I Got My Dream Job Globetrotting in the Music Industry and I Hated It
Working for a label in my dream city was supposed to make me happy, but I eventually realized that a material lifestyle would never fulfill me.
People would kill for this.
It’s something I’d kept telling myself any time something didn’t feel right inside. People would give life and limb to celebrate their birthday jetting privately between three club gigs in three cities on two continents in one epic night spanning more than 36 hours with the reverse time zone travel factored in. They’d love to call it just another day at the office. But the impossible irony is that you only need it until you have it, at which point you need more of it. If you’re paying attention, you might catch yourself in this predicament, and only then do you have a chance to transcend it—to move on to the next level instead of just doing lap after lap around the same course trying to get a better score.
This is a story about coming to know yourself outside the image reflected back to you in the window of a private jet, the floor-to-ceiling glass windows of a Las Vegas suite or the lens of a camera broadcasting that image to tens of thousands around the globe. This is a story about transcending what they told us we wanted in search of ourselves.
Coming to Terms With the Fact I Hated My Dream Job
This was supposed to be it. The dream. A chance to work with the hottest label in the best city in the world, the one I always wanted to live in. Money, power, respect. I had only ever set two goals for myself in my life: the first was a full scholarship to a university, and the second was a self-sustaining music career in my dream city by the age of 25. I achieved the latter with a few weeks to spare, shipping my car full of stuff on a truck and hopping on a flight to Las Vegas with a laptop and a backpack. I took the train to the label’s headquarters, which had exactly two people working there at the time.
My philosophy during this time was to say “yes” to everything, which was a lot considering that I had just arrived in one of the busiest music capitals in the world. A random Tuesday night might bring in a budding new act playing a boiler room in a tiny unfinished warehouse just a 10-minute walk across the train tracks.
One afternoon, I came home to find a random gaggle of creepy photographers, who had stumbled in off the street, conducting a photoshoot with a half-naked and almost disturbingly young aspiring “starlet” in the living room—which I subsequently learned had been financed by the poor girl’s father. Did she like the way she looked reflected through the lens of those cameras, or later pinned up on their Instagram accounts like a trophy? I digress.
I worked hard, partied about equally as hard and soon had a small squad of a dozen or so team members assisting me as the label continued to grow, blossoming our global fanbase from the thousands to the millions. I earned more and more money, accumulating savings quickly with little living expenses beyond the daily coffee, salad, tacos and weed. I also learned during this time that studies show any increase in happiness stemming from an increase in one’s earnings dissipates substantially with each increase over about $75,000 per year, the average median household income in America.
The statistics tell us that money only makes you happy insofar as it can cover your basic needs—beyond that, statistically speaking, money has little bearing on happiness. As the label grew, so did my social influence and proximity to The Artist who owned it. An uneventful Monday afternoon at the office might bring an unexpected phone call imploring me to join Him in Rome for the week where He would be making a cameo in a certain sequel in a classic film series, filming during the night and sleeping during the day. I loved the way I looked in those dimly-lit mirrors at the posh Hotel De Russie overlooking the Piazza del Popolo in the heart of Rome, with its cavernous and carefully fragranced hallways emanating opulence.
Life was good. So why the hell was I so depressed any second of the day I wasn’t distracted with work or women or weed? Why did it seem futile to get off the couch on a Saturday afternoon? Why was I seemingly unable to recognize myself outside of my own reflection? There had to be more.
During one Coachella, my cleaning lady would confirm my suspicions. The festival fell on Easter that year, something none of us realized, insulated in our own industry bubble. I became aware of this when I phoned my cleaner, asking her to work at my place while I was away. She informed me that her family would be visiting from her native country for Easter, but despite my protestations, she insisted on cleaning my house anyway, even volunteering to bring her family to help. I was mortified at the idea of her visiting family cleaning my apartment on Easter Sunday and was embarrassed at the idea that it was even being discussed. But I was also aware she must need the money, or why would she insist? So I set off for Indio, or Palm Springs, or whatever, to hang out, have fun and support our performing label artists.
Staying in a Job That Makes You Unhappy Is Simply Not Worth It
By that point, I had become so jaded by this sort of thing that I was no longer excited about the prospect of an all-inclusive weekend at Coachella. I saw it more as something I was obligated to do. People would kill for this, I tried to remind myself. But halfway through the weekend, I could no longer bear the blathering, vacuous boasting and posturing, the social jockeying and transactional relationships and the endless requests for guestlists.
You’re probably thinking “what a spoiled brat,” complaining about an experience so coveted as Coachella. It could have been much worse, indeed. Many families are without food, and there’s a never-ending war in the Middle East. But I beg of you to consider how depressed your faithful writer must have been in order to derive only misery from an experience like this. It had been years at this point, and I was no longer enamored by the glitz and glam of it all. I felt like a rudderless empty person surrounded by other similarly afflicted. I hated how I looked in the mirror of the green room at the Hilton Palm Springs, surrounded by unopened Grey Goose bottles and social climbers on the hunt for Sunday artist wristbands.
I knew this couldn’t be it.
Seeing True Happiness Helped Me Understand It
So, on Easter Sunday, I bailed on Coachella early, gave my wristband to a random reveler at a pre-party a few doors down, and began the journey home. When I arrived, my cleaner, busy at work in my kitchen, greeted me joyfully with a big smile and an enthusiastic inquiry as to my time in Indio. I was caught off guard by this seemingly misplaced joy; after all, wasn’t I supposed to be the happy one? Wasn’t she, the person cleaning houses for cash on Easter Sunday, supposed to be the miserable one?
The dichotomy hit me like an oversized corporate energy drink canister on wheels barreling toward the Las Vegas Speedway, and something changed in me at that moment. I saw true happiness, embodied in a woman doing nothing more than earning her living with her family by her side and a smile on her face. I saw gratitude and humility, and something else I wouldn’t recognize for years to come—the exuberant inner glow of self-love, radiating outward to all those within range. This woman wasn’t looking in the mirror at all. Her joyful existence was being reflected back to her constantly through the people she helped, the family she supported and, in a way, the glass windows she made spotless. This woman had attained the mastery of life that had eluded me—the simple solace of service to others.
The Tour That Finally Changed the Direction of My Life
As the corporate energy drink of life barreled on into the fall of that year, I found myself on a plane to Japan for some leisure time before a string of performances in Asia. Little did I know I’d soon begin the final descent of my journey to find my real self, outside of the external constructs of any of the aforementioned accouterments. The penultimate act in this play commenced with me taking a crap in a crudely carved crater in the ground in an impossibly sweaty nightclub in Manila, just minutes before my own globally live-streamed performance on the world’s biggest event-streaming platform during the city’s busiest music weekend.
Later that trip, we’d pass through Ibiza for an epic week of partying and performances, then to Mykonos to play for an extravagant birthday celebration for the son of Croatia’s wealthiest man. He’d flown 100 of his friends in on four private jets to take over the most opulent resort on the island, where everyone had their own butler. What could top that? I soon found myself so burned out and exhausted that I began to remember something a mentor had told me: “You must go to Kerala in India,” the birthplace of Ayurvedic medicine, he’d said. “It would be a great place for you to reconnect with yourself.” I started looking into traveling there and planning a much-needed vacation from this life that had, at one time, been a vacation in and of itself.
Learning How to Live Outside the Entertainment Industry
I arrived at the Ayurvedic resort in India and was disappointed by the bland food and modest accommodations. But I was blown away by the insight of the medical staff. With one look into my eye, a young doctor I’d just met recalled the sports concussion I had suffered 15 years prior, and with a gentle hand on my artery, he described with chilling accuracy the nature of my personality. How did he do it? We began discussing my lifestyle and physical and mental ailments. He knew I was a smoker because a certain spot on my forearm was tender when he gently pressed into it with his finger.
Knowing my time with him would be short, I asked him to outline for me the most important pillars of a healthy lifestyle. What were the main things to focus on? He told me if I ate clean, exercised, drank water and slept adequately and in accordance with the phases of the moon, I wouldn’t have much to worry about. Oh, and there was one more thing: Meditation, he said, would bring me back to a state of inner peace and wholeness, grounding me in my own being, helping me weather the storm around me. Reflecting on his unparalleled body of knowledge, and the benefits of Eastern medicine and meditation, I resolved I would open myself to the possibilities of channeling this into the music industry, and towards artists specifically.
Finally Saying Goodbye to What I Thought Was My Dream Job
Shortly after arriving back home, I managed to get up the courage to take the ultimate leap of faith. I walked away from this dream job in this dream city with no plan other than to learn more about myself and the collective self, in pursuit of that pure inner joy my housecleaner had exhibited the year prior. I sold or gave away almost all of my possessions, bought a one-way ticket to another continent, and as I untethered myself from the social and career structures from which I had derived my self-image, I began to feel the wind whipping in my hair as I half-flew, half-free-fell off the proverbial cliff into the unknown.
The next few years weren’t easy. They were undoubtedly the most difficult years of my life. Trying to find yourself with no mirrors around can be deeply, existentially unsettling. I traveled the world, spent all my savings in search of myself and ultimately wound up right back where I started. As I write this, I’m even involved with a new label—but instead of it defining me, it has provided me an outlet for creative self-expression and genuine connection to those who resonate with it. Today, while I might be living in the same city and doing the same work, my outlook and approach are completely new. The years of soul-searching, initially sparked by the apparent emptiness of a material lifestyle, taught me that everything I was looking for was within.
I don’t look in the mirror as often now, because I’ve learned the face staring back at me has nothing at all to do with who I am. Mirrors only show skin and bones. When I need to remember who I am, I just sit back, close my eyes and let the bliss of meditation return me to the source.