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.

Without Even Knowing

On Friday June 2nd at about 9:45am Pacific Time, I completed the Rim to Rim hike in the Grand Canyon.  This is a hike I have wanted to do since first visiting the Grand Canyon back in 2013.  It was a fantastic experience that I will never forget.

Completion

One of the key motivators for doing this hike was a view of Plateau Point I saw from the South Rim during my visit in 2013.  Plateau Point is easily visible from the south rim of the canyon, just west of the El Tovar Lodge.

Plateau Point

What captivated me about this view was the small trail that lead out to the point.  From my vantage several thousand feet above I could see people walking along that trail toward the end of the point.  As I watched them, I wondered what type of view they must have and how great it must be to be down there walking that trail.  Their presence on the trail intrigued me and stirred a desire to find out for myself what that experience is like.

The people I saw on the tail had no idea that I was watching them and that their presence on the trail was motivating me to one day hike that trail as part of my Rim to Rim experience.  As I hiked the trail to the end of Plateau Point last week, I wondered if there were people on the South Rim watching me.  I’d like to think there was someone that saw me and thought, “That looks like something I’d like to do.  I’m going to make that happen!”

I think we can motivate others to do great things without even knowing it.  The people I saw on Plateau Point back in 2013 had no idea they were inspiring me to take action.  They were simply doing their thing out on the trail.

I like to think that maybe I’ve been able to do the same for others.

Act Like a Baby

Persistent

Determined

Tenacious

Focused

When you hear those words, does any specific type or group of people come to mind? Perhaps you think of a high achiever or someone who seems to get things done regardless of their circumstances.  For me when I hear those words I think of… babies.

Think about a baby that’s learning to walk.  They struggle to stand up, even with the support of a solid object, they wobble around, and they fall down.  But what makes me think of babies when I hear those words, is that after each setback or failed attempt, babies get back up and try again.

Once they get it in their mind to start walking, they will not be stopped until they achieve that goal.   They don’t quit because it’s hard.  They don’t complain because they suck at their first attempts.  A baby will repeat the process of getting up and falling down until they have mastered walking.

I stand in awe of the persistence, determination, tenacity, and focus of babies.

Is there any skill you’re currently trying to learn that has you frustrated and wanting to quit?  If so, I encourage you to act like a baby and embrace the process of falling down and getting back up to try again.

If a skill we’re trying to learn is truly important to us, we should approach it with the same level of persistence, determination, tenacity, and focus.

May we all be more like babies in this regard.

Get on the Path

Ever since visiting the Grand Canyon in 2012, I’ve had this goal of doing the Rim to Rim hike.  It’s a hike from the North Rim of the canyon to the South Rim and is a very unique hiking experience with some beautiful scenery.  Many describe it as a bucket list item.  However, aside from wanting to do this hike, I haven’t taken much action to make it happen… until this week.

After talking about it with my wife we sat down, picked some dates and made reservations with a hiking outfitter to do the trip in 2017.  After I made my reservations, and paid my deposit (I had to commit money, so I’m all in!)  I felt great, because I had taken action that will cause this event to happen in 2017.  The part that was so interesting to me was how easy it was to just take action.

I often find myself researching or continuing to think about doing an activity, when instead, what I really need to do is take the step before me.  Put even more simply, I just need to take the action I know I need to take.

After I hit Submit on the on-line registration form, I wondered to myself why it had taken me so long to do this.  If it was that easy to get on the path to achieving this goal, imagine all the other goals I could achieve over a lifetime, if I just take action and get on the path.

How awful would it be to get to the end of life and wonder how different our things could have been if we had only had the courage to take initiative and get started on the path toward doing some things we really wanted to do?

Is there anything you’ve wanted to do, that you keep thinking about, but have yet to take action on?  If so, take action today.  Stick your neck out there and do something that commits you to getting on the path and seeing it through.

Checking in on You Bucket List

So what’s on your bucket list?  Whether written down or kept in our head, we all have a list of things we’d like to accomplish before our time on Earth is up.

Here’s a follow up question:  How many items on your bucket list have you checked off in the last 12 months?  Not as many as you’d like?  Me neither.

For me, the biggest barrier to checking off bucket list items is my own lack of commitment to consistently take actions that will bring about the items on my list.  Put another way, my biggest barrier is… me.

Here’s the good news, though:  If I’m the biggest barrier, I am also the strongest force that can propel me forward toward checking things off my list.  What a great thought that is!  I’m not required to wait around for others to light a fire or make things happen for me.  I can do that all on my own, by simply choosing to take action.

The same is true for all of us.  If there’s something you want to do or experience in this life, all you have to do is start making plans and taking action to bring it about.  Consistent effort over time toward a goal is a powerful force; a very powerful, bucket-list-checking-off force.

So, 2 final questions:

  1. What items on your bucket list still remain unchecked?
  2. Will you act as a barrier or a propelling force toward bringing them about?

Evidence to the Contrary

MiddleSister

There seems to be a mindset that aging is a bad thing and that the older we get the more we must take on an increasingly sedate and less active lifestyle.  For example, have you ever heard anyone say or imply some derivative of the following…

 “You know, when you turn <insert an age> you start to <insert bullet list of looming ailments and physical limitations that supposedly accompany aforementioned age>.”

“Well, that’s what happens when you turn <insert an age>.  That’s just the way life is.  What can you do about it?”

I reject this line of thinking for the single reason that I’ve seen too much evidence to the contrary in the lives of multiple people I’ve had the pleasure of crossing paths with.

One of my favorite encounters occurred during a backpacking trip around the Three Sisters mountains in Central Oregon back in 2010.  My buddies and I met with 3 people on the trail riding horses:  An older gentleman, a lady and a guy in his late 20s to early 30s.  The gentleman leaned forward in his saddle with a relaxed yet confident posture as we all exchanged pleasantries.  “So, what are you all up to today?” I asked.  “Well,” the gentleman responded, “today is my 85th birthday.  This is my daughter” he said as he gestured to his right, “and this is my grandson.  We’re camping across the meadow down by…”

I was so blown away by what he said, and what I saw, that I don’t remember a thing he said after that.  This guy was celebrating his 85th birthday on horseback in the back country of the Three Sisters Wilderness, while other people several decades younger have a hard time getting off the sofa without getting gassed!

The one thing I remember most about this man, besides his comment, were his eyes.  It’s hard to describe, but it was as if they sparkled with the flame of life that was obviously burning bright behind them.

I never got his name, but I will never forget him, or the lesson he unintentionally taught me about aging that day.  We’re not required to adopt the mindset that tells us we should slow down or throttle back on what we enjoy doing, simply because we reach a certain age.  We have a choice not only in how we age, but in our attitude toward aging as well.

This 85 year-old-young guy was just one of many people I’ve meet who, through their continued active lives, are calling “BS” on the lie that as we age we need to slow down, do less, and become less.  I agree with them, and call “BS” as well; because through their examples, I’ve seen too much evidence to the contrary.

Seeing Beauty

My wife and I recently made a visit to Crater Lake National Park.  Although we had been there several times before, (we’re fortunate to live relatively close to this gem) I was once again captivated by the overwhelming beauty of this natural treasure.

Crater Lake

A video playing at the park’s Visitor Center described how the natural beauty of Crater Lake that we see today is the result of a very violent volcanic past.  A severe eruption of Mt. Mazama left the area looking like a “moonscape”, as described by the park video.  However, years of wind and weather have transformed the once barren site to the beautiful lake we see today.

The beauty of the lake is unmistakable.  It got me thinking that there are people who are a lot like Crater Lake.  Not that they have “off-the-charts” physical beauty, but rather they have beauty that comes from a decision to choose a positive response to a significant “eruption” in their own life experience.  For example, they choose to:

  • Be victorious versus defeated.
  • Focus on what they are grateful for versus what they’ve lost.
  • Encourage others facing the same or similar experience.
  • Live their life with purpose regardless of past circumstances.

These, and similar choices, to past “eruptions” in life make for a beautiful person.

Seeing physical beauty in nature, like Crater Lake, is easy.  However, seeing beauty as a result of people’s difficult life experience is not always as obvious.

As we’re interacting with others, let’s remember that we’re often not aware of what they have experienced in life.  And, if you’re ever blessed to have someone share their past “eruption” with you and how they have chosen a positive path forward… stand in awe at the beauty before you.