News From The Woods.--


By Bob Ketchum

Originally Published June 9, 1998

"By The Numbers"

This article, for once, is not about the music business. It's not even necessarily about music, audio, video, computers, or even technology. This is about life, and how we live it. This is about what is important, really important, in our lives. It is about time, how we spend it, and who we share it with.

These are just a few observations made by me in the past 20 years or so of my life, not just concerning the music business, or my career direction, but about jobs, priorities, sacrifices, and responsibilities to one's self: As I see it, there are four classes of people in today's working society: (1) Those who don't have a job and live off welfare or whatever they can scrape together, (2) Those who have a job and like it, (3) Those who have a job and hate it, and (4) Those lucky souls who have a job and absolutely love what they do.

The #1's in life have it pretty tough. Sometimes they bring it on themselves. Sometimes they are born into it. Sometimes they just fall into it. I'd bet 20% of the total workforce of America are transients, moving from one job to another, or worse yet, never working at all and bilking the government (you and me) out of money when they really are healthy and strong enough to do better than the standards they have set for themselves. These people are, as a rule, poorly educated or at the very least poorly motivated. For them, it's easier to take the money and run than it is to stand up, face the music, and try to better themselves and their children. It is perhaps more difficult to break out of the #1 mold than and other case. The deck always appears to be stacked against them, and in many ways, it is. It is unfortunate and sometimes not fair, but few things in life are fair.

How many people that you personally know of, can you count who are truly happy in their careers? Now, before you start running through your personal address book, I want you to stop and evaluate each selection. Just because your neighbor Joe, the milkman, seems to really like his job, do you imagine that Joe had seen himself years ago as an aspiring milkman with his own route? Not that there is anything wrong with that career choice. After all, someone has to deliver the milk. But, given the chance, maybe Joe really wanted all his life to be a race car driver, but never had a shot at it or wasn't lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. So now Joe has found his niche in life as a milkman. It pays well, he gets plenty of fresh air, and enough free time to himself that he can have his hobbies to help achieve the quality of life Joe has always wanted. Joe falls into my #2 category. Let's say that category comprises about 30% of the total population.

Life just happens. Slowly. By slowly I mean a truly L-O-O-O-O-N-G period of time. So imperceptible, so seemingly innocently, that we tend to not see the forest for the trees until we've past the point of no return. One day we're in high school or college, and it seems like we just blink and we're raising children of our own and we're "locked in" to a certain life-style which afford us the quality of life we have grown accustomed to. Those of you out there with teenagers know that feeling when you realize you have just become your father. How did that happen so quickly?

Now, how many people can you name that you know HATES their job, but continue to do it nevertheless. These people are factory workers (for instance) who do the same boring routine day after day. Their end result is a steady paycheck which allows them to buy bass boats, new cars, recreational supplies, camping gear, canoes, bowling balls, power tools, jet ski's, computers, sail boards, ATV's, and whatever else they want to do for a hobby. Having those hobbies is the "payback" you get for doing a job that you do not paticularily like. Nothing wrong with being a #3, either. Another 40% of the total workforce probably really don't like their jobs but they do them anyway for any number of reasons, economically and personally.

That leaves only 10% (probably less in reality) of the workforce who have jobs or careers that they truly love. They love it so much that working excessively doesn't even faze them. What's an extra 20 hours a week if you really like what you're doing? Obviously the minority, you don't see too many #4's. One reason is that they are usually workaholics who don't get out much. The main problem with being a #4 is that you are so busy doing what you do that you can't seem to find time for self and family. Spouses of #4's usually have a career of their own or are full-time housewives and mothers who see way too much of the homefront. They never get out. The occupational hazard of being a #4 is that you become a (happy) slave to your work, and it sure is hard to keep a #4 family together.

So, you see.... it really doesn't matter which category you fit into. Each one has it's own special set of problems. No matter what kind of job or career you are involved in, I'll bet you can find yourself in one of these categories. Musician's typically like to see themselves as a #4, or at least a #3. I don't know of any musician's who are #2's because just being a musician is tough enough anyway and who wants to do a job that they hate and is at the same time a thankless job.

My point here is that you should always try to make the end justify the means. If you work and don't like your job, that's not so bad. You're in good company. Take your paychecks and try to make your family better for it. Take at least some of that money and provide some pleasant diversions for self and family. It's easier for those of you who have jobs and like (or at least tolerate) them. There's less stress involved, so quality time should come easier and maybe not be as expensive as that Hawaiian vacation those #2's require. Anyone falling in the #1 category should just get a grip. There is ALWAYS a way to find to better one's self. Self-respect is a good beginning. Any plan that can guarantee your children a better future than you yourself have had (without doing anything illegal) is a good start.

And for the #4's out there, you lead a charmed life! Whether you get there by design, hard work, or were just born lucky (notice I didn't say "with a silver spoon in your mouth" because that won't necessarily guarantee your happiness), all the true #4's out there should get up every morning and thank God each and every day that you have it so good. And lighten up a little.... take some extra time off for your family and do something that is not work-related. You might be surprised how much more you will appreciate what you have when you stop and smell the roses once in a while.

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