Browsed by
Month: January 2017

The Power of Saying No to Others

The Power of Saying No to Others

We have so many choices that it can be overwhelming. We have endless choices for our careers or companies to work for. We have choices for hobbies and activities. And anyone who has had cable TV recently knows there are endless choices for entertainment. We also have the ability to leverage technology and connect with people with similar interests almost anywhere.

We need to learn the power of saying no to others. It is just as important and powerful as saying no to your children.

As you may have noticed, I have a strong interest in bass guitars. In the city I live in, there are numerous bands and churches I could play with. But additionally, there is also a local and online cultural of bass enthusiasts who love to talk, write, and share information about the bass. I could endlessly shop in the classifieds section and see the unbelievable options for custom instruments, amps, cabinets, and pedals. I could browse the learning forums, seeking the latest and greatest technique tips to improve my finger funk just a little more.

All of these things are wonderful choices and sources of opportunity and information, but did you notice that very few of them actually involved me just sitting down and playing the bass? I have been distracted by many of these things in the past, to the point where it has negatively impacted learning the instrument. It has also distracted me from my enjoyment of the instrument. For a long time, I kept wanting a new pedal, bass, amp, or technique. The want never ended.

When I made some hard decisions, and learned to start saying no to certain gig opportunities, to searching and contributing to online forums, and to the various opportunities to buy new gear, a funny thing happened.  My growth in the instrument blossomed while my overall time invested in it went down.

So by learning when and how to say no to others, be it people or outside distractions, I flourished. My enjoyment and progress went up.

Saying yes, when you’re young and growing makes sense as long as it is strategic. I learned a lot from playing last minute gigs and having to learn songs quickly. This forced me to site read music, learn by ear on the fly, and be able to assess gear that fit my playing style and tone. I learned a lot from playing with a variety of different musicians, styles, and venues.  But I also reached a point where I needed to learn more by doing less variety and say no to others and the opportunities they presented.

I needed to go deep into my work on the instrument and say no to anything that distracted me from that.

Saying no is not easy and comes with some fear. What if they don’t ask me to play ever again? What if I don’t keep up with the current trends or technologies?  What if I miss out on the opportunity of lifetime to buy a unique instrument or play in the ultimate gig?

We all have an innate desire to connect with others, and music for me was a really fun artistic way to do that. But sometimes, my tendency to want to make people happy distracted me from what I was really trying to accomplish. It lead me to say yes more than I probably should have.

I would commit to gigs or bands out of this desire for human connection. I never really took into consideration all of the impacts it had and if it really was helping me achieve the goals I really was chasing. I wanted to be an incredible bass player, specifically in jazz and funk styles. I ended up playing a lot of indie and singer-song writer gigs for a handful of years instead. Sure, I was getting experience playing in front of different crowds with different musicians. But I look back and I think to myself, what if I spent half the time I did moving gear around for those rehearsals and just practiced and mastered 15-20 incredible Motown masterpieces.

I needed to learn how saying yes would impact other areas of my life. When I would accept some of these gigs, I would end up without enough time to exercise, prepare healthy food, and get enough sleep. Staying up until 1 A.M at a bar on a Friday night after getting up at 6:30 A.M for the day job would start my weekend off on the wrong foot. I often wouldn’t recover until Sunday when it was almost time to go back to work again.

Todd Henry in his book, The Accidental Creative, talks about the importance of pruning in your life. Sometimes you need to remove some good things in your life so that you can make room for more great things. I look back on that period of my life musically and I was playing a lot of good music, but not enough great music defined by my musical preferences. Pruning one or two things would have benefited many areas of my life, not just my musical progress.

So what are some things or people in your life where that you need to say no to more?  Or even to get started, what are some things that if you removed from your life would give you more time and energy to do something potentially great?

The Best Times of My Life

The Best Times of My Life

My oldest son just turned five years old. While reflecting on the last five years, it is very clear that my son has brought tremendous joy and fun into my life and I’m extremely grateful for it.

Our boys are 2 and 5 and they are starting to play together. What I love is that they really get excited for all kinds of different adventures. Even, if it’s just heading into the backyard with a shovel in hand. Recently I was talking with my mom about the stage of parenting that we are currently entering.

When my sisters and I were young, my parents would regularly put us all in a van, with friends, and travel a few hundred miles south to Lake Cumberland, KY for some boating and recreation. It must have been a ton of work for my parents, who were both working full-time jobs. They had to coordinate with our schedules, communicate with our friends’ parents, grocery shop, pack suitcases and boxes of food, pack the van with 8 people and all weekend luggage and supplies, and drive 3-4 hours to get there.

Then while we were there, they had to clean the house and the boat, make sure we the proper life jackets and safety equipment on the boat. They had to make beds and cook all the meals, do all the dishes, repair the house as we did our usual wear and tear that only 6 kids can do. They paid for everything, gas, food, games, boat gear, activities in the car.

And this, my mom says was the best time of her life.

With the ability to reflect on a few years of my oldest son’s childhood, it is very clear to me why my mom feels this way. Children have the ability to bring immense joy into our lives. And while they require a tremendous amount of work and sacrifice, nothing else is nearly rewarding.

My mother has had some significant adversity at various stages of her life, and this middle aged phase that she reflects on with such fondness was no different. She and my father worked their tail off and sacrificed a ton to give us children an absolutely tremendous, joyful, adventure filled childhood.

The hardest things, closest to your highest values in life, are the most rewarding. Parenthood offers this tremendous opportunity. 40 years later, I’m pretty confident that nothing else in this world brings my parents more joy than spending time with their children and their families.

Last night, my wife and I asked our oldest son what he wanted to do for his birthday dinner and gave him some ideas to get him thinking. Without hesitation he wanted to invite his grandparents over for a pizza dinner. So we called, and they came with joy and love.

Now that my sisters and I are a few decades into being adults, my parents can see the fruit come to bear from the seeds they planted in our lives. Now that some of us are parents ourselves, they are able to reminiscence about when they were in our shoes. They were working and sacrificing almost continuously to provide us as much joy and opportunity as they could.

It was selfless and hard, yet it was the best time of my mom’s life. It was filled with purpose and generosity. It was full of love and patience. They had all kinds of heavy responsibility and yet it was still the best time of their lives.

On my son’s 5th birthday, I spent the quiet morning before he woke and reflected on the last five years. And I feel the same way that my mom does. My son is high energy and at times strong willed, but he also brings me more joy than I ever could have dreamed. He challenges me, makes me grow, always finding a new way to test my authority. But he loves me tremendously and gives me the sweetest, and most tender moments filled with pure joy and innocence that only young children still possess.

He has renewed my ability to find joy in the simplest of blessing that life brings.  Whether it is a silly dance song, a train, or a beautiful sunrise, he lights up with glee and it is absolutely infectious.

Parenting is absolutely the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but just like my parents, it is the best time of my life.