Happy New Year! Here we are, beginning another trip around the sun together. I hope you had fun and festive holidays last month and are gearing up for a happy and fruitful 2022. Our December was subdued which was actually a nice change from the usual chaos and heightened tension of battling LAX to go anywhere. We stayed home this year due to the fact that my father-in-law has been ill and we wanted to spend as much time as possible with him. Also, our eldest son is in the thick of college applications and if any of you have been through this journey with your own children, you’ll remember that while you may be more desperate than ever to get out of town (and maybe leave them behind), Winter Break is prime time to get those supplemental essays wrapped up and ready to ship. But our holiday time wasn’t all work and no play. We saw some friends, ate healthy amounts of unhealthy foods and visited festive spots around the neighborhood.
One thing I did that I’m excited about was performing in a Playing for Change video that aired during an online event called: “Peace through Music.” Playing for Change, an organization co-founded in 2002 by director Mark Johnson and producer Whitney Kroenke, has a mission to connect the entire world through music. The videos take musicians from all across the globe; some street performers, others world-renowned, and stich together footage of these artists from every imaginable culture, playing the same song on a variety of instruments. One of my oldest friends, Sebastian Robertson, was tasked with co-directing their latest video. Seb and I met in elementary school. In high school we formed a band and played music together off and on for years. As adults, we found ourselves living in the same neighborhood with sons of similar ages on the same little league baseball team at Rancho Park. So, when this lifelong friend needed a serious and soulful harmonica player, I was excited that he called on me to do the honors. Not only would I be featured with such esteemed musicians as John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin), Steven Perkins (Jane’s Addiction), Derek Trucks, and Susan Tedeschi (Tedeschi Trucks Band) but we’d be playing, “When the Levee Breaks,” a tune from one of my favorite bands of all time, Led Zeppelin. It was truly a thrill of a lifetime to pull out my old harp, practice for weeks to get it just right, and then roll into Venice Beach to film my segment. The video premiered on the Playing for Change YouTube channel last month and dozens of environmental charities benefited from donations made during the program. You can see it here: BenLeeProperties.com/Playing-For-Change and I make my appearance at about 20 minutes in. So, not only did I enjoy participating in this special project, it felt great knowing that I played a small part helping the environment in a creative, collaborative way.
It was equally fulfilling flexing my musical muscle for the first time in years. I’ve tried of late to make more time for activities that used to bring me great joy. It’s so easy, especially when you’re just starting out professionally or in the early days of starting a family, to be all consumed with that which keeps either endeavor going. You can be myopic in your focus on acquiring the most clients, closing the most deals, being available at every hour of the day for whoever is having an emergency at that exact second. You can be so competitive not just with yourself but with colleagues, too. Back when I was first starting out in this business, I was relentless in my pursuit of every possible opportunity that came my way. It became such that I resisted ever leaving town because if I did, I’d either lose out on potential deals or spend the bulk of the time on the phone handling problems that would spring up from problematic transactions I had left behind. Thank goodness that with the benefit of time, hard work and practical experience, I now know that living and working that way is not sustainable. These days, I surround myself with the expertise and professionalism of a fabulous support staff that help me in countless ways. They assist with the intricacies and details that make all the difference between a deal that runs smoothly and one that is fraught with headaches. I’m still competitive but have worked hard on not taking rejection personally. My skin has thickened significantly over the years and now if a potential client chooses other representation, I may be disappointed and think it’s a regrettable decision, but I won’t take it as personally as I might have in the past.
And, most notably, I’ve managed to strike a balance between work, family, health and fun. Sometimes all four miraculously converge at once but usually that’s not the case. It takes some extra effort to make time for each thing in the spirit of achieving a happy, well-rounded life. It isn’t always doable and most days I’m lucky if I can make time for a little exercise or a healthy meal in addition to the work commitments that come my way. But here’s the truth: no matter how busy I am, I’ll drop everything for the chance to play music alongside some of my idols. So, if you happen to meet Paul McCartney or Mick Jagger, please put in a good word for your friend and neighbor Ben Lee. Whether they’re looking for a house or a harmonica player, please let them know I’m their guy!
By Ben Lee