Doug Fleener's

The Day Makes the Year


Jimmy and Me - Work and Life Lessons from Jimmy Buffett

Sep 06, 2023

For those readers who know me well, you know how deeply personal Jimmy Buffett's passing was. Of course, I had to share Jimmy with millions of his fans. Each person has their story. Here's mine and the life and work lessons I learned and lived from Jimmy.   

It was early in 1977. (Yes, that’s me on the right.) In college in the Midwest, my main focus was drinking, parties, and an occasional class. The one class I did go to every day was where I studied to get my FCC license to be on the college radio station. I passed and hosted two one-hour shows a week. One night, the DJ before me left out Jimmy's new album Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes. I played the title song, and I was hooked. Later that year, the song Margaritaville was a huge hit.  

I was so connected to the music and ideals of Jimmy's music I dropped out of college and moved to Florida. Things didn't really work out. After the dive shop I worked in went under, I tried carrying cinder blocks for a mason. It lasted three hours, and for the first two, I sat around waiting for the owner to show up. I tried shucking scallops where they paid you by the bushel. I made something like forty cents an hour. I knew it wouldn't work out when the nearly blind woman beside me did eight scallops to my one.  

I was broke and out of work, so I moved back to the Midwest. I stayed maybe a year, but the calling of Jimmy's music and lifestyle kept calling. I ended up working in a marina back in Florida, although Steve Martin never called. (A tribute to one of his lyrics.) I loved the ocean. The music. The boat business. Unfortunately, I loved drinking and drugs more. I eventually spiraled out of control, losing everything but finding a new way to live. You can read part of that story in my new book. 

Jimmy's music was vital in my recovery. The drinking songs never bothered me because I knew I could never drink again. His music, though, did shape me in how I approached my new life. It became instrumental in how I managed my work. His music and lessons shaped me as much as anything.  

I could list fifty or more things I learned from Jimmy Buffett and music. (Don't worry. I don't.)  

Here are ten Jimmy Buffett songs and the lessons I took from him. 

1. Come Monday. Balance your commitments with the need for personal connections. Sometimes, being with the ones you love is the most important thing. 

2. Margaritaville. Live in the present and don't dwell on regrets. Sometimes, relaxing and enjoying the simple things in life is okay. Be present. 

3. A Pirate Looks at Forty. Acceptance of the past and recognizing the beauty in life's journey are so important. Embrace the present, even if it's not where you imagined you'd be. (Oh, that was so important at critical times.) 

4. Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes. Perspective is everything. A shift in location or mindset can completely change how you perceive challenges. (I write in my book about how to restart your day.) 

5. One Particular Harbour. Everyone needs a sanctuary, whether a physical place or a state of mind. Find and cherish yours. We especially need it when work and life become stressful. 

6. Volcano. Some things are out of our control. Instead of fretting, adapt and go with the flow. Sometimes, all you can control is your reaction. That's crucial to owning your work, life, and results. 

7. Last Mango in Paris. Adventure and relaxation can coexist. Celebrate experiences and remember that life doesn't always have to be a rush; it's okay to slow down. 

8. In the Shelter. Underscores the inevitability of change and the quest for solace. It reminds us to adapt, finding new comforts and strengths as life's circumstances evolve. Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.  

9. The World Is What You Make It. The song underscores that our mindset shapes our reality. Approaching life with optimism and determination allows us to find fulfillment, urging us to own our situations at work and in life. This same theme runs throughout my book.   

10. The Captain and the Kid. The importance of mentorship, valuing lessons from past generations, and guiding the next. I love these lyrics about Jimmy's grandfather, who taught him how to sail and live life: 

He's somewhere on the ocean now 

That's where he ought to be 

With one hand on the starboard rail 

He's waving back at me.   

Thank you, Jimmy. Peace.