Despite Growing Up, I’m Still a Rock Star

[Happy Black Financial Friday! For those of you holding onto your dollars and nice and cozy at home, here’s a great article by my friend over at While I, too, always wanted to become a rock star, I sadly couldn’t play an instrument to save my life. So instead I pretended to be a lead singer of a band to impress the ladies ;) Sometimes a mohawk really comes in handy!]

There is a spot in my basement where I keep all of my guitars. 7 of them to be exact. They’re right next to my drum set, the PA system, and the computer I used for making recordings.

You might say I really like music.

From time to time my son and I will go downstairs, turn the amps up really loud, and jam out to a few simple riffs (as well as any nine-year-old can do playing the drums).

But then after a short while it all goes silent again. We go back upstairs and I go back to my life of worrying about my job, paying the bills, and all the other responsibilities I have as a Dad.

I remember when I first got a job and was able to finally afford to buy all of this guitar stuff. It was like a dream come true! Finally my own homemade recording studio.

But the trade-off for money was time. I am a grown-up – with a lot of responsibilities and not enough time to get them all done. So until I get it figured out, the music will have to wait.

Waking Up From a Dream…

MTV was such a cruel trick. From the time I was 12 I thought that all you had to do was learn a few guitar chords, get discovered and then you had everything you need to make it big!

I remember being in class with my friends and obnoxiously debating how many millions of albums we were going to sell before we had even played our first gig together as a band.

At the time we thought we were so good. We thought we were so original and so creative.

But the reality was anything but. To listen now to the recordings we made while playing was terrible. The songs were shitty, and we lacked any real discipline to ever truly have a shot at a music career. We juvenilely blinded ourselves into thinking we were so good that luck should just fall right into our laps.

But that’s just it. When you grow up, you realize that nothing is ever given to you. Not your career. Not your money. Not your love. It ALL has to be earned.

And sometimes getting those things comes at a price.

There is no record deal waiting for you just because you play the guitar, look a certain way, or listen to obscure bands that no one has ever heard of. A real rock star gives his career everything he has – 110%. And even from there your probability for success is about as good as being hit by lightning.

That’s been one of the hardest things to accept throughout this process of giving up the quintessential dream – knowing that music isn’t coming to save me. In my mind, I always thought if my job or life or whatever didn’t work out the way I wanted it to, there would always be the music.

But what if that’s not true? What if there really is no alternative plan or backup? What if this is really it…

Similar to the main character in Fight Club, I was finding truth in one of its most famous quotes:

“You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You are the same decaying organic matter as everyone else, and we are all a part of the same compost pile.”

So then what does this mean for me? Did I fail my dreams? Did I not become the person I thought I was going to be? In a word… No. I became something better.

What It Really Means to Be a Rock Star

Did you ever think you’d wake up from a dream, only to find that you were still dreaming? Then finally you woke up for real and realized that everything you thought you were feeling was all in your head?

That’s how I felt by this part of the story.

Rather than wallow in self-pity like a self-centered teenager, I found myself discovering new ways to embrace my independence and desire to reach out to others.

The quest for financial freedom became my new mantra. If music wasn’t going to save me, my prowess with money would. I’m a smart guy. I can figure out how to pay my mortgage down quicker or save more money in my Roth IRA and 401k. Maybe if I’m really good I’ll even figure out how to retire by age 45 and spend the rest of my days never worrying about money ever again!

From learning and thinking about money came the natural transition to blogging. Blogging was great because I realized I could write one-hit wonders with words rather than guitar riffs. I could write articles that would be just as helpful to people as the lyrics to their favorite song. I could make money for my family using the website in ways that other people could not even begin to comprehend. I could tell people what I do for a hobby and they would find it intriguing.

At work I found myself trading performances on the concert stage for delivering presentations in front of my peers.   I went after earning the biggest annual bonus rather than trying to have a number one album.   I discovered that forming real relationships with my clients and colleagues gave me a sense of admiration and fulfillment that I didn’t even know I could feel.

I found that being a rock star meant that there was much more than having a guitar in your hand. Being an adult or a grown man with responsibilities doesn’t make you a sellout. It just means you’re maturing. It means you’re acting your age.

So what if I never sell millions of albums or perform on stage with a guitar in my hand? I’m still me. I am smart, I am sexy, and I have a lot of confidence in the things I know I can bring to the table.

When you strip away the music aspect, being a rock star was always about one thing – your swagger.

It was about being comfortable with yourself, acting the way you want to, and captivating others with your presence.

When I drive home after work in my reliable car to my beautiful house and eat good food without a single worry about how much any of it costs (because I know I’m not in debt and it’s all within my budget), that’s being a rock star.

When your boss is excited about something I did and I get a big promotion, that’s being a rock star. When you walk into a project meeting and are able to motivate a group of your peers, that’s a rock star performance.

When you write a blog and hundreds of people show up every day to see what it says, that’s being a rock star. Then when that blog you own makes over a thousand dollars per month (even while you sleep at night), that’s definitely being a rock star! (When you write an epic, free +7,500 word post for your readers with everything you need to know about how to start a money making blog, there’s no question that you’re being a rock star!)

And most importantly, when your kids think there is nothing you can’t do. Or your wife still wouldn’t trade you in even though the two of you are now 15 years older than when you first met – that’s being a true rock star.

As it turns out, becoming an adult was not really that bad. Maybe you’ll never have a best-selling album or make a music video, but that’s something you can move past now. Move on. It’s a young-man’s game, and eventually all young men have to grow up at some point. The ones who learn to embrace their true purpose are the ones who discover how to make the most of it.

Every now and again I’ll go into Guitar Center and have a look around with my son. I could easily afford any guitar hanging up on the walls, but I’m not here to buy any of them today. The true purpose of being there was because my son thinks it’s really cool, and that’s a love that I hope he and I can grow and continue to share together. That’s being a real rock star.

MMD is the blogger behind My Money Design, a site that is all about finding the right wealth building strategies that fit your lifestyle. You can follow My Money Design on both Twitter and Google+ too.

[Photo cred: diloz]

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  1. S L November 28, 2014 at 6:58 AM

    *grin* missed the part with the guest blogger notice — wondered how J Money Jr got to be nine so quick. I believe in that Rock Star feeling at work, and in my volunteer service. Nothing like doing something right, or going above, and knowing how GOOD it feels. Thanks to you all, and Happy Thanksgiving and a wonderful holiday season.

    1. MMD November 28, 2014 at 5:06 PM

      I know exactly what you mean. Not that you ever need the recognition, but it sure does give you that “rock star” feeling to be appreciated by others when you do something truly awesome.

  2. Brian @ Debt Discipline November 28, 2014 at 8:59 AM

    Great post MMD! I know what you mean. I’m feeling more like a rock star these days now that we are debt free, definitely have some swagger. I think we can all be rock stars in the things we do if we are content.

    1. MMD November 28, 2014 at 5:09 PM

      I think anyone who ascends to a point of being debt free has earned super-star status. Not many people can claim to not owe a thing to anyone else. That’s a freedom some people spend years trying to achieve.

  3. Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life November 28, 2014 at 9:07 AM

    I like to have a balance of both kinds of “rockstar” in my life. Being in the arts has never been about fame for me but about passion for the work- discipline included. Sharing the art and connecting with people is what’s rockstar to me, whether it’s in 5,000 seat Madison Square Garden or a small black box with a few people. Yes, it sometimes comes at the price of feeling financially insecure.

    On the other side of that, some of the newfound stability I’ve gotten from being a writer is totally rockstar in it’s own way, and I appreciate that too. I love the feedback I get from my readers, knowing I’ve helped them and inspired them to harness the concrete, rational, money aspect of their lives.

    I think I really need both in my life- right and left brain influencers- art and rationality- to feel completely rockstar.

    1. MMD November 28, 2014 at 5:17 PM

      That’s wonderful that you’re writing has given you so much confidence and security to succeed financially. I can totally identify with that great feeling you get from helping your blog audience. Though its not really my primary reason for blogging, it sure is a nice by-product when people say thanks for teaching them something new.

  4. Tonya@Budget and the Beach November 28, 2014 at 10:57 AM

    This is probably slightly off the point you are trying to make with the article, but I think we all have dreams of doing something really cool like being a pro athlete, rock star, movie star…whatever it is. I think as an adult such a small percentage of us actually become that (and most of it is probably way overrated anyway), but there is still a way to be able to express yourself in some way that is both useful and fun for you, even if it’s just a hobby. I’m doing that right now as a recreational beach volleyball player, new ukulele player, and sometimes amateur actress with my videos on my site. :) I think there is a way to use those skills which make you a good musician to what you do for an actual living or maybe even a side hustle. Creative problem solving in your job, working well with others, or maybe even teaching music lessons.

    1. MMD November 28, 2014 at 5:27 PM

      I agree with you that if you’re smart you’ll find ways to still do those things you always loved without having to quit your day job. As a blogger I know this outlet certainly allows me to be the writer I knew I was never going to be. But you’re right – something as simple as teaching lessons and even encouraging my kids to find their muse helps me to feel like I’m still putting that talent to good use.

      You’re probably absolutely right about most of those things we all wanted to be probably being way overrated. I’m sure being a real rock-star wasn’t always as glorious as MTV made it appear …

    2. J. Money November 29, 2014 at 8:03 AM

      I’m one of your new fanboys too w/ those videos, Tonya. They’re hilarious!

  5. Kassandra November 28, 2014 at 11:30 AM

    I know the feeling of the post first hand – having a healthy sense of confidence (or swagger) helps in so many ways! As someone who is a singer-songwriter and grew up playing classical clarinet, I had high aspirations of a future in music.

    I ended up shifting gears early on and worked as a corporate credit analyst before I again shifted into my current career. Music is still plays a very significant role in my life (released an album in 2011) even though I decided that achieving financial independence was a more important rockstar goal for me The latter wasn’t necessarily going to happen through music.

    Although I chose not to pursue a music career full-time, my talents were and still are able to help me get closer to FI. For me, that’s a win-win situation.

    1. MMD November 28, 2014 at 5:32 PM

      Wow, you had your own album? First off, that deserves a “well done!”

      You really hit the nail on the head. I think about the time I finally said “this music thing is never going to happen” was about the same time I got incredibly serious about going after financial freedom. Suddenly nothing was really as important to me as excelling in my career and figuring out how to structure my finances for early retirement. It’s not that music was no longer important, but rather that there was a new “light at the end of the tunnel”.

  6. kay ~ November 28, 2014 at 12:08 PM

    LOVE that picture. I had a boyfriend when I was a freshman in high school that looked a lot like that! :)

    1. MMD November 28, 2014 at 5:35 PM

      That is a pretty awesome shot. Unfortunately its not me; it’s a random photo from Flickr that seemed to fit the article well. All my old pictures of me jamming on stage are still on film (somewhere in the basement). Someday I’ll have to scan them and make them digital. I think my kids would get a kick out of them.

  7. Ben Luthi November 28, 2014 at 1:39 PM

    I never had many skills in high school, but I definitely consider myself a rock star now :)

    1. MMD November 28, 2014 at 5:40 PM

      You probably had more going on for you back then than you realize. But that’s great that things are better for you now.

  8. Emily @ Simple Cheap Mom November 28, 2014 at 3:54 PM

    More quotes froom Fight Club, I really need to watch that movie again!

    I’m glad you found a way to be a rockstar in your life. And it sounds like you’re a famous musician to at least one little fan.

    1. MMD November 28, 2014 at 5:45 PM

      LOL – there are so many good quotes to choose from in Fight Club.

      One of the best things about having children is that they think you can do anything. From playing the guitar to having random knowledge about video games and movies, my son thinks I know everything … and it’s great!

  9. Chris @ Flipping a Dollar November 28, 2014 at 6:22 PM

    “When you grow up, you realize that nothing is ever given to you.”

    Lmao I think a lot of people out there still don’t understand this!

    I try to explain this to my friends who don’t have kids. Sure, I have a lot of things which would be fun if I could do (workout every day, play more volleyball, see more movies, etc.) But seeing my daughter grow up in front of my eyes is a different kind of fun. I think growing up just makes you realize that there are different types of fun and its important to go for the ones that you really want!

    1. J. Money November 29, 2014 at 8:04 AM

      “Different types of fun” – I like that :) Very true.

  10. Jason @ Islands of Investing November 28, 2014 at 11:58 PM

    I love this post MMD, and really believe the only thing that makes you awesome is how you carry yourself, your presence and the impact you have on others. There’s the rock-star facade, where you try to make people think your cool, and then there’s the REAL rock star, which is all the things you described above. I’m not sure I ever had dreams of being a real rock-star on stage (although I do recall some NBA-style rock-star dreams), but this really gets me excited about striving to a rock-star level in all the truly important areas in my life.

    1. MMD November 30, 2014 at 12:18 PM

      Thanks Jason. You’re right – the “rock star” part can be anything (athlete, actor, etc). I think we all had dreams of being great, famous, and rich. Even though most of us probably never will be on the cover of magazine, that doesn’t mean we can’t still become big fish in our own small ponds.

  11. How To Save Money December 1, 2014 at 4:34 AM

    Yes! We are rock stars in our own ways. Great article!

  12. Jayson @ Monster Piggy Bank December 1, 2014 at 5:06 AM

    I just wish that we would never have to worry about earning money or it would be easy to get what we want. And, everything that we dream about can be a reality! MMD, it’s good to know that you and your son have something in common, you’re both rock stars! Rock on!

  13. Zambian Lady December 1, 2014 at 6:55 PM

    We can be rock stars in anything we put our hand to. We should just not let our unfulfilled dreams get in the way, otherwise we will not enjoy our current successes.

  14. Kim @ Money Under the Cushions. December 2, 2014 at 4:17 PM

    Rock on, MMD! Rock on!! The power of multiple dreams and the courage to follow them. Swagger, indeed. :)

  15. connieK December 5, 2014 at 3:50 PM

    D@MN, GREAT POST!!!! My favorite part was, “When I drive home after work in my reliable car to my beautiful house and eat good food without a single worry about how much any of it costs (because I know I’m not in debt and it’s all within my budget), that’s being a rock star.” WOW! I’m gonna enjoy doing all of that after work tonight, because on account of hard work I can say I fit those descriptions. Thx for the super important reminder!!!

    1. J. Money December 5, 2014 at 9:15 PM

      That was a great line, huh? :)