When Passion, Not Money Drives Performance

This week, our daughter Bailey took us out to The Station Inn in downtown Nashville.  It’s a bare bones local music venue, but one with a great history.  On Monday night’s the group “The Time Jumpers” play classic country music – mostly Western Swing, and the great thing about the event is the performers.  The band is made up of some of the most talented studio players & performers in Nashville, with folks like Vince Gill sitting in as well.  In fact, during the performance, Elvis Costello showed up to play a few great country numbers himself.  The atmosphere is great.   Mostly locals, who have paid only $10 at the door.  A bar in the back.  No bodyguards or security.  The performers – including Vince – all carry their own
instruments and amps, and during the breaks, wander out into the audience to simply have a beer or hang out.

This is what happens when passion is more important than money.  The performers can’t be paid much, so they’re not doing it for money.  They’re doing it simply for the love of music.  The audience is appreciative, the band is having a ball, and it was one of the best concerts I’ve ever experienced.

As a great example, as I write this, our daughter Bailey Cooke – a roots musician herself – is moving into a small backyard guest house in Nashville. It’s not much, but at only $250 a month, it will allow her to focus on her music, rather than working all the time to pay her rent.  You can hear a bit of her new album here.

What about your own life?  Do you live for passion or money?  Obviously we want to pay our bills and be financially successful.  But when you focus on money, it doesn’t take long to forget your real passion.  Why did you get into your work?  What drives you?

Whatever it is, don’t lose touch with your passion, because passion is what fuels great a performance.

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  1. I had the honor to meet you this week at the NRB convention and to hear you speak on the Christian media. I think what you’ve described here infects the Christian media. As we become more and more obsessed with the success of our ministries we forget the passion we’ve been given for it. We talk so much about sacrifice for our cause, but I question what I would really be willing to give up for it. Do I really have passion for my ministry or is it just a job? All the while the musician part of me would move into a cardboard box.

    Let your daughter know that there’s a Neil Young tribute concert tonight at The Basement in Nashville. $10 at the door. All sorts of Nashville artists will be covering his music. Starts at 9.

  2. Your 100% right!! I guessing this is exactly what Jesus meant when he said, “What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul.” When we make prosperity the goal then money becomes the reward. Instead of letting the divine gifting and talents grow in us. Victor Frankl said, we need a ‘why’ to live and we can cope with any ‘how’ if we have a ‘why’.Yes of cause,Man does not live by bread alone but by the word of God, Jesus’ first temptation was to turning stones into bread, this sums up your blog. living only for bread is a cheap trade off, short changing the divine spirit in us.

    By the way I liked your book Branding Faith, it has some good insights.

    thank you

  3. Rejoice America! Not everything is as bad as it seems. At least you can choose between “passion” or “money”. $250 would buy your daughter a few days rent in Australia (not even one week – let alone a month). Our housing affordability crisis is having a huge impact on people wanting to pursue creative careers (and “normal” ones like teachers, police and nurses).

    If it stays this way much longer, I’ll be advising my children to move overseas after they finished their education.

  4. I was working as a performer in Orlando, FL after college. I was at Disney a few times, I was working in a local dinner theater but the best work on stage that I did was for free at the Civic Theater. It is now a paid rep company but then, it was for the love of it. The theater and the performance was the passion of the folks doing it. They were performers from the local theme parks and their amazing talent was not ever fully used in their day jobs…but at night! We did productions of “Sweeney Todd”, “Evita”, “Barnum”, “La Cage Aux Folles” and dramas, and comedies. Talent oozing everywhere and no one was paid. So unlike the theater here in LA where the object is to get a better agent or manager. The object is not the ART but the ARTIST’S PURSUIT of SOMETHING ELSE THAN WHAT THEY ARE DOING! When you serve only yourself, you have bad art. Art is about serving your best because you want to express your idea, your talent, your song, your play to the world to share your emotional journey and experience. That is why passion is so important. Love for love’s sake is much better than the contrived for dramatic effect.

  5. Could not agree with you more. I just read an excellent book on this topic by Roy Spence, called It’s Not What You Sell, It’s What You Stand For. I don’t know how people succeed without being driven by a purpose.

    My wife and I are going to Nashville next month and we will check out the Station Inn. I just checked Bailey’s page and we are going to miss her but her music is fantastic! I can hear the passion and purpose in it, which means she is bound to be successful (not determined by wealth but by the continued ability to passionately create). She probably learned how to do that from her Dad!

  6. Phil, thank you for this post and I’m glad to hear that Bailey is pursuing her passion!  As I read this I am about ready to embark in the morning to take a team of high school students into Mexico to build what will be our sixth house with our UthBuild projects down there. 

    Just under 2 years ago, I made the decision to follow passion over money.  It has taken me and my family on an over 24,000 mile journey through some of the most amazing “Only God” experiences we’ve ever been a part of, and it never could have happened on the other side of the fence.

    So my thank you, from one who has seen both sides of the equation, is for encouraging people, and specifically your own daughter (where the rubber really meets the road) to pursue their dreams and live their passions, regardless of how great the pay is.

    Just as you said “Art is about serving your best because you want to express your idea, your talent, your song, your play to the world to share your emotional journey and experience”, so I would add that LIFE is about serving your best because you want to be authentic to the same values and beliefs that you portray to others while sharing your emotional journey and experience!

    Loving my pay cut AND my new, “more honest, more authentic, more reflective of my beliefs” life


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