Sometimes life gets away from us, and it takes a significant event to put things into perspective. That’s what happened to me seven years ago at age 46, when, one day at work, I suddenly discovered I could not move the left side of my body. The stroke I suffered was significant—as much for the new perspectives it gave me on my life as for the terror that accompanied it.
Lying in a hospital bed and unable to move any muscles on my left side was more frightening than anything I had ever experienced. I stared at my own mortality; I wondered how I was going to provide for my wife and four children. As my family and friends came to support me, however, I realized something incredible: The stroke had given me a chance to be reborn and to enjoy things I had taken for granted.
One of those joys was music, something that had been a huge part of my young adult life. When I was 19, I had bought a guitar and taught myself how to play it. I even composed songs. For many years, my life revolved around that guitar, but eventually, music took a back seat to my career. Oh, I played occasionally at parties, but I considered myself a frustrated artist because I couldn’t seem to make time to do anything with the talent I had been given.
The stroke changed that. My daughter, who was then 17, brought me a CD of music by Al Green, one of my favorite musicians. As I listened to the music over and over, it suddenly dawned on me that I was able to tap my left foot to its rhythms. Slowly the pulse of the music awakened a desire to play again.
After I was discharged from the hospital, I immersed myself in music for its therapeutic effects. Playing guitar strengthened my left hand; tapping to the beat fortified my leg muscles. During this process, I began to understand why my career in business valuation appealed to me so much: It was very similar to being a musician.
I always knew business valuation was a creative outlet for me. In my earlier career, I had been in public accounting and later internal auditing. Neither area fulfilled me. When I found business valuation with its constantly changing engagements, however, I discovered it allowed me to apply my accounting skills in a manner that was intellectually stimulating. For years, I thought that was its attraction. But I now have a deeper understanding of why business valuation is right for me.
When I write a song, I take a set of notes, interpret them, put them together in a final composition, and hope to convey a message to the listener. When I value a business, I look at a set of facts, interpret them, and compose a conclusion in a report, hoping to convey my message to the reader. It’s the same process! They both use the same skill sets, applied to get the same type of desired outcome: communication with an audience.
Music continues to thread together pieces of my life. For example, I have been able to combine both music and business valuation in a webinar on valuing music catalogs, including song royalties. As a member of The Recording Academy, the organization that puts on the Grammy Awards, applying business valuation to music has been a way to give back to something that has given me so much.
Music has also created a common bond among my family members. Each of my four children has taken up guitar, and although we don’t always play the same type of music, we all appreciate what we contribute. My wife is the odd person out. She doesn’t play guitar, but she accompanies us on piano. I have even gotten my family involved in the two CDs I have recorded.
Some people look at experiences such as a stroke and say, “Why me?” I don’t feel that way; I feel that the stroke gave me an opportunity to find new lyrics in my life. It was indeed a rebirth of sorts.
—As told to Linda Segall ( firstname.lastname@example.org),
a freelance writer from Jacksonville, Fla.
Editor’s note: Yeanoplos is a JofA editorial adviser.
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