MUSIC, LEADERSHIP, CULTURE… and humor (sometimes)

Paying Dues vs. Paid Dues

I talked about this with a friend a little while ago regarding the phrase “paying my dues.”  I think this is a tricky thing to say because it’s loaded with many different angles but I do believe that there’s a difference between saying “I am paying my dues” and “I have paid my dues.”

On one hand, i think “i am paying my dues” is a great phrase to center on because it usually means:

  • I’m working hard at something.
  • I believe that “No pain, no gain” is not just a mantra for masochists but rather a slogan for success– whatever one’s definition of success may be.
  • I recognize that the current labor and struggle is momentary (hopefully) and necessary.
  • I have a goal in mind and the hard work is simply a means toward an end

I like this tweet I saw the other day from someone who said something to the extent of: “Not every seed in the garden will grow but I keep planting anyway.” That’s good stuff.

You can disagree if you want but I believe that there’s a completely different thing at play here when I say “I have paid my dues” because it usually implies that:

  • I have a sense of entitlement to whatever it is I’m after.  I deserve THIS.
  • I have arrived and should not have to work for anything… or at least not as hard anymore.
  • I have lost sight of the age-old wisdom that guided me all these years: “it’s not about the destination– it’s about the journey.”
  • This bitterness I feel is warranted because the world should pay me back for all the good I did for her.
  • I have a hard time being happy for those around me who have seemingly worked less than I have and yet somehow achieved more.  (This is called jealousy, right?  It is also called “please get over yourself.”  We see this a lot during contract negotiations for major sports stars)

I suppose my point is that we (should) never stop working, never stop trying, never stop learning.  The saddest picture of retirement for me is that of a man in his 70’s (having paid his dues) with all of his trophies, degrees, and plaques on the wall while he sits glued to the TV, every single moment of every single day until the day he breathes his last.

The truth is that every achievement, every dollar, and every acquisition is actually a gift.

No matter how hard some of us work, the money may never equal that of some of our more well-to-do friends.

No matter how many hours you put into something, there will always be someone or something better at what you do.

No matter how many “dues” we have paid… to each his own.

We all walk our own path and we set our own markers for success.  What matters is that we are paying our dues toward something we believe in . . . and in the end, whether the pay-off is fair, deficient, abundant or non-existent– at least, we have given it a fair go.  And we continue and we keep on.

Thoughts?  Do you see the distinction between PAYING and PAID dues?

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One response

  1. As soon as I started to read, I questioned,’hmmm sounds like entitlement?’ and ‘I wonder where Daniel is going with this?’.
    Everything is a gift. Yes! Great post, DK!!

    February 9, 2011 at 5:48 pm

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