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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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!

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

Smile Because It Happened

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”  ~Dr. Seuss

I came across this quote last week and it’s such a great reminder about perspective and also about how to handle ending. Since endings are a part of every life, it feels that this quote from Dr. Seuss is applicable for all of us.

There are a number of things that come to an end:

  • A season of life
  • An event
  • A place we enjoy visiting
  • A business we enjoy frequenting
  • A friendship
  • A life

To be clear, some of the endings on this list are more impactful than others, and deserve tears as part of the healing process.  That said, I think that remembering the experience or the person lost with smile, and gratitude for the experience, helps us move forward in away that allows us to remain open to new people and experiences yet to come.  What a shame it would be to close ourselves off to trying new things or getting close to people because we are afraid of the tears that may come with loss.

Dr. Seuss’s quote also reminds me that I don’t have to wait until something is over to smile about it.  I can do so even while it’s happening.  😊

Reminder To Enjoy It

On Wednesday, my wife informed me that the place we board our cats when we travel will be closing down.  This is a bummer for us, because we really enjoyed this place.  Whenever we dropped our cats off, we never worried about them because they received excellent care, and were always in great shape when we returned.  We will miss this place.

Again, I’m reminded of the importance of appreciating those things (and people) we enjoy while we have them, because so often things change, and they’re gone.

Be on the look out for those things you currently enjoy and look upon them with gratitude and thanksgiving, while you still have them.  And remember, while change can be sad or frustrating, it is also the vehicle by which exciting new things come into our lives.

Introductions From Others

I’m currently listening to the audio book “Music is History” by Questlove.  One thing I’m really enjoying about this book so far is the introductions Questlove has indirectly given me to artists and songs I might not have encountered on my own.  I’m just a few chapters in, and already, I’ve been listening to a handful of new songs and “favorited” a couple of artists in Spotify.  I’m grateful he took the time to write this book and share some of his favorites with the rest of us.

Be on the lookout for these indirect introductions throughout your day.  They could be recommendations from friends, suggestions of things to do this weekend from the evening news, or suggestion on a website.  It’s a great way to experience something new, and maybe even discover a new favorite.

Small Steps Forward

One reason I think life is so interesting is that there is so much to learn and improve at.  From our skills in the workplace, to hobbies and interests, to character improvements, to relational skills and even spiritual growth, we have a neve-ending source of areas where we can improve.  And while I am energized by this thought, at times, I also find it rather frustrating. 

The source of this frustration, for me, comes when the improvement happens slower than I would like.  Yes, I know improvement takes time, but still, I often wish it came a little (or a lot!) quicker.

That’s why the following comment I read last week resonated so much with me.  It said,

“We change not in giant leaps, but one small step at a time.  Your have the rest of your life, so be patient with yourself.”

I love this statement because it reminds me that my real goal in life is continuous improvement versus being an unachievable form of perfect right now.  It also reminds me that progress adds up over time.  Therefore, if I’m a life-long learner, which I am, I’ve got a lifetime to get better.

That thought is a good antidote for alleviating my frustration at a perceived slow rate of progress.  All I really need to do is continue making small steps forward.

The Value Of Instructors

Four years ago, I began taking lessons to learn the electric bass guitar.  I’m sure I could have learned to play the bass by watching youtube videos, but I prefer being able to ask specific questions I’m struggling with to a real person versus a search engine.  I also prefer lessons, because the instructor often know things that will be useful that I’m not yet aware of.

For the last couple of weeks, we’ve been learning about now to write melodies.  When we first started, I was wondering to myself, “how is this going to help be become a better bass player?”  I was really having a hard time connecting the dots between being able to write melodies and being a more skilled bass player.

As we’ve been working on it, I’m seeing how this skill will increase my understanding of music and also help me learn how I can apply this knowledge directly in some of the songs we play on the worship team at church.  It’s a skill I likely wouldn’t have pursued, had I not been taking lessons from someone who knows more about music than me.

While youtube and online search results can be useful in helping you learn a new skill, I think the best way to learn, at least for me, is to enlist the help of a good instructor.  Someone who has been on the same journey, only much longer than I have, and someone who knows what skills would be valuable, that I may not even be considering.

The next time you’re trying to go beyond the basics of learning a new skill, consider enlisting the help of an instructor.  It’s highly probable that you’ll benefit from the knowledge they have that you’re not yet aware of.

It’s Not Just Physical

We’ve all heard how exercise and diet are key components of maintaining good physical health as we age.  You’ll certainly get no argument from me about this!  However, I do think there’s more than just our physical health that we should consider as part of a healthy lifestyle.  We should also keep our minds healthy as well.

Two of the best ways I can think of to develop a healthy mind is to use it, and to be aware of what you’re putting into it.

This is just my opinion, but I think our minds were created to be used.  Just like a car is meant to be driven, and a piano is meant to be played, so too our minds were meant to be used rather than to sit idle.  By “using our minds”, I mean we should continuously be sharpening them by:

  • Exposing them to new and interesting (to us) content
  • Learning new skills
  • Listening to new, and even opposing ideas
  • Talking to people who are different from us
  • Reading
  • Journaling
  • Connecting with others

In addition to using them, we should also be aware of the content we’re allowing into our minds.  If you put gas in your car that is full of debris, it won’t run well.  Filling our minds with negative content will have the same effect over time.  The content we put into our minds is how we train our think, respond, and form our worldview.  I want to put content in my mind that will yield positive thinking, not only now, but well into the future.

So the next time you’re taking a walk, exercising, or doing any other activity that benefits your physical health, take a moment to make sure that you’re also developing a healthy mind as well.  Because if you’re like me, you want to age with a heathy body AND mind. 

What’s Forming You

Consider all the things that influence the way you think.  The number of inputs is more than we might think, and includes everything from social media, to the books we read, the people we hang out with, the TV shows and movies we watch and books we read.  Now consider that each one of these things has influence on how our thinking is formed.

How does that make you feel?  Do you like the forming effect these inputs are having on you?  If you answered, “Yes”, great!  Keep availing yourself to the same kinds of inputs you’ve been receiving.

If you answered, “No”, there’s good news!  You can change your inputs, and thereby change how you’re thinking is being formed.  What a blessing, and a responsibility.  A blessing, because we can decide how were being formed, and a responsibility, because we should take action to ensure that we’re being formed in a way that leads to a positive, abundant life.

The question isn’t whether our thinking be formed, but rather how it will be formed.  Let’s decide how we want our thinking to be formed and ensure that we’re consuming the right inputs to get us there.