I love New York, especially in December. It’s alive with the holiday spirit. The people. The lights. The energy. The views from One World Observatory. The Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. And on a recent visit for a little bit of year-end business I added one very special appointment with The Boss.
Bruce Springsteen is one of our great American songwriters. His live shows are legendary, and often last for hours. Whenever a show finally does end it seems as if it might just start back up all over again, and you certainly wish it would. Springsteen is hands down one of the best live shows I’ve witnessed.
So my expectations were especially high walking into “Springsteen on Broadway.” It’s a one-act monologue offering insight into the meaning behind the music. Springsteen, alone onstage, chronicled the journey of his life around a stripped-down, acoustic set with 800 fans packed inside the Walter Kerr Theatre. He delivered a raw, honest and deeply personal account of his life, laced with powerful perspective that certainly had me (and I would guess most of the audience) reflecting a bit on my own journey and the meaning of it all.
That is the gift: When the art transcends the artist and becomes personal to the audience. When it’s meaningful enough that it moves you to hit pause and consider what matters most. This night is one that I will treasure for a very long time, and it served as a powerful reminder of where the best art originates: deep inside the heart and soul of the artist.
The Inner Work
The story of Bruce Springsteen is filled with tension long before the triumph. Coming of age, he had to endure some difficult circumstances — circumstances that could so easily have circumvented his destiny. It’s the circumstances that define us until we decide to create an entirely new story. There’s comfort in knowing that no matter the circumstances, you still have a choice if you believe in the magic of self-creation and have the courage to decide and commit.
Springsteen spoke honestly about the struggle and the sacrifice. And the self-awareness that is so often required to find our purpose and fulfill our potential.
In a recent Esquire profile, Springsteen described the struggle more perfectly than I ever could: “One’s coming of age has to be earned. It’s not given to anyone. It takes a certain single-minded purpose. It takes self-awareness, a desire to go there. And a willingness to confront all the very fearsome and dangerous elements of your life — your past, your history — that you need to confront to become as much of a free agent as you can. This is what the show is about. … It’s me reciting my ‘Song of Myself.’ ”
That is the inner work. It’s worth doing. Otherwise, as we come of age, those “fearsome and dangerous elements of life” have a tendency to show up and impede our present-day relationships and experiences. By confronting, contending with and healing the hard parts of our own history, it’s a whole lot easier to be the most authentic version of ourselves in the world. That freedom is the path toward creativity, connection and love.
We’ve got to earn it every day.
What Matters Most
Love and connection. It’s why we’re here. And in the middle of an experience that connected deeply, the most intimate moment was the only moment when Springsteen didn’t stand alone.
Midway through the show, his wife of 30 years, Patti Scialfa, joined him onstage. The duet lasted only a couple of songs: “Tougher than the Rest” and “Brilliant Disguise.” But the impact lasted so much longer. The setup to “Brilliant Disguise” included this bit of wisdom: “In order to experience trust and love we have to let others see our real selves, behind our many masks. It takes courage and a strong partner. And together you name the things that give your life meaning, its purpose, its fullness, its very reality.”
It reminded me of one of my favorite quotes from Esther Perel: “The quality of your life ultimately depends on the quality of your relationships.”
Life is people.
Perhaps the most profound perspective in Springsteen pulling back the curtain on the life that became the legendary career was the important reminder that there’s a difference between the two.
I understood. I am fortunate that my own career journey has afforded me the opportunity to pursue my passion and share my perspective with you. I’ve always wanted my work to matter; however, today it isn’t what matters most to me. In the best of times and most certainly when things fall apart, as they inevitably do, it’s important to be able to share in those experiences with people we love. Sharing those moments is what gives our life its deepest meaning and enduring fulfillment.
It’s why we’re here.
Whether you’re a new reader or you’ve been with me since the beginning, I’d like to thank you for your time and attention. It means the world to me. This blog is my offering to you, and it’s my hope that you’ve been able to find something of value for the time you have invested.
This is my final post of the year, and in closing out 2018 I encourage you to check out “Springsteen on Broadway.” Grab a great bottle of red, someone you love, and hit Netflix and chill. The documentary of the live show is available now. I hope you get something out of it, or at the very least have some fun and enjoy one helluva an acoustic rock show.
Wishing you peace, love and joy through this holiday season. See you in 2019.