“…And Harry doesn’t mind if he doesn’t make the scene
He’s got a daytime job, he’s doing alright…”
–‘Sultans of Swing’, Dire Straits
To give some backstory, Sultans of Swing is a song by Dire Straits. As far as my literary analysis goes, the song is about a small band and all of its members. It doesn’t paint the small band as anything particularly amazing or anything particularly sad, it is just a small band of people who get together and play music.
The lyric above was and probably is still one of my favorite music quotes around. It perfectly illustrates a man who hones a skill as a hobby; he plays an instrument and has no desire to make it big. Harry has a daytime job, maybe a family, maybe a dog, cat, who knows? What we do know though is that Harry is pretty alright at guitar and he has no intention of devoting his life to it.
It’s refreshing in literature and art to create a person who is so uninspiring. If it were a novel or play, Harry playing guitar would never show up, in fact super boring Harry would probably be at best a side character who is notable for being mundane. His guitar playing would never change his life, or the story, and so they would never put it up on stage. Playwrights don’t put things on stage without it actually having an effect on the story, as illustrated by Chekhov’s gun.
Yet in this song, in this band, there is a completely normal guy who understands his limits and understands that he has a stable job that he shouldn’t risk on some mediocre guitar playing.
Now here is my side of the story, this quote used to define me, in fact I would go as far to say it used to inspire me. The idea that I only need to worry about my daytime job and then I can be as mediocre at whatever else I want to be sounds very tempting.
I used to be like that, I used to be daunted by tasks and just strive for mediocrity. This quote drove me to shut down on trying things just because I was sure that I would fail and then where would I be?
I wouldn’t be the best. Who cares about the guy who gets the silver medal?
The fact is most people aren’t going to be astronauts, most people aren’t going to be billionaires, most people aren’t going to master an instrument or a sport. Do not let this discourage you.
Harry probably isn’t the best guitar player there is, and he came to that conclusion, and that’s fine. I bet you though he practices a couple of times a week and he tries to get better.
Life isn’t about being THE BEST it is about being the BEST YOU CAN BE.
I have seen people who have tons of raw talent and don’t apply themselves get greatly surpassed by those who have nothing and put their heart into it. Most people would be surprised to see the best they can be is much better than what they thought they could be.
Have goals, and shoot for the gold, there is no reason to settle for mediocrity. Also know your limits, there is no reason to beat yourself up for being second best, because that is still better than ~7 billion people (as of now).
There is no reason to worry about being the best there is, only the best you can possibly be. Harry realized that. He realized he probably can’t make it big, but it’s fine because he’s got a daytime job, he’s doing alright.