Neil Peart

Neil Pert, drummer and lyricist for Rush

Sometimes I feel in need of a break and start searching for inspiration and motivation. For a quick super-charge, nothing beats music for me! I do especially like crafty guitar playing, complex rhythms and thought-provoking lyrics, and for that, you can’t go wrong with the Canadian band Rush!

Unfortunately, the drummer and lyricist, Neil Peart, has recently announced his retirement from music. In the spirit of this blog, I’d like to honor him and his body of work by posting a top-ten list of his quotes, adding the pieces of advice I learned from them in the light of self-improvement, work, and expression of creativity.

Song and album titles and link to relevant YouTube video will follow each quote.

If you choose not to decide
you still have made a choice

(Freewill – Permanent Waves –

This verse is all about procrastination, the fact that something apparently more important than everything else is always popping up, making us unable to pursue the quests and tasks that matter in our lives and our jobs. Keeping focused is not easy, but not choosing, is choosing not to.

You can surrender without a prayer
but never really pray
pray without surrender.
You can fight
fight without ever winning
but never ever win
win without a fight

(Resist – Test for Echo –

Fear? Ever experienced F.E.A.R.? False Evidence Assumed as Reality? Fear of action, fear of consequences? Well, please don’t be afraid again! On the other side of fear, there is nothing harmful; on this side, there are missed opportunities and battles lost before taking a single shot.

If you want a great fear-removing mantra, check out what Frank Herbert wrote in Dune: the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear.

If the future’s looking dark,
We’re the ones who have to shine.
If there’s no one in control,
We’re the ones who draw the line.
Though we live in trying times,
We’re the ones who have to try.
Though we know that time has wings,
We’re the ones who have to fly

(Everyday Glory – Counterparts –

Well, you can certainly recognize the pattern in these first three entries! Sometimes there is no one but you that can take action, be it in a staff meeting, a family crisis or an artistic effort. Step up and do your best, and maybe even more than that, don’t be ashamed! Don’t resolve to complain, offer a course of action. Be ambitious and fly high!

He knows changes aren’t permanent
But change is

(Tom Sawyer – Moving Pictures –

Things are ever-evolving, new facts come into our life everyday, situations are created and destroyed in the span of minutes. Good fortune and bad luck can, and will, come and go. Be ready to embrace the change, look for opportunities! Don’t sweat during bad times, things will change if you work for change.

It takes a little more persistence to get up and go the distance
I’m not giving in
I’m not missing out
I’m not giving up on implausible dreams

(The Enemy Within – Grace Under Pressure –

Do you have a BIG dream? Well, don’t resolve to put it aside “for later,” “for when I have time.” Implausible does not mean impossible: it just means that most people won’t believe in it, although the world is full of people fulfilling their dreams every day.

However, you have to choose consistently to pursue your dream, never giving up, being always willing to walk the extra mile. Do something every day for your dream, even something small, and you’ll be amazed at how much you will achieve in a short time.

From first to last, the peak is never passed. Something always fires the light that gets in your eyes.

(Marathon – Power Windows –

Quoting Wikipedia: – In an 1986 interview, Peart said “(Marathon) is about the triumph of time and a kind of message to myself (because I think life is too short for all the things that I want to do), there’s a self-admonition saying that life is long enough. You can do a lot — just don’t burn yourself out too fast trying to do everything at once. Marathon is a song about individual goals and the quest to achieve them. And it’s also about the old Chinese proverb: ‘The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.’ – I will add that this particular line is an invitation to find and follow what gives you the spiritual strength to be in constant motion and personal development.

You can twist perception; reality won’t budge.

(Show Don’t Tell – Presto –

As a physicist, I can’t think of a better line to tell people that, in the end, it does not matter at all what they said or what they led us into believing. They can only twist our perception, not facts: stay away from liars, false sirens, and schemers!

This concept also resonates with what Nobel-prize winner Richard Feynman said after the Columbia shuttle explosion: “For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.

Sometimes our big splashes
Are just ripples in the pool

(Emotion Detector – Power Windows –

I’ve been trying for a long time to understand whether this has a positive or negative meaning; then I realized that both senses are acceptable.

If you have taken a wrong call, relax: there is nothing really to worry about, the worst thing that can happen is rarely as bad as your brain is painting it.

On the other hand, If you have achieved something good, don’t expect anyone to throw a parade! Maybe it can be a good idea to brag discreetly, send some informative emails, share on social networks, contact people who may be interested in your results.

Performing live in front of an audience is such a matter of will – all of those things you can do just fine in your basement, suddenly you have to do them in front of hundreds or thousands of people, and it becomes a different matter entirely.

(Music Radar interview –

Well, this is just simple as it gets. If even a world-class musician, with a decades-spanning career, feels uncomfortable about performing in public, then there is no other way: you have to be damn good and well prepared to have an impact on people!

I would also add that too much nervousness is the one of the leading causes of bad performances, so try not to be too afraid about the outcome.

If the dream is won
Though everything is lost
We will pay the price,
But we will not count the cost

(Bravado – Roll the Bones –

I struggled to find the best words to describe the effect these words have on me, and then I found this beautiful passage by user RVDIL on “There is a profound difference between trying one’s best and failing at something vs accepting defeat. Many of the greatest achievements of the world came after a series of failures wherein the people behind those achievements refused to give up and kept at it until they persevered.

The song starts with a metaphor of Icarus’ myth, the iconic example of a dream fulfilled just a moment before losing everything, and goes on listing other examples of accomplishments not achieved at the last minute or because of forces beyond one’s control. The verse is an excellent reminder that failure it’s always a concrete possibility, but that you have to work hard, and in spite of everything, to achieve what you want.

Here you have it; I hope that this post will lead some of you to tap into the huge discography of Rush to find out some other gems! It has been a great fun writing it, and also a nice break among more technical posts.

As usual, I invite you to enrich the material by writing a comment below or by asking questions.

Hope you will enjoy a happy and fulfilling 2016!