From Making Widgets to Making Music
Nigel E. Harris had been in engineering for almost 20 years when he showed up at my office. He said that he had reached the top of the ladder, “a success in everyone else’s eyes.” He was in middle management with a very successful company making good money.
But he wasn’t happy. He had a 7-year-old daughter, a 5- year-old son and a 14-year marriage, and was feeling trapped…feeling like he was “going crazy.”
Nigel came to me after meeting self-employed men in a men’s group who had been successful building lives that they love. Nigel told me, “I’ve never seen, spoken to, or met people like this before. Everybody in my family was resigned that work was something you put up with and went along with, and you generated joy and enjoyed yourself evenings and on weekends.”
He was one of these people who have followed a conventional route strongly encouraged by his parents. He wasn’t a natural engineering technologist and thought there was something wrong with him as a result, which isn’t uncommon. People often make career decisions for the wrong reasons.
Some people face a lot of social pressure to conform to the priorities of their parents. But when they do, they lose their “authentic self.” That’s what happened to Nigel and he spent a good part of his adult life looking for his authentic self.
What’s unusual about him is he came to me in his early-40s when he was already entrenched in marriage, a mortgage, two children and obligations. It was a very difficult situation for Nigel.
Pleasure and joy in work were anomalies to Nigel. Since we tend to project onto the world our own personal experiences, just exploring the “jobjoy” concept was a major paradigm shift for him.
When we delved into what Nigel really enjoyed doing, he kept talking about helping a friend entertain senior citizens in a nursing home. He said, “I saw something that really moved me. I saw that some of the seniors were getting very emotional. I couldn’t put my finger on it. It was more than just having a good time.” But he didn’t believe he could make a living playing the guitar and singing in nursing homes. I assured him that if he followed his natural talents, the money would follow. There’s even a book on the subject.
Music had always been a big part of Nigel’s life. He had been a drummer in rock bands in England in the 60′s and later taught himself guitar but he only saw music as a hobby, and not as a serious vocation.
It was clear that Nigel’s natural talents were more in tune with music therapy than engineering. So he traded his engineering job for engineering consulting until the high tech down-turn of 2002 when he quit engineering altogether and launched himself into a degree in music at the University of Ottawa.
Soon after, he really found his niche. During his first semester he saw a poster advertising a course in music therapy at a veterans’ health center. He said, “All the pieces came together. Suddenly I’m in this institution with four or five professional music therapists to work with and see how they do their jobs.”
“I was so far ahead of the other music students who were between the ages of 18 to 22 and mostly lacking in clarity as I already had lots of volunteer experience and a repertoire of songs. Basically it was as easy as breathing and I got an A+ in the course. The department administrator thought I was so good she hired me.”
The administrator wasn’t the only one who was tuned into Nigel’s natural talents, so were three others who also hired him to work on contract at three other institutions while he was still in his first year in university.
To some, Nigel appears to have lost a lot, including his security and a high paying job but now he makes a living improving the wellness of seniors and people with developmental disabilities, and now he can’t wait to go to work.
“I am truly honored to be able to earn my daily bread singing and playing and being in close relationship with some of the most loving, open and playful people on the planet.” Nigel says his days are full of miracles. He loves the way music touches his clients in a way that nothing else can.
One of his clients in particular, who was wheelchair bound and communicating with a pictorial and alphabetical message board, would hammer out the letters CD‚ and gesture with his hands posing the question, “Do you have a CD?” He didn’t then but he was so inspired by his client’s persistent urging that he entered the studio in Sept’06 with a vision for an album, and he’s released his first CD ‘Nigel and His Musical Friends (http://cdbaby.com/cd/nigeleharris). He feels his life is changed forever, and how do you put a price on that?
Nigel reflects, ” It was not an easy process to go through, no quick fix, and I can see why many people choose to resign to their present situation rather than surrender to the terrors of the unknown. What excites me is that now I can see that doing what you love for a living IS available to everyone who surrenders to the process, admits that their way is not working and… asks for help!”
–with Nick Isenberg
Nigel willdemonstrate to you how to carve a career as a creative independent. He’ll take you through his career story. After getting his JobJoy Report, Nigel went back to school in his late 40s, got a music degree and fully developed his Musical Wellness business. That was ten years ago and even now he is so energized by his work that he that he continues to grow in his passion. Besides his socially valuable work in therapeutic music, he offers a portfolio of services, including songwriting workshops, studio recording services, guitar/ukulele lessons, and more. I know you’ll enjoy it and get lots of ideas about how to translate your own creative ideas into money-making ventures.