I've long been a fan of George Clinton's music and influence on hip-hop. I can recite every line to Flashlight, know way too much about his work with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and can name dozens of rap songs that sample his band Parliament Funkadelic's early tracks.
But when I read Clinton's autobiography last year, there was one crucial portion that struck me: Know your limits.
Early in his musical career, when Parliament had begun gigging and writing songs, Clinton discovered his key strengths: “I knew what I couldn’t do. I couldn’t play an instrument. I couldn’t sing as well as some and I couldn’t arrange as well as some others. But I could see the whole picture from altitude, and that let me land the planes.”
Clinton is the conductor, not a star violinist. He knows what works to make a song memorable and unique, but he doesn't fool himself in thinking he can do what his talented bassists, guitarists, singers could do.
And that's what we all have to figure out: Are we the conductors or the musicians? Does our talent lie in creating or helping others create?
Sometimes we think we can do it all. Run the show and micro-manage everyone AND generate new content, services, whatever. But imagine how much simpler it would be to find what speaks to us and us only, and push our egos to the side.
I learned pretty early on in my writing career that I loved to create, from fiction to poetry to articles. Later in my life, in my mid-30s, I got away from that creativity, taking on management roles that instilled a deeper sense of leadership and responsibility, and I have no regrets about honing some new skills in those roles. But I missed the art of creating. The thrill of sharing my voice, my experience, my passion for language.
And so I returned to freelancing, and found more time to express myself in journalism and spoken word. And it was one of the best decisions I've ever made in my life. I wake up every day excited to launch into a new project, or edit an old one to give it new life. I no longer do things that steer my attention away from what makes me happy.
Another Clinton line resonates here, this one from a chorus from a song of the same name as this bit of advice: "If it don't fit, don't force it."
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