I’m just lonely inside I guess
You gave me everything you really tried
Ryan Adams – Sweet Illusions
Isn’t “I did my best” just a worn out cliché? Can’t we always do better? Doesn’t creativity make our human potential limitless? Doesn’t fear hold us back? Whether it’s reaching for that perfect apple out on the limb or making a relationship work, fear lurks and tugs us back from the unexplored edge of our potential. This week I watched “Wings from Wheels: The Making of Born to Run.” It’s a DVD documentary of how Bruce Springsteen wrote and composed “Born to Run.” It was fascinating to hear some of the early versions of now classic songs as they evolved during the tedious process toward epic status. The record took six months of sometimes 20 hour days to complete. The songwriting process was equally arduous. While flipping through a tattered notebook, Bruce explained that a song would begin on a page and maybe 50 pages later it might be finished. He wanted every word perfect and no waste. At the end of the process when the writing, recording, editing, overdubbing, mixing and mastering were complete, he froze. He worried the record might not be perfect and delayed approving the master for release. “I was paralyzed with fear,” he recalled. At the time, friend Jon Landau told him that years later, maybe they’d look back and think of changes they would have made, but “that’s life.” After a short time, the 24 year old surrendered and signed off on a record that would make or break his career. The way he recalls it, he had no choice. “I had nothing left.” The result of his complete and exhaustive effort is now considered a masterpiece.
What might any of us accomplish if we really “did our best?”
not that our aim is too high and we miss it,
but that it is too low and we reach it.”
In 1985 I joined the Forensic Science program at the University of Illinois and earned a B.S. in Criminalistics (= Forensic Science). A few years later I went on to the U. of I. Medical Center on scholarship and obtained my M.S. in Forensic Science from the Department of Pharmacodynamics.
Back to 1985. The new professor and department head, to this day the only true genius I’ve ever known (and as down-to-earth a human being as one can be), walked into my very first forensic science class as an undergrad and his first class teaching outside of the University of California at Berkeley, the “Mecca” of Forensic Science and where it all began here in the US, and didn’t speak a word.
Instead, the first thing that Professor David Stoney did was take a piece of chalk, walk to the board and write: “Nobody’s so smart that you can’t learn 90% of what they know in two weeks, the other 10% is decoration. Don’t be bluffed, everybody is shaking in his boots, so don’t be bluffed. Show me a specialist and I’ll show you someone who’s so scared he’s dug himself a hole to hide in. – Kurt Vonnegut”
Words to think about…words of wisdom that I’ll always remember.