Even before Paul McCartney’s Chaos and Creation in the Backyard was released, critics were glowing using words like adventurous, melodic and emotionally complicated to describe it. That hasn’t been the case with the 19 other albums he’s done since the Beatles broke up 35 years ago. McCartney acknowledges that his body of work has been uneven.
”Since the Beatles, I’ve approached making records every which way,” he says. “A lot of times it’s a real casual thing. Do a few tracks a day, have a bit of fun. Normally I kind of say, ‘I’d like to make a good album.’ This time there was motivation, determination. ‘I’m going to make a good album. I’m going to, and that’s that.”
To accomplish this, he hired producer Nigel Godrich, who refused to let him stay in his comfort zone. It took two years to put the album together, partly because McCartney plays most of the instruments himself.
The critics aren’t the only ones happy about the results. At the start of a new round of concerts, McCartney says, “It’s be great not to be out there with a crap album, singing songs I don’t care much about.” Sounds like Sir Paul has rediscovered the power of commitment.
Excellent results are never accidental. Without commitment, our creative powers are scattered and our ability to attract support and resources dries up. Of course, it’s possible, as millions of people demonstrate, to go through life getting by without ever committing deeply to anything much at all.
In their insightful book, Money Drunk, Money Sober, Julia Cameron and Mark Bryan call money (and money difficulties) the last addiction. They identify five kinds of money dysfunction, including one they call the Maintenance Money Drunk. This is a person who grows increasingly bitter or numb from the inability to pursue or even identify their dreams.
They write, “One of the telltale symptoms of the Maintenance Money Drunk is the phrase ‘I’m going to,’ heard over and over again without action toward the goal. We often say that the greatest gift of solvency is learning how to turn a wish into a goal. And action is the difference between someone who is really going to do something and someone who is just wishing.”
It’s exhausting to be a Maintenance Money Drunk and it’s exhausting to be around one. Commitment is the catalyst that propels us to take action—and break the cycle of apathy that keeps us stuck.When McCartney said, “I’m going to,” he got busy writing songs.
There’s a foolproof test for commitment that goes beyond any verbal claims of commitment: look at your calendar and your checkbook. Are you spending your time and money in ways that back up what you’re truly committed to? It’s only when you bring your spending into alignment with your dreams that good things begin to happen.
Commitment gives us direction, but it doesn’t guarantee ease. As Paulo Coehlo so eloquently reminds us, “Too often we decide to follow a path that is not really our own, one that others have set for us. We forget that whichever way we go, the price is the same: in both cases we will pass through both difficult and happy moments. But when we are living our dream, the difficulties that we encounter make sense.”