Effort Is Required

One thing I’ve noticed playing the bass guitar for the last 5 years is that improvement takes effort.  I don’t get better because I’ve been playing for a certain amount of time.  I get better when I focus my efforts, and actually put in the time practicing.  There is no short cut or hack to bypass this step, unless my destination is mediocrity. 

That last sentence sounded a little harsh, but it’s true, and not just with bass guitar, but with anything we want to improve at.  Whether it’s communicating better with others, or improving our performance in a specific area, focused effort and time is the path to success.

Is there an area of your life where you’d like to see improvement?  If so, focused effort and time (along with the proper knowledge) is likely the path to seeing the improvement you desire.

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Different Lives

As part of my kick off to the shorter days and darker nights of the fall season, I’ve begun reading a couple hours in the evening before bed most weeknights. The last 2 books I’ve read have been autobiographies, and from them, I’ve been reminded (of the obvious) that people have different backgrounds and experiences than I have.

The first book I read was from a man whose father was Nigerian and whose mother was from Kansas.  The focus of the book was on the influences of the 7 “fathers” this man had in his life that shaped and mentored him into the person he is today. 

The second book (that I’m actually still reading) is about the bass player for the band Guns N Roses, and his journey through music, drugs, addition, and recovery.  Let’s just say that this guy had a wild ride!

What I appreciate about both of these books is that they gave me a glimpse into another person’s life.  From that, I see how their experiences, fears, and desires influenced their thought process, and, ultimately, the choices they made, both when they were younger, and now that they’re older.

When I learn about the experiences, challenges, and struggles other people have faced, whether directly from them, or reading about it in a book, I find that it causes me to be less judgmental, especially when I don’t know their story.  It’s easy to cast judgement through the filter of my own experiences.  Occasionally, those judgements are correct.  More often though, I realize that things aren’t usually as black and white as my experience would say that they are.  I find that my initial snap judgements are often unwarranted, due to my lack of understanding and consideration of their experiences.

I’m grateful for opportunities to learn more about peoples’ lives, either through books or in person.     

Switching Gears

With the days getting shorter, and it getting darker earlier in the Pacific Northwest, I’m getting back to one of my favorite fall and winter pastimes: reading at night.  It’s one of the events I look forward to as summer wanes and fall approaches. 

Somewhere around 60-90 minutes before bedtime, I like to grab a pillow, a blanket, a book, and head for the sofa and spend my remaining moments of the day with a good book.  Our cats have become aware of these queues and are eager to join me on the sofa.  They don’t seem to mind what I read, as long as I stay put long enough for them got get a good pre-bedtime nap in.

During the spring and summer, when its light out right up until bedtime, I like to be outside or doing something more active.  However, dark, cooler, and often rainy nights are more conducive to a passive activity like reading.  It’s like nature giving me permission to slow down and relax.  Plus, by the time spring rolls around, I’m eager to start getting after it again.

Are there any activities that you look forward to as the seasons change?  If so, be sure to take part in them, and enjoy the time spent in said activities. 

Slowing Down

I’ve been noticing the past couple of weeks that I have a habit of reading through email and texts rather quickly.  As a result, I’ve also noticed that I often miss keep points or specific words within the messages.  Sometimes, this causes me to have a different interpretation of the message than what the sender intended. 

We all get a lot of email, texts, notifications, and other forms of media vying for our attention, and we need a way to get through them quickly.  However, what I’m starting to work on is slowing down a little when I get messages from those closest to me.  I want to make sure that I’m understanding what they’re communicating to me, versus getting it wrong because I was in a hurry. 

If someone is important to me, and they took the time to send me a text or email, I need to honor them by making sure I understand what they’re telling me.    

You Learn It Now Apply It

This week’s post is primarily a reminder for me to put into action what I learn.

During my electric bass lesson this week, I learned a new concept that appears to have some very practical application when I play on our worship team at church.  Now that I’ve gained this new knowledge, I have a choice:  I can either apply it, or forget it.

It seems like such a silly choice, doesn’t it?  “Of course, I’ll apply it!” is the response I tell myself.  However, I am surprised how often a good intention to apply newly acquired knowledge can be tossed aside when we get busy, or in some cases, just plain lazy. 

It takes effort to apply a new skill, yet it also takes effort to learn a new skill as well.  If I’m going to put forth the effort to learn something new, I need to follow through with the effort to apply that knowledge as well.  Otherwise, I’m just wasting my time.

So, let’s get out there (still talking to myself here, but feel free to follow along, if this is applicable to you) and start putting our knowledge into action.  New levels await!

A Quick Thought On Getting Along

Lately, I’ve been reminded of the obvious truth that the success and happiness we experience in life is largely due to do with how well we are able to get along with other people.

This truth reminds me that how I treat people and interact with them matters.  If I want assistance, kindness, or grace from others, then I need to offer these things to those around me. 

It seems to me, from my experience on both the giving and receiving end, that life is much better when I’m getting along with fellow-Earthly-travelers, than when I lead with demanding my own way, or thinking that the world revolves around me.  It has been proven multiple times, that the world, indeed, does NOT revolve around me, or any other single person.

Getting along with others doesn’t mean that I default to capitulating what I want or need, simply for the sake of getting along.  Rather, I see it as being considerate of the needs of others, in addition to my own needs.

Isn’t that what we all want: for others to be considerate of us?  If that’s the case, let’s make sure we’re doing likewise for others.

The Most Beautiful Thing

Last Friday evening, my wife and I were on a flight back from a week-long vacation in Boston, when I noticed the shape of a large man walking down the aisle.  As I looked up from my book, I was surprised, and captivated, by the scene I saw.

Securely cradled in this man’s arms was a 1-year-old baby boy (I talked to the man later, and he told me the boy’s age) who was sound asleep.  This dad was walking up and down the aisle of the airplane gently bouncing and rocking his sleeping son, in an effort to keep him soothed and comfortably asleep.  From the baby’s contentedly limp posture, I’d say this dad was doing an excellent job!

After watching this scene for several minutes, I nudged my wife and pointed out the scene to her.  After she saw it, I leaned over and said, “That’s the most beautiful thing I’ve seen all week.”

I’m always impressed by dads that are engaged in the lives of their young children.  We all hear stories of dead-beat dads or absentee fathers, so I’m especially awestruck when I see a dad who is shattering these aforementioned sub-par pictures of fatherhood. 

Here’s to all you dads out there who are actively and positively engaged in raising your kids.  Your children are blessed call you dad.

Cause It To Happen

My wife and I just got back from a week-long trip to Boston.  We went with some friends to explore the town and learn more about ta place none of us had ever spent much time, but that all of us were eager to visit.

What always strikes me when we go on a trip or adventure is how it would never have occurred without some prior planning and forethought.  Think about it, you can have an adventure in mind, but without taking the steps to cause it to happen, it will remain an unfulfilled dream.  Our action is what transforms a dream into reality.

How cool that in order for much of our dreams to be realized, we simply need to put forth the effort required to bring them about.  The other side of that coin is that it is sad that we are often the ones standing in the way of our dreams, simply because we fail to take action.

What adventure are you dreaming of?  Take steps today to begin causing the dreams you have to happen.  Your future self will thank you for the memories

Trust

Have you ever heard anyone say, “I don’t trust anyone!”?  Have you ever said that yourself?  That comment makes me laugh, because each one of us puts our trust into others more than we realize.

For example, we trust that:

  • Cooks and staff at the restaurants we eat in are observing the proper health and safety procedures related to food storage, handling, and preparation
  • Letter carriers will deliver a correspondence you drop in the mail in an accurate and timely fashion
  • Gas pumps actually pump the type and grade of gasoline listed on the pump, versus diesel, water, or some liquid other that what the pump says.
  • Other drivers will stop when a traffic light is red, go when it’s green, and drive the proper direction in traffic, rather than just going whichever direction in whichever lane they feel like.

In all these examples, and hundreds of other daily scenarios, we are counting on others to be trustworthy.  This thought reminds me that others are expecting us to be trustworthy as well.  Let’s live in a way that the trust others have in us is well-placed.

On Apologizes

This week, I had an interaction with someone where I could have behaved better than I did. What I knew I needed to do was offer an apology. Here’s the thing, when we know we need to make an apology: we can come up with all sorts of reasons not to.

It’s no different for me either. In fact, I was running through several reasons why I didn’t need to make the apology. My lame excused ranged from, “They probably don’t even remember the incident” to “I’ve got other things I need to be doing” to every other excuse in between. I told you they were lame.

In the end, I made the apology before my workday started. I decided it was, indeed, important and needed to be done. The person who I apologized to was gracious and said that they appreciated it.

All that to say, if you owe someone an apology, make it. Don’t wait, or put it off, or think of reasons to keep from doing it, because the person you owe the apology to deserves it.