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.

Maintaining What’s Important

We just finished a 6 week house renovation project this week that included some painting, carpeting, and hardwood floors.  Our house is 23 years old, so it was time to spruce everything up and give it a fresh new look.  I think it’s important to keep my house in a good working order and condition, not only because it’s such a big investment, but because it’s more enjoyable for me to live in when it’s in this state.

I also think it’s important to maintain the other big things in our lives that are important to us like our:

  • Finances
  • Closest Relationships
  • Health
  • Spiritual well being
  • Intellect and thinking
  • Attitude

Maintenance, whether it be for a friendship, a home, or our health, involves a commitment of our time and resources, because things that are neglected usually aren’t maintained well.

Spend some time thinking about the things that are important to you and determine whether they could use a little maintenance from you.  If so, take action to get them the attention they need.  You’ll enjoy what you have even more when it’s properly maintained.

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. 

What Does Action Look Like

In a recent team meeting at work, we were discussing an initiative our organization is undertaking to create an even stronger culture of inclusion, diversity, equity, and learning.  During the discussion someone asked the question, “What does action look like?”

I thought this was a good question because without specific actions to take to get where we want to go, as an organization or as individuals, all we really have are ideals or lofty aspirations.  It’s the intentional actions we take that will move us toward our aspirations becoming our reality.  Without action our aspirations remain just that… aspirations.

I was pleased to learn that our organization is currently in the process of defining what those specific actions look like.  With regard to our own personal goals and aspirations, we should all be asking ourselves what action looks like.

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.

Make Time Your Ally

“Time magnifies the margin between success and failure. It will multiply whatever you feed it. Good habits make time your ally. Bad habits make time your enemy.”  ~James Clear

While I was listening James Clear’s book Atomic Habits last week, I heard him mention the quote above about time magnifying whatever you feed it.  We all know this is true, but this quote really resonated with me with the realization that those habit we continuously do over time, no matter how small, will have an impact. 

Think of things like saving a percentage of every paycheck for retirement, smoking a pack of cigarettes every day, or exercising 30 minutes a day.  While theses habits may seem small and inconsequential in the moment, the compounding effect they have over time can be significant.  And based on what the habit is, those effects can be positive or negative. 

I’ve been thinking about the habits I have lately, and those I’d like to start, and where they can take me.  Some of the habits I have are intentional, and I’m excited about the impact they’ve had on my life.  If I’m being honest, I have other habits that are unintentional, meaning I didn’t set out to put them in place, but rather I’ve just allowed them to develop.  Most of these habits are borne out of mental laziness and don’t really yield the type of results I’d like to get. 

Being aware of our habits (the good as well as the not so good) is a great way to make sure what we do over a large arch of time is actually leading us somewhere we want to go.  Whether we’re aware or not, as James Clear stated, time will multiply whatever we feed it.  Let’s make sure we’re making time our ally.

Just Pick A Day

My sister and I were texting earlier this week about the nice sunny weather we were having.  I suggested we get together for a nice walk one of these upcoming sunny mornings.  She agreed.  Not only that, her following text showed me her level of commitment, “Let’s just pick a day, or it won’t happen!!”

I couldn’t have agreed more.

When there is something we want to do, the best way to ensure that it actually happens is to just pick a day and get it on the calendar.  It’s not difficult.  Once you decided you’re committed to making it happen, open up the calendar and select a date and time that works.  It really is that simple.  A specific date and time equals commitment.  “Someday” does not.

I’m looking forward to our scheduled walk with my sister this Saturday morning!  We just picked a day.

When It’s Time To Act

Earlier this week we bought a new washer and drier.  The repair man told us that the bearings on our old washer had gone out, and we’d be better off getting a new washer versus replacing this one.  Initially, we were thinking we’d hold off getting a replacement until May, which would align well with a home improvement project we have scheduled.  However, after the machine continued to get worse, we decided the best option would be to replace it now, on our own timeline.

My wife and I both agreed that as long as we kept using the rapidly deteriorating machine, we ran an ever-increasing risk of it failing in the middle of a load of wash.  I don’t know what your experience has been, but appliance failures never seem to occur at a convenient time, and they usually generate unneeded stress and inconvenience.  Especially if we knew in advance that a failure was imminent.

We decided that, since we knew we needed to replace the washer, we should do it on a timeframe that is convenient for us versus letting the machine dictate a less convenient timeframe via a massive failure.

I think there are a lot of things in life that we can address on our own timeframe, versus waiting for a failure to determine our timeframe for taking corrective action.  These things can range from appliance replacements to adopting a healthier lifestyle to maintaining relationships and beyond. 

Let’s be aware of the areas in our lives where we can take action to mitigate unnecessary risks and damage, versus waiting for things to blow up before they get our attention.  And when we become aware of these areas, let’s actually take the necessary action when it’s time to act.

I Don’t Even Miss It

Our house has been feeling rather full, in a cluttered since lately, so a couple of weekends ago, my wife and I went through several closets and rooms and got rid of stuff we no longer use.  It was amazing how much stuff we had that fell into that category! What’s even more interesting is that I don’t even miss a single thing I got rid of.

What I do enjoy, much more than the exiled stuff, is the free space I have in rooms, closets, bookshelves, and cabinets.  There’s such a calming feeling when every inch of a bookshelf isn’t stuffed full of books I’ll likely never read again.  Likewise, a closet with much available space is much more fun to interact with than one that’s jammed full of unused clothing that obscures the clothes I actually do wear.

It’s hard to believe that a carload full of stuff taken to Goodwill can have such a positive impact on my surroundings.

Are there any items you know you’ll no longer use that you need to get rid of or give to someone else who can use them?  If so, I encourage you to do it as soon as possible.  Not only will you enjoy interacting with your newly uncluttered space, you will most likely not even miss the times you get rid of.

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.