Start At Disaster

I’ve been playing the electric bass for 3 years now, and while I know a whole lot more than I did 3 years ago, I’m acutely aware that I have a lot more to learn.

When I listen to professional bass players, or those who have put in years of effort, I’m amazed at the skill and mastery they possess.  To me, their playing looks effortless, and reminds me how far I still have to go.  Yet their skill also reminds me that every master was once a disaster.

I know for certain that the best bass players didn’t start out that way.  When they first picked up a bass for the first time, they were likely a disaster… just like I was!  They didn’t stay there however.  They put in the effort to eventually become a master at their craft.

I think that’s cool.  Mastery isn’t the starting point, disaster is.  When we begin something new, we’re not supposed to be any good at it.  You know why?  BECAUSE IT’S NEW!

It’s only when we continuously learn about our chosen craft and apply what we’ve learned, that we’re on our way toward mastery.  And if we continue this process, we are, by definition, a success:

“Success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal.”  ~Earl Nightingale

So, embrace the disaster that you’re sure to be at the beginning of your next new undertaking.  For it’s the starting point on your journey toward mastery.

What Goes In Comes Back Out

I’ve recently finished listening to a couple of audio books that has some “colorful” language sprinkled throughout.  Not a big deal.  In fact, I use to swear a lot as a teen and young adult.  However, now I prefer not having those words in my vocabulary.  The just don’t align with how I want to present myself to the world.

While the audio books were extremely interesting, I noticed that they sere influential in ways I hadn’t anticipated.

Since listening to them I’ve found myself muttering expletives under my breath when I get frustrated with something.  It was hardly noticeable at first, but I’m noticing it occurring more often. I’m reminded how what we allow into our mind has a way of coming back out in our thoughts, speech and actions., especially when we’re squeezed or under pressure.  Therefore, need to be more discerning with regard to the content I’m allowing into my mind.

I like what Philippians 4:8 states,

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things

I’m going to focus more on doing this, because I want to make sure what comes out, through my thoughts, speech, or actions, is a positive result of the good things I’ve placed in my mind.

We Choose

Weird times going on in the world today!  We have an abundance of uncertainty, and with it comes the potential for fear, anxiety, and worry.  It’s important to realize this, because left unchecked, these feelings can cause us to behave in ways that we might otherwise not.

We choose how we behave.  Circumstances don’t make us act poorly; we choose to act poorly.  Situations don’ cause to treat others badly.  We choose to do that too.

The good news is that in spite of situations or circumstances, we can also choose to treat others well.  We can choose to treat others with compassion and dignity. That choice is completely up to us.

So, let’s pay attention to how we’re choosing to treat one another.  Let’s choose to treat each other well; not just during these crazy times, but from this moment forward.

That sounds pretty good to me!

Unintentionally Training Others

How do you go about learning a new skill?  Usually, your training will involve many correct repetitions of the skill you’re attempting to master.  Through repetition, you can train yourself to become competent, if not excellent, in any skill you choose.  Repetition is a remarkably powerful training tool.

One thing we may not realize, is that we can also training others (often unintentionally) by what we repeatedly expose them to.  If we’re continuously on our phone, or have our face in front of a screen, whenever we’re with those close to us, what kind of message are we repeatedly sending them?  What are we “training” them to understand?

If we’re always checking our phone or interrupting those who are trying to have a conversation with us, make no mistake, we’re training them that they are not important enough to warrant our full attention.  We are training them to know that we will tap out of our interaction with them the moment something more exciting comes along.  We are training them that they really don’t matter much to us.  Regardless of what we may tell them, or actions are what will train them.

While it’s easy to get sloppy with regard to how we’re training others, it’s also easy to start changing our actions and behaviors to train those around us that they are indeed important and that they matter.  We can decide to train them to know that we care about them.

Consider you’re recent interactions with those close to you.  Through those actions, what have you been training other to understand?  If you don’t like the training you’ve been presenting, then intentionally change your behaviors to align with the training you’d like them to receive.

Two Part Process For Building Skills

I’ve been taking lessons to learn the electric bass for 3 years now.  There have been a number of skills to learn, and I’ve struggled grasping many of them!  When I do find myself struggling with a concept, I have come up with a 2 step process for speeding up my understanding.  The 2 steps are:

  1. Write down my understanding of the concept and present it to my instructor
  2. Be open to, and ready to apply, feedback

Jotting down my understanding of a concept helps me clarify my thoughts and also presents my instructor with a glimpse into my thinking.  From this glimpse, he can easily tell whether I’m grasping the concept or not.  It’s really difficult to fake my understanding when I’ve just handed him a chart, summary, or sketch of how I’m interpreting what I’m learning!

It’s nice when my understanding is correct.  However, most times, I’m usually missing something.  It’s at these moments when my instructor can jump in and clarify a point.  This is where I need to be ok with the fact that my understanding is flawed.  When it is, it’s not a knock on me.  It’s an opportunity to learn and grow as a bass player.  Frankly, isn’t that the point of lessons: to find out in what skills you’re lacking and learn how to get better?

If you’re struggling to learn a concept, consider jotting down how you currently understand it, and give it to someone who knows the topic and will give you an honest assessment.  Then be ready to learn from and apply their feedback.  You’ll have inaccurate understanding to lose and new skills to gain.

A Quick Word On Moving Slow

When we start out on a new endeavor, we usually want quick results.  Whether it’s getting in shape, learning a new skill, investing, or building solid relationships, we like to have positive results come quickly.  Who wouldn’t?  It’s fun and encouraging to see results!

In most cases however, results don’t happen quickly.  They usually arrive slowly.

Therefore, we must put in the effort day after day, month after month, or even year after year before results begin to appear.  The time between starting and results showing up is an easy point to lose heart and give up.  Yet this is also the time when it’s also most crucial to look beyond the present, to that day when the results will have shown up.  When the results are slow, we must be quick to remind ourselves why we want these results and also to remain committed to the process that will ultimately bring us the results we’re working toward.

If you’re currently pursuing something and you’re not seeing the results you want yet, take heart.  Know for certain that results follow actions.   Focus your attention knowing that your results will occur, they must occur, if you simply continue to take the actions required to get you there.

Younger Teachers

“The older I get, the younger my teachers become.”  ~Unknown

As a life-long learner, I’m grateful for the people who have been (and currently are) willing to teach me.  Whether they’ve written a book I’ve read, created a podcast, or sat down next to me to explain something, their willingness to teach me has enriched my live.  I’m especially grateful that these teachers are often younger than I am.

As someone who’s been around for over half a century, I couldn’t imagine how adversely impacted my learning would be if I only listened to people who were older than me.  If I carried the belief that there’s nothing I can learn from anyone who’s younger than me, I’d be willingly disconnecting myself from the wisdom and knowledge of a significant portion of the world population.  What an awful way to move through life!

If sense a negative attitude bubbling up when you have the opportunity to learn from someone younger, check yourself.  You may be on the cusp of throwing away a perfectly good learning experience.

How foolish it would be to miss an opportunity to learn something valuable, simply because pride and ego deafen your ears to voices younger than your own.

Applying What You Learn

I’ve been playing the electric bass for almost 3 years now, and one thing I really enjoy is getting the sheet music for a song I like and learning how to play it.  While it’s fun, as well as rewarding, to learn to play a favorite song, what’s especially cool is to take what I’ve learned about one song and apply it to another.

I’m blessed to be able to play electric bass for our worship team at church.  The song charts we use at church show us the basic chords (notes) we should play, but otherwise there’s a lot of room to be creative.  As I was discussing a section of a favorite song I was learning (Limelight by Rush) with my bass instructor, he showed me how I could apply the same concepts that were being used in this section of Limelight to a song I’ll be playing in church this week.  I was totally blown away, as well as excited about the possibilities this opened up for me.

I think most skills we learn have application beyond the context we learn them in.  Concepts learned to master one skill are often transferable across other disciplines and scenarios.  Being aware of this allows us to multiply the impact of what we learn by applying it broadly beyond the context it was learned in.

The next time you learn something new, think about how you can apply the concepts beyond the context in which it was learned.  You’ll start to see possibilities and solutions where they didn’t exist before.