Different Backgrounds Different Outlook

Here’s something we all know, but that I often forget… we don’t all have the same background and experiences shaping how we view ourselves and the world.

I can too easily assume that others have similar backgrounds and experiences as me.  That assumption is an easy connection to another equally false assumption; that what I would do or how I would think in a situation is how others should think.  That’s simply not true. 

Our experiences and backgrounds shape how we interpret what we see in the world, so it’s obvious that those with differing experiences would see things different that I would, and vice versa.

I like to frequently remind myself about this so that I don’t look up one day and realize that I’ve turned into a cranky old man, simply because I assume that the problem with everyone is that they don’t see the world the same way I do.

Slowing Down

I’ve been working on learning to play the electric bass part of the song Far Cry from the band Rush recently.  It’s a quick tempo song with some cool rhythmic elements that I think sound really cool.  One thing that became painfully obvious when I started learning to play the song was that I would have to slow the tempo way down, if I have any hopes of mastering it.

When I stop and think about it, it makes perfect sense.  I can’t look at a challenging song and play it perfectly at the same tempo on my first attempt.  There are note progressions, fingering, and rhythms that all need to be discerned and practiced at a slower pace in order to gain an understanding of how they all fit together within the song.  Once those elements are understood individually, I can then integrate them together as I begin to play parts of the song.  Albeit still at a slower tempo.

This slowness feels clunky and awkward.  What I really want to do is pick up the bass and play the tune like a pro on the first or second attempt.  However, that’s not the way mastery of a topic works.  Mastery requires that we start out slow as we begin the work of obtaining knowledge and understanding.  From there we can begin to apply this knowledge and steadily increase our pace. 

Here is where I think most people give up pursing a goal.  They see the talent in a musician, athlete, or some other person that has slowed down and put in the time to achieve mastery and think that this person must have been “born with it” or is “gifted”.  In fact, what they are seeing is this person’s reward for having slowed down and spent the time in that slow and clunky stage. 

What’s lost on many of us is that we too can be considered “talented” or “gifted” if we’re willing to put in the required time in the slow and clunky stage.

Humility

Humility opens the door to transformation” ~ Pastor Shawn

I really like this comment that our pastor made in church a few weeks ago.  It reminds me that if we want to change for the better, we need to be open to the reality that we don’t know everything.

Change comes when we’re able to put pride aside and become teachable and open to the fact that we don’t have all the answers, and there’s more we can learn.  If we are unable to do this, how can we change?  If we can’t humble ourselves enough to be receptive to the teaching of others, then by definition we are closed to learning and improving.  How then can we be transformed?  How then can we become better if we lack the humility to be taught by others?

If we seek to improve ourselves, we must learn humility.  Humility is not a sign of weakness, but rather a sign that we are secure in ourselves and eager to invite others to help us get better. 

The Compounding of Choices

While it’s true that occasionally in life things happen to us (both good and not so good) that we did not choose, I think most of what happens to us is the result of the choices we make. 

Think about all the things we get to choose on a regular basis, such as:

  • How we spend our time
  • How we spend our money
  • The daily level of activity we engage in
  • The content we consume
  • The type of foods we consume
  • The people we associate with
  • Whether or not we think critically
  • The careers, causes, values, and beliefs we hold and support
  • The way we treat those around us

That’s a small portion of a VERY large list!

Now think about this:  the small choices we’ve made over the days/weeks/months/years/decades of our life have compounded to form us into who and what we are today.

It’s hard to consider that thought without also pondering the following:  Are you happy with the compounding result of your choices?  If you are, then great!  Stay on track.

If you don’t like the compounding result your experiencing, I have good news.  It’s not too late to change course.  And it all starts with the choices you make from this point forward.

Ask For Help

“If you need help, ask.”  Whether at school, at home, or on the job, we’ve all been told this as some point.  If we need help, assistance is just a request away.  Yet why is it that we seem to wait so long for before we actually avail ourselves of the assistance others are willing to offer?

I get it, we like to be self-sufficient and figure things out for ourselves, or perhaps we don’t want to be a burden to others.  I recognize myself in both of those statements.  And while I agree that we need to make an effort at whatever we’re attempting, at some point we need to enlist the help of others to move forward.  When we find ourselves spinning our wheels or overwhelmed, that’s a significant clue that we should be asking for help.

Keep the following thought in mind the next time you need to ask someone for help, especially if you feel like your asking is a bother to others.  While you’ve undoubted have been told, “If you need help, ask”, have you ever told that to someone else?  (I’ll bet you have!)  And when you told them, did you mean it?  (I’ll bet you did!)  It therefore seems reasonable to believe that most people would be glad to help, if you simply asked. 

The More We Love

The more you love in life, the more life has to offer.”  ~ Lee (my bass instructor)

During a bass lesson this week with my instructor Lee, he mentioned how limiting your exposure to only one specific type of music holds you back from new perspectives and ideas that can be applied to your own music style.  His example made a lot of sense.  If I only listen to say, country music (which I happen to like) then I will only experience music through that lens.  My playing will come to only sound like what I hear in country songs, and I won’t have the opportunity to learn and apply ideas from other music genres.  Lee’s comment resonated with me, not only in the musical context, but in the larger context of a life well lived.

Imagine for a minute that the only food you absolutely loved was pizza.  Now imagine that you ate pizza as often as you could because you loved it so much, but when you couldn’t have pizza, you were disappointed in the alternative.  Yes, I know there are a lot of different varieties of pizza toppings to keep interesting for a long time, but how limiting to think that of all the food choices available to you, that you would be disappointed with anything that wasn’t the single food you loved.   

I think we can also be narrow in our love for a number of things beyond food and music, such as

  • Places
  • Geographies
  • Areas of interest
  • Types of books
  • Topics of conversation
  • Cultures
  • People
  • How we use our gifts and talents
  • How we spend our time
  • Seasons of the calendar
  • Seasons of life

Consider your capacity to love broadly in the topics listed above or others you’re thinking of that weren’t on the list.  The more that we love, be it people places or things, the more opportunities we have for our lives to intersect with those things we love.  I for one, am eager to live a life full of intersections with the things I love.

Cast Your Gaze Beyond Today

With COIVD-related restrictions and choices an omnipresent reality of the 2020 holiday season, it’s easy to become frustrated by how abnormal everything is this year.  While it’s true that things look different this year, I want to encourage you that this is not how Christmas, or any other holiday, will look forever more.  Remember that this current state is indeed temporary.  Before we know it, we will be celebrating holidays with family and friends again.

My pastor signs all his emails with a phrase that I think is especially fitting for this year, “Believing the best is yet to come”.    I think that true.  We only have to be willing to cast our gaze beyond what’s happening today.

Looking Beyond Today

I like Thanksgiving.  It’s a fun time of year, the sights and smells of the holiday are great, plus it’s a fun time to get together with people we’re thankful for.  This year’s holidays will likely be very different than holidays past for many people. 

While that may be frustrating, I think it’s important not to spend too much time lamenting what we don’t have this year, but rather focus on what we still do have.  In addition, it would help us to begin to eager look ahead to the holidays yet to come that won’t be impacted by a global pandemic. 

Those days are coming.  We just need to look past today to see them.

Taking Inventory Our Habits

“Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.” Warren Buffett

Habits are fascinating, because despite the fact that they are small, they can be extremely powerful.  Their power comes from the compounding effect they have when done over long periods of time.

Some habits taken conscious effort to do, like deciding to get up every morning and go to the gym.  Yet other habits are so easy to fall into, that they almost become an automatic part of our daily life.  Things like drinking several sodas or going out for fast food on a daily basis.  (There are a zillion others, but those are the first 2 that came to mind.) These habits are rewarding in the moment, and thus easy to form.  And while an occasional soda or trip to McDonald’s isn’t terrible, the impact of these habits done continuously over years, if not decades, can have severe negative consequences.

For this reason, I think it’s important to regularly determine whether we’ve developed any habits that have the potential to plant land mines for our future selves.  We should ask ourselves:

  • Are the habits we’re engaged in healthy or destructive? 
  • Are they leading to a good outcome or a potentially dangerous one? 
  • Are there habits we should stop doing?
  • Are there habits we need to cultivate?

We all want good outcomes in our lives, but as we know, they don’t just happen.  They require action from us, as well as reflection, to determine if our habits will take us where we want to go.

With 2021 approaching, now would be a good time to take an inventory of the habits we’ve acquired.  It might be time to say, “Good-bye” to some potentially destructive ones we’ve been heretofore traveling with.  It may also be time to say, “Hello” to some new productive habits and invite them to join us on our journey forward.

It Makes Sense To Them

Brace yourself, because I’m about to drop a news flash!  Ready?  Not everyone shares the same viewpoints as me.  Whoa, that’s huge!  Here’s an even bigger news flash… not everyone shares the same viewpoints as you either.  BOOM!!

You’re probably sarcastically thinking, “Thanks for dropping the obvious on me, Scott.  I had no idea!”  If that’s your thought, then you’d be right; we all obviously know that not everyone agrees with our viewpoints and opinions.  Yet while we know this to be true, I think we sometimes forget that a person’s viewpoint or opinion, which may seem strange, or even wrong to us, makes perfect sense to them.

There is a reason why a person thinks the way they do, or believes what they believe.  Their viewpoints are likely shaped by their own unique life experiences, which are probably not the exact same life experiences that we’ve had. 

Ok, that seems pretty obvious too.  So why do I bring it up?

There’s so much divisiveness now.  It seems when we encounter someone with a differing viewpoint, we feel we a need to defend our position.  We’re eager enter into a debate and convince the other person that their viewpoint is wrong, and if they had even a slight modicum of intelligence, they would adopt our position.  We already know where that usually leads: more discord, animosity, hurt feelings, and possibly fractured relationships.  I propose another response to differing viewpoints.

What if, the next time we’re confronted with an opposing viewpoint, instead of immediately entering into a debate, we try to genuinely find out why the person holds that viewpoint?  Not with toxic accusations or labeling, but with a genuine curiously and non-inflammatory questions.  What if we cared enough to see beyond the differences, and to see the person and their experience that lead them to the viewpoints they hold?  

My guess is, that once we’ve taken the time to understand someone, we’ll have a better comprehension of why they think the way they do.  Who knows?  We might even change our own viewpoint in the process.