yet. Peace, Mark

  • http://vhanna26.typepad.com Vera

    Yes, I really need to read that book.

  • Deb

    Oh Mark, Thank you for sharing such a personal part of your journey. I LOVE your writing/post. You validated so many of the “aha” moments that I have been experiencing. I turned 50 this year and it has been life-changing for me. I believe, with all my heart and soul, that wherever we are in life….we are ‘where’ we are supposed to be. Life is a journey and the journey is our gift, and every journey is unique and perfect, because we are all unique and perfect.
    Thank you for your wonderful post….

  • Mark Hermann

    I can’t add anything to that, Deb.Only that I couldn’t agree with you more. Glad you enjoyed the post. Peace, Mark

  • Lisa H.

    As someone who just turned 40, I can completely identify with how you are feeling. Not comparing yourself to others is key. What I have learned is that we all have our own definitions of success and if I am going to be happy, I cannot make someone elses definition my own. :-) Thanks for the great insight and Happy Birthday.

  • Mark Hermann

    Same to you, Lisa. Happy Birthday!

  • Nina

    I am glad I found your post. Yes, I can relate with what you say. We are travelers on this path of life, each on his/her unique journey so how can we compare. Thank you for sharing your story.

    I liked this sentence-

    We never stop and give ourselves a break for simply being on the
    path. It may be a path of discovery. It may be a path toward a specific
    destination. Or it may be a path away from our old ways.

  • Leah McClellan

    Hi Mark,

    Thanks for this–I enjoyed reading it. I know what you mean though I think of how fortunate I am to have done some awesome stuff when I was younger that I’d probably never be able to do in another 10 or 20 years, stuff that requires a lot of physical strength and endurance.

    So now I’m a bit older than many people I hang out with trying to establish good work habits and some other stuff while everyone goes on about how to break out of routines and comfort zones…done that, now I’m trying to be just a little more like them while they try to get their wild side on :) Sort of.

    And I think your kids will benefit hugely from having a dad with a bit of wisdom. Just think how different we’d all be if we were raised by 50 year olds instead of 20-somethings :D

    Good stuff, nice writing.

  • http://twitter.com/QuestForPassion Quest For Passion

    Hi, Mark, I was sitting at my desk drinking my favorite tea, and reading your article. What a perfect way to stay my day! I was deeply unhappy just a year ago trying to chase things that were “supposed” to make me feel happy. Now I discovered another way to live, and i completely agree with you – every day is a new beginning, and if you are curious, willing to try new things, and believe that nothings is impossible, then life at ANY age can be an adventure, full of memorable moments and new things to celebrate.

    As for meditation, I just started recently, but what a gem! I am not very good at it yet, but i feel so much relaxed and present, I am excited to get better, and see what I will discover in my journey.

    Thank you for an AMAZING read!

  • Libby

    Hi Mark,
    Having turned 50 myself this year this article really struck a chord with me – thanks for reminding me that new beginnings are possible whatever your age :-)
    Libby

  • Mark Hermann

    Really glad you enjoyed it! As for meditation, I’m fairly new too. The only thing I could share is it’s not about the posture or “doing it right”. It’s about being present in the moment. Stay with it. It’s got a 2500 year old seal of approval ;-)

  • Mark Hermann

    Thanks Leah. I couldn’t agree with you more. I say things to my kids that I’m not sure will ever sink in. But somehow I know deep down there’s a chance the important stuff may stick. I wish my parents had told me these things. Great insight!

  • Mark Hermann

    Thanks Nina. Yeah, we spend so much time beating ourselves up for all the things we’re “supposed to do”. We never stop to just to think ‘Hey, I’m alive! Just dig that!’

  • http://www.motivationmy.com/ Syaf

    Hi Mark,

    I enjoyed this post very much.

    I’m in my mid-twenties (soon, late twenties)… as the clock ticks, it scares me how time flies so fast these days. I’m busy chasing deadlines and all the things that a twenty-year-old would chase…

    It’s good to have this reminder that we need to celebrate each day, month and year…

    Let’s celebrate today. now.

  • Mark Hermann

    You’re very welcome, Libby. It’s just a number.

  • Mark Hermann

    Amen, Syaf! It only goes faster as time ticks on. I didn’t want to believe that in my twenties either. But I can say that meditation has really helped me to slow down the moment to moment living and be present. And that’s where life actually happens.

  • http://www.mimaonfire.com/ Michelle

    I’m always amazed by how much I connect with so many writers on Tiny Buddha. This particular article hits close to home because I also just celebrated a birthday and I also compared my life to others my age. I always felt really behind. In my 30s, most of my peers have more to show for their lives – spouses, children, homes, careers etc and it’s easy to feel like you were somehow left behind. But you make a great point in that all our journeys are different. Many people would’ve loved to have your experiences in the music industry, for example and probably are envious of your experiences. Great article!

  • RandyH

    Re-inspired every time I look this up and read it!

  • RandyH

    Re-inspired every time I read this post! Thanks, Mark!

  • Shirley

    I read your blog quite frequently. Whenever I need a pick-me-up, I come here. Incidentally, my birthday was last week and I think for once in my life, I feel comfortable. ISO yes, at 50, you helped bring myself and many of us here with you. Thank you, you have accomplished something.