Be Smart About Art

How a Tom Petty song helped me to pursue the career of my dreams

written by: Susan Mumford July 13, 2014 1) RECOMMENDED-> Susan's weekly blog post 7414 views

How a Tom Petty song helped me to pursue the career of my dreams

from our Sunday reading series - a weekly blog post (subscribe here)

In late Summer 2001 I was more than ready to quit my retail manager job and get back on track with a career that made me happy. In order to get myself to move away from the seeming comfort of a full-time job, I needed to get into a courageous and willing-to-take-action state of mind. I noticed how motivated I felt when listening to Tom Petty's "Runnin' Down A Dream". It swiftly became my personal get-moving theme song.  

"Yeah, runnin' down a dream 
That never would never come to me 
Workin' on a mystery, goin' wherever it leads 
Runnin down a dream"* 

Pumped up with the lyrics going round my head, I gave written notice to my employer. Almost immediately the retail chain's Operations Director called a meeting with me.  We met the next day at a café, where she uttered something I shall never forget: "Go and try your art idea." The unspoken words? "Dabble if you must, and then return to the real world." Her statement was followed by a description of what she really wanted me to do – that is, return to the company full-time. While she intended to entice me back in future, what she said only motivated me to chase my life intentions all the more.

What I had done in nominating a theme song helped me stick to my guns. I knew that what I wanted to do would never come to me on its own, and if anything was ever going to change, it had to be me who would do something about it. As with nominating a theme song, the same motivation can be achieved by creating meditations or rituals, writing in a journal - whatever method works for you.

Mind, it doesn't matter how advanced or early you are in your career; change is needed at different times throughout your life. It requires you to get out of your comfort zone and face an unknown future – in Petty’s words, a “mystery”.

Openness to the road diverging and converging, willingness to see things through, and acceptance of not knowing exactly what the future holds are important facets of enabling a successful career for those who build their own profession from the ground up. As the lyrics suggest, you're on a journey, “goin wherever it leads”. 

* Writer(s): Tom Petty, Michael W. Campbell
Copyright: Gone Gator Music, Wild Gator Music

Listen to Runnin' Down A Dream 


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Photographs © Chris King.

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Hi Susan, Thanks for the blog posts and Sunday email inspirations :)

Music is the inspiration for all my work and so many musicians have touched my soul in a way that stimulates my synaesthesia and makes my art. I "see" sound so basically no music no art!

It's guitar playing by Matt Bellamy of Muse that really lights up my synaesthesia.
I wrote a blog post about my synaesthetic experience during a live gig that inspired my current work.

I met the amazing musician Steve Lawson about two years ago and I am lucky enough to be able to collaborate with him on a live art project. Basically he plays and I draw what I "see", his music is improvised so he is looking at what I draw and that informs what he plays. His music is mesmerising and our audiences are drawn in to the magic as well.

Seriously go and have a listen to his work you will be enriched:

ps I ditched a career in the law to follow my life's work as an artist :) never once regretted it!

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Posted by : Melanie Hodge 09/10/2017 17:18

And just found this video of the Tom Petty song ... appropriately enough, it's a work of art in itself!

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Posted by : Melanie Hodge 09/10/2017 17:12

"Deeper Well" by Emmylou Harris ;)

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Posted by : Susan Mumford 08/10/2017 19:46

I've most recently been listening (again and again!) to 'Just Fine' by Mary J. Blige.

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I'd like to see Susan's playlist for inspiration!

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If anyone is wondering about the image we chose for this blog, it's a homage to the cover of Full Moon Fever, which is the album with "Runnin' Down a Dream".


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Posted by : Susan Mumford 14/07/2014 17:45

Mark - Thanks for sharing the video; excellent!

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Hi, tracked down this pic of Tom:

the video story may be of interest.