I am a homebody. My idea of a kick-ass Saturday night is to sit in our basement with Steph and our boys and watch any Harry Potter flick while eating popcorn and chocolate, and drinking a nice glass of vino.
This is especially true when I’m asked to do something that doesn’t include Steph. She absolutely encourages me to go out to see my friends, but truth be told, I’m lazy. The whole having to take a shower thing, and then having to get dressed… it’s all so tiring.
Which is why when my brother Gavin asked me to go see one of the best DJ’s in the world spin at a local club, I immediately said, “I doubt it.” But Steph told me I should go, because I don’t spend a whole ton of time with Gav, especially one-on-one. So I relented.
The DJ was Ferry Corsten, and for those who don’t know club music, this guy is a legend. The Rotterdam born Corsten tours all over the world, and has a regular gig on Sirius. In fact, once in April of 2012, his countdown show was broadcast live from Sirius XM… and the thing lasted eight hours. He trended three separate times on Twitter in those eight hours, and even took worldwide requests from his own website, Facebook, and Twitter. No one takes requests doing what he does because it’s almost impossible, and yet he pulled it off.
To put that in perspective, it’s like Babe Ruth getting the request from an eight year-old, “Hey, could you hit two home runs for me in the next game or I’ll die?”…and then having Ruth hit three, while still drunk.
When I read up on the guy, I thought, “Very rarely do I ever get to see one of the greatest performers of any genre, ever, do their thing steps away from me.” Only a few occasions came to mind. I’ve seen Ronaldo play in a World Cup semi-final. I’ve seen Neil Peart drum a lot (and will again on May 14). I’ve seen Brett Hull score a hat-trick… on hat day; the 15-minute delay to clean up 14,000 hats was legendary in these parts.
So I bit the bullet and accepted my brother’s invite. I am so thankful I did.
I was in a copiously stupid line to buy beer when there was a definitive change in the music being played. My mood, tested at this point, actually lightened. Ferry Corsten had just taken the stage, and the difference in atmosphere was night and day. After I grabbed my beer and met my brother near the booth, I watched this guy work.
DJ-ing is not simply about spinning music. It’s putting together sights and sounds and creating an atmosphere of “oneness.” It’s the same principle of hearing one of your favorite songs on the radio, and how it somehow means more to you than listening to it on mp3. Psychologists have said that it’s the subconscious notion that you know many others are celebrating the same song with you, and the inter-connectivity of it all draws a deeper level of excitement.
So with that in mind, imagine a thousand people all moving as one, smiling, dancing, feeling the beat of the music in their ears, and guts, and feet. And then imagine your ringleader is the one with the biggest smile on his face. That is Ferry Corsten.
As I watched him, and I couldn’t take my eyes off him, I saw that this is one of the rare few people I’ve seen who absolutely adores what he does. There is literally not another thing on this earth that this guy should be doing than what he’s already doing. And while watching him perform, it took me back to a late spring day when I was eighteen…the day that changed my future forever.
After high school, before I got anything together in my life, I was a courier driver for my girlfriend’s mom’s company. All of my friends were also courier drivers, and it was a fun way to pass the time and make money. I had been driving for almost a year, and I had no real direction on where I wanted my life to go. Lately, I had been thinking about finding a passion, but I had no idea where to start, like most 18-year-olds.
So one day in early May, I was at a stoplight in downtown St. Louis. The weather was picture perfect, seventy degrees, and a sky as blue as a Simpson’s intro. Subdivisionswas blaring on my tape deck (don’t laugh at my deck), and a slight breeze caressed the hair on my tanned left arm.
As I waited at the light, a small river of business men and women flowed past me on their way to TGI Fridays for lunch. They were probably going for the potato skins; that’s what I would order. A cook at a Fridays invented the delicacy, for God’s sake.
I first noticed their shoes. The men wore wingtips… almost all of them. The women wore really thick socks and white Reeboks… almost all of them. But then my gaze shifted from their feet to their faces. Every person had one thing in common: facial expression. They all looked miserable. Honestly, I was a bit taken aback, and an unexpected fear crept into my psyche.
For the rest of the day, I couldn’t get their faces out of my head. It shocked me that none of them looked happy, especially on a gorgeous day like that day. And they weren’t the only faces that looked like this. I paid particular attention to everyone else I encountered, and none of them looked truly happy.
Is this what I have to look forward to? I mean, as a someone who works for a living, I spend more of my waking life working than doing anything else. I refuse to do something that doesn’t make me happy.
So I went home and wrote down every single thing I could think to do that might make me happy, and the list started with priesthood and ended with porn. They were my starting cut points. From there, I kept trimming here and there, slicing there and here, and marking big fat red X’s over anything that didn’t fulfill my simple criteria: to work somewhere that excited me, doing things that interested me, that paid at least as much as I was making as a courier driver, which was not a ton by any stretch.
And at the end, I was left with radio. I tried 50 ways to Sunday to talk my way out of it, playing a little devil’s advocate to make sure that I was making the right decision. When I had exhausted all of the doubt, I enrolled at Broadcast Center (radio school in St. Louis), secured an internship at a morning show to simply get my foot in the door, and turned it into a career of auditory storytelling that eventually graduated into video production… or as I like to think of it, radio with pictures.
Now at 50, you may be reading this and saying, “Easy for you to write. I can’t stand my job, but we have a mortgage, car payments, insurance, and that’s not counting the tuition of our seven children.”
All valid points. I get it. But that doesn’t mean that it is too late to follow a dream… any dream that is based in reality. Will you be in a rock band selling out stadiums? It’s not incredibly likely, but you might be a decent musician, and there are literally hundreds of places that will allow you to play if you have the talent and the desire. Who says you couldn’t play a local venue or watering hole on a Saturday night?
You may have wanted to become a writer, but accounting pays better. Who is to say that you couldn’t write a blog? Or a book? Did you know that you can write a book and publish it yourself for almost no money?
Or what if you wanted to become an actor? No, Hollywood or Broadway may not be calling, but why couldn’t you try out for the literally hundreds of community theater opportunities that pop up in every corner of every hamlet in America each year?
Or what if you wanted to become a chef? You start with cooking for you, or your family and friends, and you build up from there. If you want to do it for a living, there are schools that can teach you how to do it very well and relatively quickly if you have the aptitude.
And even if you don’t want to do it for a living, it’s so important to nurture your dreams. I will never be a chef, but I love to cook, and sometimes during long weeks, looking forward to being in the kitchen over a weekend is enough to get me through the grind.
The point is that the goal is to make a life at something that makes you happy, even if it’s not how you make a living. It never really is too late. There are always options for working adults to learn something new or to try something new, as long as we make the time and take the leap and say, “I want to be happy, dammit.”
And if you’re a parent, you owe it to your kids to show them how to live their best life…one that makes them happy. Stress to them to find their passion… even if it’s video games. EA Sports and Activision are always hiring, and they pay pretty well.
So to the few people who are actually still reading this, stop reading this, make your list, cross off the porn, discover your passion, take the leap, grab your dream, and live it.
Be Ferry Corsten.