The Tragically Hip’s documentary, Long Time Running, premieres this week at the 42nd Toronto International Film Festival.
The documentary covers the band’s last tour, which was capped off by an emotional show in Kingston that approximately 11.7 million people watched. When you factor in the amount of Canadians watching the concert in bars and squares, you can assume that nearly half the country saw Gord Downie flip cancer off.
Here are some inspiring words from the man himself.
“I’m agile. I can play on the ass of an elephant. That’s the goal — then you can play anywhere.”
Downie was describing his onstage theatrics when he discussed his agility with the Globe and Mail in 2012. Agility and flexibility, however, is something all of us could benefit from. You may not be entertaining people on stage, but you can always branch out, especially if you’re looking for a new job (or trying to be better at a current one). Seek out training opportunities, tutorials, webinars, and conferences. Expand your horizons (and your contacts) by volunteering for events and following thought leaders.
“I go for it; I sing, I dance, I listen to this great band, I do what the music urges.”
Apart from dancing and miming, Downie’s onstage persona often involves talking in tongues and blending in stream of consciousness poetry. Downie told novelist Joseph Boyden that he simply never holds back, surrendering to the music and committing, fully completely, to the performance.
Your workplace may not look kindly to talking in tongues, but how dedicated are you to your work? Don’t hold back.
When it comes to your career, the more you put in, the more you’ll get out of it.
“I’m total pro. That’s what I’m here for.”
The Hip’s “Grace, Too” may be about a man falling in love with a prostitute, but this line perfectly sums up Downie’s towering lyrical output over the years, as well as his last, very public, performance. It also serves as a model for the kind of professionalism we should all be striving for.
As the expression goes, “it’s not what you do, it’s how you do it…”
“First thing we’d climb a tree and maybe then we’d talk,
Or sit silently and listen to our thoughts
With illusions of someday casting a golden light
No dress rehearsal, this is our life”
The opening verse to the Hip’s “Ahead by a Century” covers a lot of ground in four short phrases, painting a picture of young love, nostalgia, and regret. More than anything, though, it’s a reminder that we only have one life to live.
If you’re not happy with what you’re doing, or the company (or industry) you’re in, do something about it. This is not a dress rehearsal – this is your life!
“We were just happy to be together, and that’s the way we’ve done everything.”
Discussing the band’s success, Downie highlights an oft-quoted tenet of career satisfaction: do what makes you happy. Sure, it may be difficult to make a living doing what really makes you happy (playing video games in your pajamas with a tub of ice cream), but being honest with yourself can help you make key career decisions and point you in the right direction. Why not, for example, look for jobs in the video game (or ice cream) industry?
Life, as Gord Downie has reminded us, is far too short. Don’t waste it being unhappy!
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