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Suzanne Vega has an article in the New York Times about her life as a musician. She was recently included in an article called ‘Two-hit wonders’ and this is her response. There’s a lot of great stuff in the article about the creative process and how music is made both artistically and commercially, but I also really like this description of her career:
“[Two-hit wonders is] a list I have shown up on fairly often recently, so I had almost gotten used to it. Of course, [my husband’s] right, and it’s demeaning — it makes me look as though somehow I managed to squeak out those two songs and then shuffle back to being a receptionist, which isn’t true.
The way I prefer to see it is that I have had a 20-plus-year career, with a big back catalog of songs that a lot of people know, and want to hear, and yes, two of those songs were big Top 40 hits. What’s to complain about? They are like the cherries on top of the sundae. Why would I not want that? They have been my passport out of a life in an office, to a life on the road where I can go to Korea and the guy who stamps the passport says, “Are you Vega, Suzanne? Everybody knows you here.” And his eyes change with emotion when he reads my name.
I bet when she was still working as a receptionist, she had no idea she would be so successful. So whatever level of ‘success’ you might have had so far in your work, keep doing what you’re doing.
The media is rife with success stories, but I find it much more interesting when the media is bold enough to reveal exactly what that success costs. The Age newspaper’s Sunday Life magazine recently ran a story called ‘Work addicts’ about self-described workaholics from the media, law, hospitality, graphic design and building industries.
First cab off the rank was Kyle Sandilands, breakfast radio DJ for Austereo, Australian Idol judge and co-host for the upcoming 2008 series of Big Brother. Love him or hate him, he’s currently enjoying a highly successful career in two areas of the media that are typically very hard to break into. He also manages his fiancee’s singing career and has written and co-produced a movie. So how does he make it through the day with so much on his plate?
Here’s the damage according to reporter Alex May: Sandilands sleeps four hours a night and consumes ‘up to 30 lattes a day’ along with lots of Coca Cola and chocolate. That sounds terrifyingly unhealthy already, but get this: he also ‘suffers crippling migraines’ (I wonder why!) and has a doctor on call ‘to give him anti-nausea injections and painkillers the moment a migraine strikes’. Except in the US, that is, where one doctor refused to enable his work addiction and offered a suppository the size of a house in lieu of the injection. (Sandilands declined.)
I know highly successful people often have some pretty bizarre tactics for staying at the top of their game, but Sandilands’ story is a revelation to me because – well, I didn’t really think he was that big a deal. What kind of person gets regular migraines and takes an injection every time rather than, say, cutting back from 30 coffees a day to a still completely insane 10 or 15? Or considers reassessing their commitments? And what kind of doctor goes along with it all and enables that lifestyle?
So to all the aspiring TV and radio personalities out there – stock up on caffeine and get a private doctor. With Sandilands’ heart ready to explode there might be some interesting prospects on the horizon. Or maybe you should consider how much of your lifespan you’re willing to sacrifice for the sake of your career.