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“I Have a Compulsion to Do More for as Long as I Can”: Notes from Jon Mueller

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Jon Mueller

There’s never a good time to leave a good job, but yet people still do so. Some of them leave for a new career, and others head off on a different kind of journey.

I’ve known Jon Mueller for years, beginning from an event he invited me to in Milwaukee. When I heard he was leaving his job to pursue a new adventure in music, I asked him to share his story.

Here’s Jon:

A few years ago, I started a project called Death Blues. Through writing, music, recording, and more, I wanted to inspire people to find the fundamentally positive elements that exist in each moment. We have a finite time to experience life, and therefore we should pursue things that can create a positive effect as much as possible—even in every exact moment (even as I type this!).

Which boils down to one core belief: if something is worth pursuing, it’s probably worth pursuing more.

With all that in mind, I recently left my full time job as the general manager at a business book company to strike out on my own for a deeper pursuit of what I was already doing (publishing and music), but with a broader perspective and more inherent possibilities.

For many years, I had my hands in a lot of jars—publishing, performing, running businesses, selling ideas and things, and creating those things to market and sell. Sometimes, these things would work in conjunction, or in some cases, literally become involved in each other. But it wasn’t enough. In general, I have a compulsion to do more, and to share what comes out of that.

For example, I’m producing a book/LP combo titled Ensemble that is being published in September, featuring essays, a score, and images of handmade masks made by a late artist from the 1970’s. I also play drums for the band Volcano Choir, perform and record my own music, serve as the musical director for an AIGA (the design organization) event called “Futura Extra Bold,” and am doing some consulting work.

For me, it’s not about doing something different or changing to follow my passion. It’s about an involvement in different approaches and pursuit of passion to an even greater degree.

I would think that most everyone has been sitting at their job, rather happily even, and at one point thought to themselves, “Is this all there is? Is this what I’m to do with my life?” Even when you love doing something, the curiosity of missing out on something greater is natural.

Jon on Drums

With a job, you can do great things for other people, which you benefit from in various ways. But when you work from your own vision, your own ideas, it can validate your place in the world in different ways. If you can establish that, the next step is to do that stuff in even bigger ways, and to keep pushing, because again, why settle?

You can look back on various things you’ve done, and ask, “Did those only serve the purpose assigned to them at that time?” And that’s the problem. We often look at our experiences as singular, not applicable in other circumstances. If we consider adjacent possibilities—not only what’s around us, but also with what we’ve done—we start to ask, “How might those experiences translate to now? What did I learn in the process, what did I become good at?”

You can transfer your past to completely new tasks and functions. It’s funny we miss this point, especially since we’re told to think outside the box so often.

My focus right now is not to just do more stuff, but to serve a higher purpose with it all, so that the past reveals usefulness, and that the present has this purpose built into it from the start. I’m concerned with how I can help people, what value I can bring, what lessons I’ve learned that can be shared and useful to others. If I’m seeking this kind of input from others, I can only assume that the world expects it back from me.

By pursuing everything more intently, and being open to even more possibilities, I may be able to serve an even greater purpose in this lifetime. That is what I’m after.

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Images: Kat Schleicher

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