Never Settle

June 8, 2016

Each year I ask every one of my new students this question:  “When you graduate, if you get to choose exactly what you get to do, what would that be?”  It’s shocking to me how many times the answer starts with, “Well…I guess it would okay if….”  Before these students have even started, they’re settling.

Let’s be clear: I’m not saying that by saying it out loud, you magically walk out of school with your dream job.  What I am saying is that without having an idea of what your dream job might look like, it’s nearly impossible to get there.

So how do you get there?

First-Choose Something.

 You might think that because you don’t know what you want to be doing forever that you don’t have any decisions to make yet.  This is a dangerous road to travel.  Remember this:

Not Making a Choice is a Choice.

If you choose nothing, you’re making the choice to be stagnant.  I don’t know anyone that enjoys that life.

Second- Give It Everything You’ve Got.

This can be the hard part for a lot of people.  Most of the time the first job you get is not the one you will want to keep forever.  This should not change how you approach it.  One sure way to stagnate is to give the bare minimum.  Treat every job like an opportunity to show how well you can do it.  Be the best person who has ever held that position- no matter what the position is.

If your first choice turns out to be the right thing for you, then keep at it.  If not, then choose something else, and give that everything you’ve got.  Keep doing this…forever.

Keep Asking: What Do I Want To Do next?

To get to the job you want usually takes more work than the job you’ll settle for.  You must be willing to do the extra work, both at your current job and in striving for your next.  And once you have the job you want, you’re in the position of deciding what your future holds.

There Is No Right Answer.

This is the most difficult part to discuss.  It can be difficult to realize that your dream job is one someone else settled for.  Similarly, a job that you might settle for could be someone else’s dream job.  One of the most common, and dangerous, examples is this age old gem:  “You should major in Music Education, so that you have something to fall back on.”  I’d like to officially call for the retirement of this ludicrous sentiment.  Here are just a few of the problems with that statement:

  • There are people that really want to teach…if you’re not one of them, please don’t teach.
  • The last thing students need is teachers who think of their career choice as a “fallback.”
  • You’re now working really hard on something you know you don’t want instead of on something you do want.

Be an Individual

Just because a lot of your colleagues may want similar things doesn’t mean you’re wrong to want something different.  There can be a peer pressure to go a certain direction because that’s what you’re “supposed to do.”  There can also be a certain macho attitude of “I only work in my chosen field” that looks down on anything not directly related to “The Chosen Path.”  All of that is garbage.  Here are a few jobs that I’ve had, in chronological order:

  • Lead Trumpet- Maynard Ferguson’s Big Bop Nouveau
  • Customer Service Representative- America Online (that’s right, the person that answers the phone to help you change your billing info, cancel, etc.)
  • Kindergarten Teacher
  • Education Department- Chicago Symphony Orchestra (a part time office job)
  • Assistant Band Director-St. Joseph’s College, Rensselaer, IN (among many duties, I ran the Girls Basketball Band, which I enjoyed immensely.  Go Pumas!)

Make your own decisions, then work tirelessly to give them the best chance of leading you somewhere positive.




  1. Great post, Joey, as always.

    Last evening I watched, on NetFlix, a 30-for-30 episode entitled, “This Is What They Want.” It was the story of Jimmy Connor’s comeback triumph during the 1991 U.S. Open. He didn’t win the tournament, but he might as well have! His two absolutely-amazing come-from-WAY-behind-to win early rounds were the stuff of legend.

    Jimmy Connors ALWAYS gave 110%. He ALWAYS went after it. He made no apologies for being competitive to the enth-degree. Watching him battle players half his age was remarkable.

    Watching the show reminded me of Maynard and his willingness to NEVER hold anything back. Even when doing that took-its-toll on his chops, he never “phoned-it-in.” With the Boss it was “110% every night.” Sometimes that didn’t always turn out so well for him, but OFTEN it did, and when it did it was unlike any other trumpet player who has EVER played the coil-of-torture.

    Your post is SPOT-ON, no matter your chosen profession. Give your “all” 100% of the time and your destined to hit a lot of home-runs!


  2. Always strive to be more than you were yesterday!

  3. Did you get a foul called on you with the pep band? I would consider this a significant accomplishment as well! Great ideas.

    • I almost got a technical foul called on me…two different times. While conducting during a timeout I was staring at a ref. He said,”Turn around and go your job.” I said, “I’ll start doing mine when you start doing yours.”

  4. Great post Joey! I will never forget that epicly long high E you played on that ABBA show with us in St Louis!

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