Do What’s Good For You

James

We were always friends from our childhood days. And we made our plans, and we had to go our separate ways. I went on the road; you pursued an education.

The definition of success is personal.

James

Do you like your life? Can you find release? And will you ever change? Will you ever write your masterpiece?

Are you still in school? Living up to expectations? James. You were so relied upon. Everybody knows how hard you tried.

Hey. Oh, look at what a job you’ve done, carrying the weight of family pride.

James

You’ve been well behaved, you’ve been working hard. But will you always stay someone else’s dream of who you are? Do what’s good for you or you’re not good for anybody.

James

I went on the road; you pursued an education. James. How you gonna know for sure? Everything was so well organized.

Hey. Oh, now everything is so secure, and everybody else is satisfied. James

Do you like your life? Can you find release? And will you ever change? When will you write your masterpiece? Do what’s good for you or you’re not good for anybody.

James.

Billy Joel penned these lyrics back in the 1970s, when he contrasted his life and the direction he had taken vs. that of a childhood friend. The song appeared on Billy’s “Turnstiles” album, and it’s actually hard to find a song on that album that isn’t beautifully phrased or handsomely written.

This song struck a nerve with me in 1976, as I was just beginning my journey at 16. I listen to the song today, and it hits me again in a very symmetrical way.

In the Seventies, it seemed to warn me about the hazards of settling for a life that I didn’t choose but felt obligated to live. I was very “duty bound,” even at 16. I fully believed there were people I belonged to and things I had to get done for the people I knew and loved. I thought I had to behave a certain way, accomplish certain grades, reach certain educational goals, etc.

Even after four liberating years away at college, I had this overwhelming sense of “duty.” Maybe it was “this Italian thing,” like Kaye says in Godfather II. Maybe it was because my father was so much that way and I learned my life lessons observing him. Maybe I was just one of those serious kids.

In any event, it was important to me to please everyone, to do well; not just OK, but well.

I recall asking a fellow high school buddy what he wanted to do after graduation, and he said he wanted to fly helicopters.

“Before college?” I asked.

He said, “No; instead of college.”

I shook my head. “You have to set the bar higher than that. We’re so young yet.”

He said, “Hey, one day I’ll be landing at the White House, dropping off the president.”

I said, “How do you know I’ll hire you?”

We laughed it off, but I was half serious. At that point in our lives, I thought it was our duty to reach really, really, high. He didn’t feel the same pull.

I was pushing my vision of a life agenda on everyone and wanting to accomplish things so badly that I was almost blind to other interpretations. Now, in retrospect, I see how close I came to missing the real message of the song and my life because I was so focused on success.

“Do what’s good for you or you’re not good for anybody…”

James

You’ve been well behaved, you’ve been working hard. But will you always stay someone else’s dream of who you are? Do what’s good for you or you’re not good for anybody…

My conclusion? It is the interpretation of success that’s so important.

Financial success? Status? A successful marriage? Successful at a job? Whatever it may be for YOU. The bottom line is, are you happy? Happy with the person you’ve become and the person that is evolving every day?

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