Tag: excellence

When You Know the Notes to Sing…

For 25 years I have been part of a singing ensemble. Different members have come and gone but the group has continued on in one form or another and I have remained a part of it, until this year. This year the group finally came to an end. It’s quite odd not to have regular Tuesday night practice, not to be in the holiday mood early because of working on Christmas songs in September, and not to have a reason for a new holiday outfit this year.

To keep from missing it too much, I chose to begin lessons with a vocal coach – not only to continue to have music in my life but also to keep me in front of an audience on a regular basis (if I have too long between public appearances, whether speaking or singing, I tend to develop a touch of stage fright). Right now I am preparing a piece for a recital. While it’s strange to be working on only one song instead of fifteen, it’s fun to be laser focused on making that one song completely mine – crafting it to take advantage of my abilities.

It’s an interesting process. First I found a song I liked. Then I searched the internet and listened to 38 different artists to find a version that suited me. I found two I liked equally well and couldn’t decide between them. My vocal coach and I decided to combine them — take the best pieces from each and splice them together. In order to do that I needed to learn to sing the parts of the songs EXACTLY as the original singers do: their notes, their timing, their inflections. Once I mastered that, only then was it time to work on folding them together. And after that, I was finally able to put my own spin on it and make it MY version.

That’s pretty much a basic formula for anything one wants to do well in life:

  • find something you enjoy and for which you have a natural aptitude
  • find someone to mentor/coach you
  • find someone to model who does something similar with excellence and study them – duplicate their movements toward success until you know what you are doing very well; then step away and put your own spin on it.

It’s similar to learning to write in cursive in grade school. At first it’s all about holding the pencil exactly right, then following the patterns of each letter perfectly, row after row after row. Then in the end you’re free to write any way you choose, with your own personal flair.

vontrapp family

photo courtesy of Internet Movie Database (imdb.com)

Remember the Von Trapp children from The Sound of Music?  Once they knew the notes to sing, they could sing most anything!

It’s true professionally. There are hundreds of financial experts. All of them have the purpose of increasing their clients’ financial portfolio. But each one has their own variation on it. Suze Orman, the Motley Fools, Clark Howard, and Dave Ramsey are all people who are in tune with the same basic principles and do what they do very well, but very differently.

It’s also true personally. Whatever your purpose is, take advantage of the people out there who are doing it well now. Don’t be too proud to ask for assistance – ask questions and try out their methods. Read books, visit websites, go to seminars, or plays, or concerts, or sporting events and watch and learn.

Why start from scratch when you don’t have to? Get the basics down, establish a foundation, and then move out and find your own style and make your own kind of music.

You can read about networking on one of my previous posts:  Stirring the Embers

4 Things the Seahawks Taught this 12

I am a Seahawks fan.  (Don’t let that make you go away – there’s a good application coming!) They became a franchise when I was a freshman in high school, about 60 miles south of Seattle.

I was born and raised rooting for the Dallas Cowboys back in their glory days.  It was hard moving allegiance from a dynasty to what, at times, felt like a high-school league team.  But Jim Zorn, Steve Largent, Steve Raible, Norm Evans, and the rest of the gang all loved football, loved Seattle, loved the fans.  That made it easy to love them.  My fandom was solidified when I was a freshman in college and watched the Seahawks play a charity basketball game as the “Rainhawks.”  They won my heart with their humor and humility.  They weren’t a very good football team, but they had their moments and the 12th Man (as we were eventually called) has learned, if nothing else, to lean on each other for encouragement.  This was often needed as the Seahawks’ success progressed and we became arguably the most hated franchise in football.

As you are probably aware, the Seattle Seahawks are now the reigning Super Bowl champions.   Maybe you don’t give a rip about football, perhaps you are one of the many who love to hate “us”.   That’s okay with me.  But don’t let it keep you from learning the four things the Seahawks have taught me.

1.  You don’t have to do everything perfectly (especially in the beginning).

Set your goal and continue to strive towards it.  When you fall on your face, try again and again and again.

2. You don’t have to be loved by everyone.

Haters gonna hate.  Find the people who do support you (even if there’s just one or two) and keep them close and build your relationship with them.

3.  Change it up.

Win new supporters (and build new skills) when you branch out and go beyond what you are currently known for.  Let people see who you really are, aside from your resume.

4.  Don’t be afraid to be good.

Sometimes it’s hard to be successful.  It’s hard to change people’s perceptions when it’s taken you a while to break through.  Don’t let that stop you from achieving greatness.

In conclusion, GO HAWKS.

seahawks2

Adjustments Along the Way

adjustsailsEarlier this year I got a new vehicle – I went from a sedan to an SUV. There were definitely some adjustments to be made. The simple act of putting the key into the ignition and turning the engine on was no longer one smooth move. It took me almost a week to get used to positioning my fingers and hand differently. Then there’s the gear shift. In my car it was on the floor, in my SUV it’s on the steering column. At times I still find myself grasping in midair for the stick.

As I changed careers and started building my own business, I found myself grasping in mid-air for things as well. Simple things like working outside of the standard eight-hour workday and catching up on my sleep at 2:00 in the afternoon, felt odd and at first produced massive guilt. And having worked for years in a highly professional arena, where the rules of deportment were clearly established and followed, it was a shock to my system that not everyone knew appropriate business etiquette (and didn’t want to). Slowly I learned to reposition my way of thinking – not to ignore or forget what I knew, but to adjust my expectations and learn how to shift the way I approached people and problems while maintaining my values.

As you pursue the purpose for your life, you should expect change to be a given. Don’t feel threatened or fearful. It’s not always about having to throw out your ideas or standards you value. Many times it’s just a simple adjustment in the way you approach things, a small change in the way you are holding onto something, or a new way of looking at people and their needs. It may be a bit uncomfortable and require a little bit of time (and practice), but you will eventually stop grasping the air and move into a new flow along your way.

There’s Nothing Wrong with New Year’s Resolutions

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with making New Year’s Resolutions.  A resolution is simply a firm decision, a determination to change something.  Nothing wrong with that… but don’t leave it at that.  Doing two simple things will take it out of the realm of mere intention:

  1. Tie your resolution to the purpose God has for your life. Fitting it into the big picture gives it a meaning and value that will take it beyond just the heady rush of the first week of the new year.
  2. Write down the resolution in the form of an actual goal.  Use the SMART acronym to get it on paper and in your heart and mind.

goals

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with making New Year’s Resolutions, but without a form to them, an actual reason and an actual plan, what’s the point? Be intentional. Burn bright.

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When That “Someone Else” Is You

The definition of “better” includes being more pleasing, acceptable, or of greater quality, usefulness, or suitability than something else.  While it’s a good thing to be acceptable, useful and suitable – the trouble comes in trying to be better than something else.  And, let’s face it, we’re typically trying to be better than someone else.

It’s a great concept in the world of business and sports, but when we attempt to surpass someone/something else with regard to pursuing our purpose in life, we wind up making judgment calls about that person.  And what happens when that someone else is ourselves?  Is there something wrong with trying to be better than ourselves?  My debatable answer is… yes, there is a problem.

Do you realize that God does not call us to be a “better” person? I’ve searched scripture (and the internet) and can’t find it anywhere.  However, there are plenty of times when he calls us to be a different person… a new person.  (2 Corinthians 5:17 and Ephesians 4:22-24 are just two.)

I like how CS Lewis put it:

“God became man to turn creatures into sons: not simply to produce better men of the old kind but to produce a new kind of man. It is not like teaching a horse to jump better and better but like turning a horse into a winged creature. Of course, once it has got its wings, it will soar over fences which could never have been jumped and thus beat the natural horse at its own game…”

When we try be more pleasing, acceptable, or of greater quality, usefulness, or suitability than what we were in the past, we are taking on a responsibility that God has not given us: judging ourselves (both in the past and now).  In 1 Corinthians 4 the Apostle Paul denounces this.

Looking back on who I was ten years ago, I don’t know if I can claim to be a better person now, but I can confidently state I am a different person. Why should I attempt to prove myself against a long-irrelevant standard or compete against/surpass a past version of myself?  I am not who I was – I have acquired new ways of thinking and doing things.  My direction has changed – the activities I am involved in are not the same. My current decisions are made for what I am pursuing now, not then.

Each of us has a unique purpose and an inimitable way to pursue it.  This quest is not a struggle to transcend ourselves, but an invitation to build upon what God has given us to do – where we are and as who we are now without comparative references.

self compete

Stir the Embers

Whether you are just discovering your purpose or have been on this journey for a while, you know that it’s not always easy or comfortable.  You can’t always expect immediate results.

You may have had a smoother transition to something in the past, or you may see someone else who seems to have it easier than you.  It can be frustrating when you have a picture of what you want but it’s not coming together in real life.

Your purpose does not have to be big or perfect coming out of the gate – it’s not intended to. We are pursuing our purpose – which means “to follow, continue, or proceed along.” Real progress takes time, so you need to learn to apply yourself consistently and patiently.

You do not create your purpose out of nothing.  It’s not just an idea out of the blue.  Rather you take what is already within you and stir it up.

fire2It’s like a fire on the beach.  People build campfires near the dunes and when it finally burns out and they’re ready to leave, they bury the remains in sand.  You can find where the fire was because the sand covering the place is warm.  Then you can dig down to the embers and stir them up and create another fire.

So it is with your purpose – it’s burning deep within you and what you need to do is find where it is, dig down, and stir it up.    It takes time and patience.  Fires and purposes need to be stirred up and built gradually in order to Burn Bright.

“A fortunate few cherish that flame, nurture it, hold it as a torch to light their way.”
(Haruki Murakami)

Don’t Settle

Don’t ever settle for ordinary, average, unexceptional.  I’m not talking about the scale, quantity, or fame of your achievement, but rather in the quality and influence of your purpose.  Investing in people, building your confidence by stepping out of your comfort zone, and being bold will drive you forward and bring increase.

The value of your purpose is neither in its size nor in the acknowledgement of others.  Feeding a family in your neighborhood, feeding the homeless downtown, feeding millions in Africa – which has more value?  Whichever one is done with passion and out of compassion.   Whichever one challenges you to step outside of yourself.  Whichever one is done with excellence.  And no one can really know this except you.  How many you reach pales in comparison to the quality of your reach.

Even when you’re feeling small, or others think of you as small, don’t settle for mediocre. Taking the easy route will always leave you feeling less than confident in what you have to offer and keep you from moving onward and upward in your purpose.

mediocrity

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