“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” – Dr. Seuss
About two years ago, I joined a startup band as a keyboardist, backup vocalist, and songwriter. During the four months I worked with this “band”, I learned a lot more about life and people than I did about accompaniment or singing.
When I auditioned and was invited to join the band, I couldn’t believe it. Couldn’t believe something so exciting was happening to me. But in my elation, there were red flags that I ignored, or failed to notice at all.
Disclaimer: While the nature of this content carries a rather somber, negative tone, my intent is not to bash anyone or to speak negatively. Rather, my goal is to share my experiences and observations. Hopefully, someone else may benefit by reading about my mistakes.
Red Flag #1: There were only two band members (besides myself) when I joined, but there had been around 5-7 just a month or two earlier.
They’re dropping like flies! Goes without saying, but this is NEVER a good sign.
Red Flag #2: Once I joined, one of the remaining band members almost immediately quit.
As if having only two remaining hardcore members wasn’t concerning enough.
Red Flag #3: My band lead was obsessed with the quality of her own home, her beauty, and her voice.
Which…were all quite lovely (just less so in my eyes because of her fixation on them). Had I had my eyes on straight, I might’ve seen her self-fascination for what it was, and considered that progress and “success” rarely come from this.
Instead, I began to adopt some of her behavior and personality.
Red Flag #4: She (the lead) spoke poorly of former band members and of those who auditioned to join us.
She said they were seeing her in a bad light, or were being catty or argumentative. I could not always see what she claimed to be witnessing, but was eager to be agreeable and cooperative, so I kept some of my thoughts to myself.
Red Flag #5: Sometime into our working relationship, she wanted to replace the group name with her own name.
I was motivated to be “different” than those previous band members who had disappointed, offended, or “hurt” her. I was going to be loyal. I again made every effort to be amenable, or only to very gently (weakly) express dissent, even though I inwardly felt some unrest and was a bit disturbed by the change, as this was not what I’d “signed on to”.
What I Learned
Takeaway #1: I am easily duped.
During these four months, my band lead and I became very close. (Or, at least…I thought we were close.) I began to adopt her fashion style and to convince myself that I liked the things she liked (as a sign of solidarity, more than actual fondness for her particular tastes). As we talked more, I began to believe we had a lot in common, so I shared with her and began to really trust her. Only in retrospect can I see that she was establishing a connection with me for a season because I was useful to her at the time, and that she was prepared to throw me out whenever that option became more convenient (i.e. when I started expressing my own mind). I suspect that a lot of the bonds I thought I had with her were simply woven webs to keep me stuck there, until she was ready to discard me. Cynical perspective, I guess, but this is what I suspect was transpiring.
Takeaway #2: Having the wrong priorities will get me in trouble.
If I’m honest with myself, I probably let my mind run too wild with the pipe dreams of “success” – however I defined it at the time. While I truly did believe – starting out – that we had great goals and intentions as a group (to make a difference, and create songs that reflected our passions and convictions), I think I was also deceiving myself into believing that this was a wise, worthwhile, and rewarding path. (I obviously missed a lot of blatant warning signs, in my delusion).
Takeaway #3: If I ever think everyone else is the problem, I need to take a step back and ask if maybe I’m the problem.
If people are “dropping like flies” around me – or seem to be disapproving of something I’m doing – I need to at least ask myself (and, if possible, those around me) what it is that I’m not seeing and need to see.
Granted, there are times when everyone will abandon or disapprove of you, and you have to stick to your guns anyway. But if everyone is suddenly dropping out of your life – or expressing character-related concerns – might be cause for pause.
Takeaway #4: “Fame” and “success” do not typically come to those who seek or desire them.
Success is realized the fastest and most deeply by those who define it in immaterial terms.
Success is tasted by all who live passionately, pursuing paths that utilize their gifts, interests, and concerns.
Takeaway #5: Leadership is not declared. It is demonstrated.
You can claim to be the leader of your enterprise or endeavor. But if you can’t keep anyone under your leadership, are you still a leader? Leadership always requires at least two, and the leader who thrives is grateful to those who have chosen to follow and support.
How It Ended
I had begun to find a voice and to (still mildly) express some of my concerns to this lady. She did not take it well.
Additionally, for a while, I had been making an effort to speak with and emotionally encourage her son because I saw this woman tearing him down. (We were practicing at her house, so I saw him often.) I talked with him about school and things he was into, and I made an effort to be affirming.
This made her VERY angry.
She accused me of trying to be his mom. She believed I was competing with her.
After a stomach-knotting, gaslighting-laced discussion one afternoon, I went home, feeling physically ill. That night, she sent me a text, saying that things weren’t going to work out. I actually felt pretty relieved.
Once this chapter had met its close, I was able to see dynamics of our relationship that I hadn’t seen before, when my judgment had been clouded by my desire to make things work.
I left this season of my life with a stronger voice (both literally and figuratively), and with knowledge to apply to future situations. I am extremely grateful to have had this experience.
Going forward, I face the challenge of balancing two things: #1: protecting myself, where possible, from being manipulated, and #2: not becoming distrusting of everyone and letting my hyperactive shields prevent safe people from being involved in my life.
Does this strike a familiar chord with you? Have you had a similar experience? Let me know in the comments below! 🙂