Imagine for a moment …
You’re a short, little guy. 5’3″ to be exact.
You couldn’t have weighed more than 130 lbs, soaking wet.
You’re Asian. And you are going to be the voice of a foreign band — one which is half-way around the world from home.
You did not have it easy growing up. Your mom died from rheumatic heart disease. Your dad sold everything in the house to pay for her medical bills. And in the process of paying for your mom’s hospital bills, your family was 6 months behind on rent.
The landlord got fed up and kicked you and your family out. You’re homeless. But what could you do? You couldn’t let you mom go without a fight.
Your dad doesn’t have a job. Your 3 brothers don’t have anything to eat. Someone has to wear the pants in the family, and you decided that you were that person.
When you were 13 years old, you didn’t want to burden your family anymore and struck out on your own. You quitted school, wandered the streets, and tried to send back whatever money you could to help your family.
For 2 years, your modus operandi was pure survival. You slept on the streets, parks, and friends’ house. You picked up cans, bottles, and caps to earn a bit of money for food. You even took on odd jobs here and there, but work was very hard to come by. And as a result, there were multiple days where you went to bed hungry.
What do you do? How are you gonna survive? How much longer can you keep on going like this??
A Real Story from the Harsh Streets of the Philippines
The above scenario is not a make-believe, empty, theoretical scenario on survival. No, it is the life of Arnel Pindea — the lead singer of an American Rock ‘n’ Roll band, Journey.
Young Pineda did not take the easy way out and give up on life. He did not turn to the government for a hand-out. (His home country, the Philippines, is not exactly the friendliest to beggars and vagrants.) He did not turn to schools for an education.
Everything he needed to know, he learned it on the cold, mean streets of a third-world country.
But I’ll tell you what he did …
He stayed true to his life’s mission. He pursued his craft like a true artist. Like a man who has one goal and one love in life. He sang his little heart out for decades.
The 1980’s came and went. He kept on singing.
The 1990’s came and went. He kept on singing.
The 2000’s came. He was still singing.
Life is kinda funny. It is unpredictable. You never know what tomorrow brings. But there is one certainty:
When you show up every day — for years and years on end — doing what you love to do, life will reward you.
In 2007, Journey was looking for a lead singer. Neal Schon turned to the internet for an answer. He watched videos after videos after videos of singers … in an attempt to find the right lead singer.
On the other side of the world, Pineda kept doing what he does best: sing. Little did he know, a loyal fan posted videos of the dedicated singer’s work on YouTube. And as life would have it, Schon stumbled across the videos. A little Asian guy from half-way around the world caught the band’s attention.
Journey got in contact, and Pineda flew in to the states for an audition.
By 2008, Arnel became the lead singer of one of America’s most famous Rock ‘n’ Roll band.
Who can imagine that a 13 year old street kid from a third-world country would one day become the voice of America?
And to this very day, he is still singing.
Don’t Stop Believin’
I came across Pineda’s story when watching the documentary, Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey. After watching it, I was sooooo fired up. This is the most American story I have ever heard in a long while.
Finally! Here is an example of someone “making it” based on their own grit, tenacity, and skill. A story of someone who did not quit and achieved his dream. His success did not come from who he knew (absolutely no one), what degree he had accumulated (none whatsoever), or his background (just another dirt-poor guy trying to survive).
But like a true artist, he kept at his craft. Even when the world threw obstacles after obstacles in front of him, he kept pushing forward. The longer he endured, the better he got at what he did. He was so good, the world could no longer ignore him. He won … despite the crappy hand life dealt him.
Now I ask you … When the odds are stacked against you, when the universe seemingly conspires against you, what do you do?
Do you quit your dream and your passion, because they don’t pay off right now?
Do you keep going forward — one heavy step at a time — even if you don’t get your reward for decades to come?
Don’t Stop Believin’ in Las Vegas (2008)