Tag: foundation

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

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

My “Aha” Moment from “Legally Blonde”

GROWTH

Elle Woods

Reese Witherspoon as Elle Woods

In the movie comedy Legally Blonde, the character of Elle Woods was originally on the road to a career in fashion merchandising.  There was nothing wrong with her dream.  It’s what she wanted, it’s what she was good at, and she had the complete support of her fawning sorority sisters, jetsetter family, and old-money fiancé.  But when her fiancé, an aspiring lawyer heading to Harvard Law School, breaks up with her, Elle wants to win him back.  Much to everyone’s surprise, she is able to pass the Law School Admissions Test and is accepted at Harvard.  It is here her worldview is shaken.  She does not fit in with the culture and is considered a joke by people at every turn.  People think she is dumb, especially her ex-fiancé.

Rather than retreat, Elle takes the opinion on as a challenge and raises the bar (no pun intended) for herself.  Applying herself in her new culture, she discovers she actually understands and enjoys the law.  Applying her social skills from her old culture, she builds a support base of quirky friends around her. She begins a new journey. Eventually it is a combination of old and new skills and abilities that bring her success and a new life.  But not, of course, without the mandatory make-it-or-break-it moment along the way.  At one point Elle decides that it is more than she can handle.  She decides to give up, crying “No more trying to be something that I’m just… I’m just not.”   Her friend’s response:

What if you’re trying to be somebody you are?”

Those are brilliant words.  That was a personal “aha” moment for me.

We tend to think that our past, our present, and our future are at war with each other, and that the only way into the next one is to make a violent break with the previous one.  While there is certainly old luggage that we don’t want to carry with us that often takes ruthlessness to let go of, to totally thrash all we have ever known is usually a mistake.

When you are in the process of discovering your purpose in life, you take into account the passions you have, the talents God has given you, and the dreams you hold.  Those passions and talents and dreams didn’t just drop into your heart yesterday.  They have been building and interweaving your whole life.  Your experiences, both good and bad, have influenced them and helped direct their growth.  As you move towards your purpose, things begin to adjust.  One of your passions cools down.  You discover a different outlet for your talent.  You discover a hidden talent. The journey to your dream slows wa-a-a-y down or perhaps picks up what feels like too much speed.  This can be disconcerting, it can be hard.  It can cause you to question yourself.  It may feel like you’re trying to be something you are not.  But,

What if you’re trying to be somebody you are?”

Proverbs 25:2 tells us that God takes pleasure in concealing things and we have the privilege of discovering them.  And the verse that follows talks about the endless depth and width of our heart.

We need to recognize that there is so much more to and for us, and we need to go after it and find it.

  • Rather than look at your past as an enemy, why not use it as a resource?  Start looking through all the dirt and find the gold.
  • Rather than being in such a rush to leave the present to get into the future, why not make the most if it?  Start looking at everything you have going for you now and see what other possible applications there might be.
  • Rather than stubbornly holding onto what you insist your future must be, loosen your grip and expand your horizons.

You can be more than anybody thinks, expects, or wants you to be.  You can surprise everyone, including – just like Elle Woods did – yourself.

EXCELLENCE

“Excellence means when a man or woman asks of himself more than others do.” (Jose Ortega y Gasset)

PURPOSE

“There comes a special moment in everyone’s life, a moment for which that person was born. That special opportunity, when he seizes it, will fulfill his mission – a mission for which he is uniquely qualified. In that moment, he finds greatness. It is his finest hour.”  (Sir Winston Churchill)

Go Back to What You Love

GROWTH

“In learning to know other things, and other minds, we become more intimately acquainted with ourselves, and are to ourselves better worth knowing.”
(Philip Gilbert Hamilton)

EXCELLENCE

image from ubercomments.com

PURPOSE

Whether you are just starting to discover your purpose in life or you’ve lost a bit of confidence and you’re unsure of what to do next, there’s just one thing you need  — go back to what you love.  It’s the absolute foundation for where you are heading.  Even if no one else understands it, even if it doesn’t make sense, even if you haven’t paid attention to it in a really long time.  Go back to what you love.  Even if it broke your heart earlier in life.  Go back to what you love.  Even if you feel like you messed it up or missed it earlier in life.  Go back to what you love.  And if you can’t get back to exactly what it was, then find a reasonable version of it.

In one of the first classes I taught on finding purpose, there was a young woman who had always wanted to be an Olympic speed skater.  She had let it run through her fingers when she was younger, but discovered she was still in love with competitive skating. But now this dream seemed like pie-in-the-sky.  She really wanted to train to see if she could qualify, but since she was only a couple of years away from being too old, she let it go.   I encouraged her to do some research and, with the rest of the class, asked questions to discover what this passion was all about.  We discovered she loved the rhythms of skating, she loved speed, she loved the physicality, she loved competition, she loved the comraderie.  We brainstormed what could satisfy those needs in her life.  She determined that as long as she could still do a bit of skating, she could be satisfied with helping others prepare and compete.  Almost immediately she found a skating club and had begun training to see how far she herself could go.  I ran into her a few years ago and she told me she had begun to do some individual coaching at the club.  She was very happy.

Don’t limit yourself by thinking there’s only one way that your purpose in life can be achieved.  That way of thinking discourages you and blocks its fulfillment.

I love the way The Message version of the Bible puts what God says to us:

“I don’t think the way you think. The way you work isn’t the way I work… For as the sky soars high above earth, so the way I work surpasses the way you work, and the way I think is beyond the way you think.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

What is it that you really and truly love?   Are you blocking that dream by assuming there’s only one way to fulfill it?   What exactly about it stirs up your passions?  What else might satisfy those passions?  What we love may not end up being exactly  what our purpose is, but it is always a good foundation we build to that purpose.

Foundations

GROWTH

A friend of mine recently wrote a great book.  The publisher he submitted it to thought it was great as well, however they refused to publish it.  The reason?  He doesn’t have a platform in the area of his subject matter – a way to physically spread his message and he isn’t known as an expert in his subject matter.  The publisher’s suggestion?  Start a blog, publish a few magazine articles, garner a few speaking engagements.   He needs to create a foundation on which to establish himself.

You too, need a foundation for your pursuing your purpose.  Depending on your purpose it may or may not include a blog or speaking engagements, but you do need to establish yourself as a “subject matter expert” in your purpose in the minds of other people.  It’s the way you move forward. There’s a really easy way to do it – realize that you are already are (remember, it’s your unique purpose that stems from your very self) and start advertising it.  That means let people know what you’re up to:

  • When people ask, “What’s new?”  Tell them about your purpose.
  • If people are in a conversation that touches on your purpose in even the slightest of ways, say something like “That’s an area I’m expanding into…” and make yourself known.
  • Start discussions about people having purposes, and make sure to interject  yours along the way.
  • Volunteer for an event or organization that involves your purpose – you’ll expand your experiences, make valuable contacts, and feel great expressing your values.
  • Go ahead, be brave, start a blog and share yourself.

Do you have any other suggestions?  Please leave them in the comments section.

EXCELLENCE

When I first started telling people about my purpose (click here: Burn Bright – The Beginning) I got some blank stares and questioning looks. It wasn’t something I was known for.  One person actually laughed and basically told me that I had nothing to offer. It could have brought me down, but it was actually a catalyst. It made me stop and ask myself a question.  “Why am I doing this?”  It wasn’t “what do I have to offer.”  This made a difference.  When “what” is in the equation, it limits you to the availability of resources, and when those don’t appear to exist, you’re done for.  When “why” is in the equation it brings it back to the heart of the matter – your heart.  Your unique calling.  Your individual path. Your passion. Your creativity.  With that your resources never end.

PURPOSE

In the following video clip, Simon Sinek, leadership expert and author, touches on the importance of “why” (it focuses on marketing a product – so think of you and your purpose as the product you are marketing)

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