The key to happiness

I don’t remember what I was watching, but the other night in a video someone gave a piece of advice. They said something to the effect of “The key to happiness is to figure out what you love to do, what you’re good at, and find a way to make money doing it.”

I do not agree. I think this is horrible advice. Let me explain.

There are two things I love to do. The first is being in the studio writing and recording music. The second is working with computers.

Music and recording is an art form so we have to throw out the part about “what you’re good at”. Someone might listen to the music I put out and call it trash – which is ok with me. Everyone views the creative arts differently.

With that in mind, let’s just focus on the “what you love to do” part of the statement.

I love being in the studio. I like playing with musical phrases, coming up with percussion lines, writing lyrics, and creating sounds. I fully enjoy the process of starting with one musical phrase in my head – or a line for a lyric – and working a song out of it. Sometimes I have the entire song in my head and it is a matter of trying to remember it all long enough to get it recorded. I love working with tonal landscapes or basically painting an abstract picture with sounds. I don’t always see a musical piece to the end – it is the process I love more than anything (I only release about half of what I finish and only finish about half of what I work on).

When I’m in the studio I’m not writing music for anyone but myself. I don’t listen to something I’m writing and think “I need to make this section more catchy so it will sell better”. I don’t have to play my work in progress in a meeting and discuss a better hook. If I think those low piano notes would sound better with a little explosion mixed under it, then I can do that because that’s how I want to hear it. There is no right or wrong in my studio. My studio, my song, my rules.

I have avoided having anything to do with music or recording as part of my job. People get frustrated at their jobs and I never want to be in a position where I’m “calling in sick” to avoid working with music. It is my personal expression. It is the backbone of my existence. Good or bad, without it, I would feel a little lost.

Regardless of what some people might think, I guess I’m good at it. At least on a personal level. (I’ve sold a bunch of CD’s and my music sells on iTunes so I must be doing something right that someone wants to hear.)

Computers are different.

Like my studio, I also love working with computers. I love picking out the parts, putting them together and installing software. I love building tiny computers to do a simple task or installing a big backup server with a crapload of hard drives for a backup array. I love playing with the network, setting up VPNs or a web server. I love building a cool monitoring system that can tell me how many processes were running on the email server at 3:30 PM nine months ago.

Like music and recording, I often have to get creative with computers and networks. Someone will give me a problem and I’ll need to construct a solution. Sometimes it is easy and other times it needs to fit within a budget or on-going administrative concerns. This is probably the best part about it actually. Figuring out the right solution.

I was in a meeting today with four other people discussing a situation we had a work. The solution will require me to build a server, configure it, and then start a process for managing it. Today was easy. I was able to say “This is the best way to handle this. We do this, this and this and we’re gold Ponyboy”. Everyone agreed.

Next week we will have another meeting about a similar situation which will require a similar, but more difficult solution. In that meeting can almost guarantee my solution will not be correct. One meeting will turn into two or three, many ideas will float around the room, and I probably won’t be 100% happy with the end solution. I think the hardware will be fine but the solution for administrating it will be cumbersome at best.

But, I’m fine with it. Computers are just my job and we don’t always like everything we do at our jobs.

That’s why they are our “jobs” and not our main passion in life.

If next weeks meeting was about a piece of music I was asked to write – I probably wouldn’t even show up.

So my advice is similar to the advice above – but with this modification.

“The key to happiness is to figure out what you love to do – and do it. Then find another thing you love to do, a bit less than the first thing, and find a way to make money doing it. Keep the thing you really love for yourself.”



  1. Oh for the old simple days of North Coast Computer repair. Your new job sounds like much less fun, but I’ll bet it pays better. Gotcha a fancy studio me thinks.

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