in Musing

Heroin made Charlie Parker great. I want to be great too.

Isn’t that the dumbest headline ever?

I was 25 when I watched  “Jazz” the anthology by Ken Burns where he successfully introduces jazz  music to a much wider audience.  I love jazz and to be able to learn some of the dynamics of the bands and artists was hugely exciting.

Charlie “Bird” Parker was an exceptional saxophonist who helped create the bebop sound (and genre) and defined the music the influenced almost all other forms of popular music from that point.  To many of his contemporaries, he was a genius . Yet he was also chronically addicted to heroin, though he was later rehabilitated from his addiction and seemingly remained clean till his death.

Why am I sharing this?

Well, I remember watching Jazz and especially learning about Charlie Parker who, as an aspiring saxophonist, I totally admired, At the height of his fame, his sound was adored by his contemporaries, almost worshipped. So much that many wanted to emulate it. But it was almost impossible to copy, so many variations, complex harmonies.  Even Bird couldn’t teach you to play like him.  In order to understand how one guy could be so brilliant – many who sought to gain the same abilities looked at his lifestyle and they saw heroin.  Watching Jazz, I was shocked to learn that so of these performers, all pretty good in their own right, thought that perhaps his addiction gave him his abilities. So they took heroin too.

I see so many self-help blogs and the life-hacking culture that share so many ideas for improving one’s life. From weight loss to getting better at a language. I like to think all this information comes from a place of goodness – driven by the desire to share what has worked in one person to others. Yet they are sold as “this worked for me , it will work for you too”.  In truth, you might get lucky and they might just work.

Start your day at 5.30am and go for a run!  It will change your life.

Split your day into 90 minute sessions (because the science proves it) and you will get more done.

Fart before playing your numbers on the lottery,  I won big, you will too. (ok, I made that one up).

My point is that what works for one person is not guaranteed to work for another. At best, one person’s experience is no more than a suggestion to another.

Lifelong curiousity is the real message

What makes one person explore a different routine to the one they have always had?
What motivates people to take up new skills or do weird experiments on themselves?

Often it is because something is not working they way they want. Often it is nothing more than seeking to answer “what might happen if…”.
This is such a powerful idea, one that fuels so much innovation and discovery and, I believe, is the central message of this life hacking, self help industry – which mostly sells the discoveries that are the result of curiosity.

But I think that most people who are into life hacking do not even realise that their discovery (as cool as it might be) is itself less unimportant than the spirit of curiosity through which they derived it. Curiosity to explore alternatives, to experiment and to discover.

I would much rather read about that than be peddled a 5.30AM run to start my day or a blended smoothie to boost my brain power.

We are each unique- even as the systems all around us want to make us believe we are not.  The mainstream of everything requires that we can be categorised, grouped. How else do you understand 7 billion people?  But we are each more than a category (easier to understand  – we are each a category!).  So let’s each find what works for us and contribute it into the larger pool of ideas that others can steal freely from as they emerge what works for them and as we do that, let us celebrate the spirit of curiosity that drives it all in the first place.

Learn to be curious about life, the universe and everything. You will live a better, more fulfilling life.

Share that thought!