For the past six months I’ve had a cd by Townes Van Zandt recycling through my car stereo. I have a few other cds as well, most of which I enjoy but also most of which my wife is tired of hearing over and over.
But I keep come back to Townes who has a simple, earthy directness to his music.
One of the songs is called “Poncho and Lefty”. The song tells the tale of a bandit named Poncho and his blues singing sidekick, Lefty. Poncho is gunned down by the authorities in a Mexico desert and Lefty leaves for Ohio with a trail of suspicon that he might have tipped the Federales off for money.
When I first started listening to it, I thought it was a nice ballad. Later I thought that the story would make for a good “buddy” movie ala Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”.
But over the past month, I’ve been thinking that the song is not about two separate people, but two sides of the same person: the adventurous/creative side versus the pragmatic survivor. The song talks about how many of us are the Judas to our own dreams and passions in return for what we believe to be a life of security and conformity.
I think about the misalignment of our dreams and actions often, because I do believe that it leads more to chronic stress than anything else. I also believe that it makes it that much more difficult for an organization to align its purpose with the individual. The more an organization can involve employees in ways which inspire their individual passions, then everyone wins.
Of course, work needs to get done. And not every task may seem to inspire passion in you, but if the bulk of what you are doing seems pointless and lifeless, then why are you doing it? That may not mean that you quit and pursue your dreams elsewhere (although it might) but it might mean thinking real hard about what it is you love to do and see if you can’t craft your job to do more of that – you’d be surprised at easy it might be to pull off; your boss is thirsting for employees who demonstrate initiative.
Townes’ song ends with Lefty growing old in a cheap hotel. But that is not how it needs to end for any of us. We have the ability to redeem ourselves from ourselves every day, if we choose to.
That’s worth singing about.