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There is only one success--to be able to spend your life in your own way.-Christopher Morley
Back to Books and Penny Lane
By David
Posted January 9, 2010

In the past few weeks, since I got a Kindle, I've started reading novels again. It's been good. Reading books is a pleasant pastime for me, and part of my enjoyment is simply the idea of grabbing any chunk of time and turning it into downtime.

You see, I'm a busy man. Why, I don't know. In theory, I work fewer than 40 hours a week. I like to think of myself as being "20% retired." After so many years of working 14-hour days and building a successful company, I've gradually cut back on the time I spend at the office and I spend more time with my family.

I've seen several people my age suffer from life-threatening conditions, and others have died at a very young age. That's why a big part of my own definition of success is having time for things other than work. Time to breathe. Time to read. Time to sit at Starbucks, and enjoy a Frappuccino with my beautiful wife. My goal is to shave off more and more work time each year while raising my income. Wouldn't that be nice??

So far, I've read 'Pirate Latitudes' by Michael Crichton. Excellent. Fun and interesting 15th century Caribbean pirate adventures without the nuisance of a deeper meaning. I'm now halfway through 'Beautiful Creatures' by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. Witchcraft, mystery. All good stuff.

The main measure of success, though, is having the peace of mind to enjoy downtime while still balancing work and family. That's the real trick.

There Beneath The Blue Suburban Skies
There Beneath The Blue Suburban Skies

* * *

A few evenings ago, I stumbled across 'Penny Lane,' the 1960s chart-busting hit by the Beatles, recorded in their pre-LSD, pre-Hare-Krishna, and pre-Yoko days. It's a great song with a catchy melody, memorable lyrics and it's a relic of a long-gone era. The song would be laughable these days as anything other than toddler-aged children's music.

If I had no idea who the Beatles were and what a classic Penny Lane is, I would guess it to be in the same genre of Rafi's Baby Beluga or the Wiggles' Hot Potato. (If you have no idea who these are, you probably haven't had pre-school age children in the past ten years).

As I listened to Penny Lane, I tried to answer the question of why wholesome songs like that have been replaced by hard-edged, angry songs about teenage pregnancy, gang wars, and violence. I don't really know that answer, but I can speculate. The change became apparent to me in the 90s, when Grunge music became very popular. No more innocence or sweet catchy melodies. Just pain and anguish. All around the world was changing: The Internet had arrived delivering the good, the bad and the ugly beyond belief at a data rate of 9600 Baud.

Instead of wearing colorful peace-sign T-shirts, teenagers began to wear baggy pants and shaved heads reminiscent of prisoners at the state penitentiary. The trend continued for more than a decade, and I suppose that the music scene has reflected that.

Don't get me wrong. I still enjoy many newer artists. There's still plenty of talent and great music being produced. But the days of sweet, innocent songs like Penny Lane are long-gone.

Never mind. Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes, there beneath the blue suburban skies.

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