Amazing Possibilities!

  • Matthew Kelly

Billy Joel's Lesson On Dreaming Big



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At different times in our lives, we all need a new perspective.


In the late 1960s, there was a young man who had a dream of becoming a famous musician. He knew exactly what he wanted, so he left high school and began to play his music wherever people would listen. But as a high school dropout and with little experience, he found it difficult to get work as a musician.

Before too long he found himself playing in small, dirty clubs and bars. Sharing his gift with a handful of drunks night after night became a discouraging habit. This was not his dream. He had dreamt of playing to sellout crowds across America and around the world. He had dreamed of seeing his name in lights, of walking down the street and being stopped for autographs, and having his albums in every music store. He even dreamed one day he would play to a packed baseball stadium—an absurd thought in the 1960s.

He had stumbled upon difficult times. Financially he was broke, professionally he was failing, and his only joy in life was the support of his girlfriend. They had so little money that they would sleep in Laundromats to save the expense of a hotel. But one day she got sick of life on the road. This gypsy lifestyle was not her dream, either. She had dreamed of being married to a famous musician. It was not the life she had imagined, so she left him.


With his only joy in life gone, he decided to commit suicide. That night the young musician made a halfhearted attempt to end his life by drinking a bottle of furniture polish and a bottle of vodka. The next day, very sick, he checked himself into a mental institution.

Less than three weeks later, he checked himself out. He was a new man. He was refreshed, enthusiastic, and excited about life. He was cured. They had not given him any medication, nor was it anything the doctors or nurses had said to him. The other patients had cured him.

They reminded him of how gifted and fortunate he was, they had shown him how much more life could be, they had given him a new perspective on life.


That day, that same young man left the mental institution resolved to pursue his dream of becoming a world-class musician. He was determined to travel and work and do whatever was necessary to achieve his dream.

Three years later, he wrote the song “Piano Man,” and Billy Joel went on to become one of the most famous musicians of his generation. And yes, on June 22 and 23 in 1990, Billy Joel played to sellout crowds of ninety thousand people at Yankee Stadium.

We all need a startling new perspective at least once in our lives.

Matthew Kelly

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