Bill Withers, Singer, Songwriter, & Soul Icon,  whose credits include the hits Ain’t No Sunshine, Lean On Me, Lovely Day, & Just the Two of Us, gave this advice to his own children:

…it’s okay to head out for wonderful, but on your way to wonderful, you’re going to have to pass through all right, and when you get to all right, take a good look around and get used to it because that may be as far as you’re going to go. (Michele Norris, Still Bill, All Things Considered)

Sounds harsh doesn’t it? Bill Withers had fame and fortune as a soul icon, but the cost of wonderful was more than he was willing to pay so he gave it up for a quieter, all right, life. The importance here lies in the fact that the cost was simply more than he was willing to pay. The old saying goes, be careful what you wish for because it might just come true.

Bill didn’t settle for all right, he chose it in order to live a better life. The decision to give up wonderful had nothing to do with his creative ability, aptitude, or achievement. He loved his art and hated the lifestyle and politics that went with being a musical icon. Incidentally, he got to keep being creative when he chose all right as his place in the world.

We often feel torn – even guilty – in all right situations. To me, so long as you keep your skills wonderful, you can be guilt-free. Practice for wonderful and expect wonderful from yourself, but be realistic about how you will use your gifts.

Do you have a love of teaching? Great administrative skills? The ability to write well? Do you feel energized by audiences? Do you need lots of quiet reflective time? Do you love social events and being the center of attention? Do you go into a practice room and become so engrossed in the music that you lose all sense of time? When you examine all your gifts and personal needs, you can make wonderful decisions about how to balance your musical life and never feel guilty about your choices.


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