Tim's 52 Gigs

Way back in 2011, Tim Heenan left the following comment on 52 Cups:

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I excitedly followed the link and was blown away by what I read in Tim’s introduction to his 52 gigs project:

I have been playing guitar and singing for about 30 years. I’ve never taken it very seriously but have had great times playing and singing around campfires, parties or just about anywhere anybody would listen. I’ve always wanted to pursue the idea of taking it to the next level but for one reason or another I just never did it.

Well, that’s not exactly true. My buddy Tom Moore and I had a gig about 20 years ago at a bar (I think we played about 3 or 4 Saturdays) I was so nervous and stressed out about the gig that I had to stop. But now that the houses are flipped, the home remodeling is done, kids have grown up, and with a lot of support from great friends and my wife Kim, it seems like the right time to make this happen.

I recently read an article about a blog called 52 Cups written by an MSU senior, which inspired me to launch this project. Recently, a friend of mine, Chip Christy, has given me the opportunity to play during his breaks at a few of his gigs, so this seems like a good time for me to get out and perform and hopefully work into some paying gigs.

I couldn’t believe that my project had inspired Tim to embark on such a grand project of his own and I immediately I reached out to him to wish him luck and let him know I’d be following along with his journey. From my own experience doing something scary 52 times, I knew Tim’s 52 gigs project was going to be transformative and I was excited to watch.

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(Read more about Tim here and see where he’s playing next here)

This March, Tim played his 52nd gig in Grand Ledge, Michigan. His wife sent me a wonderful email inviting me to the show, which I was unfortunately unable to attend. I sent a congratulatory card instead and asked Tim if he would do an interview with me over the phone. I had so many questions to ask him about the experience and what he learned along the way. Our conversation was fantastic and I want to share some of the takeaways here: 

You can’t let what other people think hold you back. 

Like he mentions in his blog introduction, Tim convinced his buddy to be in a band with him when he was 29 and they played a few shows but Tim couldn’t handle his nervousness—he would sweat through the set and his hands would shake so much he’d have a hard time playing. He decided it was too much so he broke up the band.

Tim was nervous because he was too concerned about what other people would think; too afraid to put himself out there. As he said, it was easy to quit because, “We make up reasons why we can’t do something.” 

Tim led himself to believe that unless he had an album and a couple good hits he wasn’t good enough to preform in front of others. He wasn’t record-ready, famous, or “that guy” everyone knew as a great musician. Who was he to think anyone would want to listen to his songs? In retrospect, he realized “that guy” was once an unknown man playing in small local gigs too because everyone has to start somewhere. Unfortunately, his perfectionism stopped him from starting.

So what changed when he started 52 Gigs?

Tim told me, “With age, you gather some wisdom and suddenly some things that seemed like a big deal suddenly seem like a smaller deal. You stop worrying about what people think.” Of course, this mindset didn’t make the pre-show jitters disappear (it took 22 gigs before he finally started to feel relaxed on stage) but worrying less about people gave him the freedom to focus on the passion.

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If you want something different, you have to make changes.

Just because Tim stopped playing with his buddy at 29 doesn’t mean he stopped thinking about playing gigs. He still played his guitar often. Once his kids left the house for college, he found himself playing around the fire during the summers or around the house but it was still just a hobby he squeezed in when he wasn’t busy with work and other responsibilities.

It was when he went to a high school open house where a man was playing live music that he realized his hobby could be a fun way to make extra cash getting paid for something he loved. This thought was the seed that would eventually turn into Tim’s 52 Gigs

He sat on the idea for a while but realized that he couldn’t keep thinking about the idea. He had to take action. If he didn’t he commit to making something happen he would always wonder could have happened. He was ready for a change, ready to commit to making music a priority in his life. That’s when he found 52 Cups and decided to start.

The reason he was successful in turning music into more than just a hobby is that he was also ready for the hard work and sacrifice that came along with it. The project wasn’t easy—it took a lot of time, energy and courage (and support from his wife and family) but the result is that his life is now different. Performing live is a real part of his life instead of a what if.

When you follow your passion you find a place where you fit.

Tim was never a sports guy but he had a bunch of friends that would get together to talk sports. It was a camaraderie he always envied. He wanted to have a community of people that could spend hours talking about the things he was most passionate about.

Through the magic of putting himself out there, Tim slowly met more and more people that were interested in music. People that shared similar hopes and fears, people that were trying to find solutions to similar problems.

In his words, “I never really felt like I fit into a particular group. Now that I’m getting into music, I’m making musician friends and now I feel like I have a group like my friends that talk sports. I finally found a niche in a world with people I am comfortable being around.”

It was a fantastic reminder that when you allow yourself to chase a dream, you often end up uncovering a place, idea or community you never knew existed. 

With a new outlook on performing, the confidence of 52 gigs under his belt and a new community of friends and fans, Tim is continuing down the music path. He’ll continue to play shows, work on original songs and possibly pursue recording an album of his own.

Things he was only dreaming about two years ago have now become a reality. 

You can have an impact. 

After I finished 52 Cups, I took a long writing break. Like Tim said, we make up reasons why we can’t do something. The irrational reason floating around in my mind: I wrote these 52 stories and people liked them, but what if no one likes the next thing I write?

I was letting my fear of what other people might think stop me from my passion just like Tim did back when he was 29. Instead of spending time writing and honing my skills, I spent (wasted) a lot of time thinking about the what ifs. 

Tim deserves all the credit for succeeding in his 52 gigs because he did all the work, but it fills me with joy to know that something I did gave him a dose of inspiration that helped him make the leap. Hearing his story over the phone reminded me of the power of storytelling and, more importantly, gave me a good kick in the pants. I have to let go of my negative thoughts about writing so I can get back to writing. I guess inspiration is a two way street.

So on that note, I’m officially going back to weekly blogging here at 52 Cups.

Tim told me he cringes when he watches recordings of his first few gigs. I cringe when I reread my first few cups. When you spend a year consciously trying to be better at something and then pause to look at were you started—it’s amazing (and embarrassing) to see the growth.

But that’s the magic of practice: the more times you do something, the better you get.

The key is to do something.

You’re never going to get better if you sit around making up reasons not to start. 

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