Category: Personal Growth

Reclaiming My Rhythm

It’s been a month now since I started my new job and during that time period I’ve been completely out of rhythm with my writing, music, and tasks around the house. This is partially due to having to adjust to a new schedule and partially due to some circumstances beyond my control. But if I’m going to be completely honest, there were just some days this past month that I didn’t feel like doing what needed to be done.

I’ve gone through phases like this in the past. Most lengthy of which was after our son was born. I mean what kind of father would I be if I didn’t take time away from my creative pursuits to spend time with my family? The flip side of that would be to ask what kind of father would I be if I didn’t do something to try and improve our quality of life?

So here at the beginning of August I am trying to turn over a new leaf yet again. I’m going to do my best to get back in some sort of groove and get things accomplished. I think it’s appropriate here to borrow a couple lines from one of my as of yet unreleased songs, “Hopes and dreams don’t mean a thing, if your decisions keep them from happening.” When it comes to deciding how to use your time, make sure you choose well.


The Measure of Success

A couple years ago I was in an independent rock band. There were 4 of us in the band, I played guitar and sang, there was another vocalist/guitarist, a bass player and a drummer. I had always liked bands that had two members that would sing lead but in our case, we each sang about half the songs and I felt like it took away from your live show having it split evenly. Neither one of us was going to stop singing though and in my case my voice couldn’t handle anything more. I would sing six or seven songs in a show and my voice would be shot. My throat would be raw by the last song and then the crowd would want an encore of their favorite song, Plutonium Girl. It was a great feeling having people chant the name of the song to hear it again, but I also knew that there was a good chance I might not be able to make it through the whole thing. Sometimes my throat would ache for days afterwards.

Well eventually the band fell apart and I struck out on my own. I liked the idea of being solo so that I could do things as I wanted to but I had this nagging fear about whether or not my voice was up to the challenge of carrying a show by myself. About a year after the band split up I had my first solo gig. I had spent most of that year working on writing and recording songs. The date was drawing close and I was more than a little worried. During the months leading up to the show I had been to see the doctor about my problem. They tested me for all sorts of allergies which yielded nothing and then finally sent me to a specialist. The specialist noticed a slight weakness in one of my vocal cords which was causing the other cord to have to work extra hard. So after years of wondering what my problem was, I finally had an answer. Now I just needed to know how to solve it. They sent me to speech therapist who worked with me on using my voice properly to cause less strain.

Finally the date of the show arrived. It was at a venue that my band had played at a couple years previous and I liked playing there so I was excited. I had 14 songs on my setlist. Certainly not a marathon for normal singers but I wasn’t a normal singer. It was about double the amount of songs I had ever done in a show. The opening act was a female pop/folk singer that was pretty good and she played for about 30 minutes and then it was my turn.

I hadn’t played a show in over a year and I had never played a show by myself. I was nervous and it showed. I made several mistakes and rushed a lot of the songs. Overall it was one of the worst performances I had ever done. A close second would be the last show that my band played. But you know what? My voice held. I sang every song and afterwards my throat felt fine and the next day it still felt fine.

I may have made a lot of mistakes, been completely nervous, and didn’t even sell one cd but I was able to sing the entire show. Before going into the show I felt like if after all my rehearsing and the speech therapy if I still couldn’t perform, then I was probably gonna have to give up on the idea of ever being a solo artist. But I did it! You don’t always get the chance to measure success by having everything work out perfectly. Sometimes you need to consider something a success even if only one aspect of it comes together as it’s meant to. I had one critical question heading into that night: Can I actually do this? The answer was clear, that yes I can. Mistakes and nervousness can be corrected by more practice and experience. For me the measure of success was my voice and it came through superbly.


Burning Bridges are Hard to Cross

Last year at this time it seemed like conflict was all around me and there wasn’t much I could do about it. I was burning more bridges than I was building with no end in site. From friends to close relatives, relationships were breaking down everywhere .Various people had offended or wronged me in various ways and I wasn’t taking any of it lying down. After a few months of such incidents there was need to patch things up. It wasn’t fun but it had to happen. Family is family and you will always have them, so you might as well get a long with them. Good friends are hard to find and even the best ones will upset you from time time time

In the business world whether you are self-employed or fighting your way through the rat race., you never know what bridges you might need again in the future. People that you can’t stand today, might be your best client a couple years from now… or they might be your boss. Or perhaps just a coworker and that working relationship will be a lot smoother without a volatile history between you and the other person.

I would never suggest that you allow yourself to be walked all over for the sake of preserving a failed relationship. On the contrary, you need to stand up for yourself but do so in the proper time and place. A series of offenses may be a sign of a good time to bail out of a relationship but before you set that bridge on fire maybe you should try a different approach. Sometimes it’s better to just go around the bridge or use a different bridge rather than burning the offending one.

For example many people find themselves in relationships whether it be friends, coworkers or family members where you feel the need to share with the other person things that are going on in your life. That person then uses that information in a way that hurts you. You’re upset, can’t understand why they would do such a thing, and a month later you repeat the entire cycle because you are family and families don’t treat each other that way…wrong. This kind of thing is seen most often in a parent-child relationship that is dysfunctional, especially when the child has been an adult for some time. You could go at the offender guns blazing tell em how it is in an attempt to finally make them understand what a jerk they are or you could simply stop the cycle yourself. Don’t share the kind of information with them that they consistently use against you. I’m not saying lie to people, I’m simply saying don’t volunteer information that isn’t necessary. A lot of times when I’ve seen this situation play out it is often with volunteered information that was never even asked for. Simply stop talking or at least discipline yourself enough to stop and think before you share whatever it is you think you need to share with the frequent offender.

The fact is that even if you think you want someone out of your life and you don’t care how badly you burn that bridge, you truly don’t know what tomorrow holds. You don’t know what your situation might be and who you may need to rely on for help. So unless it is a matter of your personal well being being threatened or that of others, then it’s usually best to leave the bridge intact. You don’t need to worry about crossing it right now, but if you don’t burn it to the ground at least you know you’ll have the opportunity to use it in the future should the need arise.


Contentment

In general I’m pretty content with my life. I have a great family, a place to live, hobbies I enjoy, and a job that helps me support all of those things. But my life is far from perfect, as are pretty much everyone else’s lives. I find that I never seem to have the time to get things done around the house. I never seem to have money for anything. There’s very little free time for my creative pursuits. I could go on and complain about a lot of things, but life isn’t about grumbling and complaining.

But I admit that internally I find myself sometimes thinking thoughts like: this isn’t what I want to be doing with my life, I work so much harder than that person but for less money, life seems so easy for them, I’m meant for more than this, etc. I think that it is important to not be complacent about our lot in life but at the same time being content with what you’ve been given is important too.

One thing that I think is really important that people don’t think about is that if you want your life to change then you need to change your life. All of your decisions in your life have brought you to where you are at today. Things won’t improve until you change your habits. From how you use your time to how you use your money. I could choose to save my money and stick to a strict budget or I could go out to eat at a decent restaurant to feel “normal” and pretend that I can afford the over priced food that I’m eating.

Your dreams won’t accomplish themselves for you. No one is going to write your novel, paint your painting, or build your spaceship. Remember, be content with your life but don’t be complacent about using your time wisely.

To quote the band Switchfoot, “This is your life, are you who you want to be?” I should quote my wife as well. The other day we were discussing these kind of quality of life issues and she simply told me, “I think you need to start with being content with what you have.” Wives are full of wisdom sometimes.


Make U-Turns as Necessary

I recently wrote an article titled Seeing Your Goals Through to Completion. It was about sticking with something when the going gets tough. It was about not quitting part way through. Well today I was thinking about the flip side of that idea. And that is to quit what you’re doing and head the other direction. In politics this is often referred to as a flip flop whenever a candidate changes their position on something. But for real people like you and I (and by real I mean people in touch with reality), these u-turns often have nothing to do with flip flopping. Nope sometimes it’s just a change of heart or a change in priorities.

I firmly believe in striving to see something through to completion but sometimes that’s just not the right choice. It would be pretty devastating to pursue something for years only to look back and realize that it was a lot of wasted effort on an idea that was flawed from the start.

This same idea can apply to spiritual beliefs as well. I once heard someone say, “If what you believe isn’t true, would you want to know?” The idea here is that people often build their lives around religious structures and dogmas passed down to them by their parents but if the individual is one that is actually in pursuit of a relationship with God then eventually they will start to dig deeper to go beyond what they’ve always been taught to really make their beliefs there own. What they find on that journey can shatter their entire perception of what they thought the world was.

More at a personal level, I still often struggle with knowing when to turn and run and when to stay the course. If discerning what path to take ever gets easier it certainly hasn’t for me yet. Over the past several years I have erred on both sides of this issue: I’ve stuck with some things too long and killed other ideas that had true merit. It’s not often easy to be completely sure what path will lead you to success and which to failure. Trust your instincts, rely on trusted friends for advice, seek wisdom beyond your circle of friends and yourself, and hope for the best. Make u-turns with your life as necessary and enjoy the ride in spite of the occasional bumps and pot holes.


A Day of Rest

My regular readers know that I always post on a Monday – Wednesday – Friday schedule but unfortunately starting my new job yesterday kind of kept that from happening. So I apologize to anyone who came here yesterday looking for a new article. I don’t anticipate this to be a regular thing. Anyway, on with today’s article…

This past weekend I had to rediscover the old Biblical principle of a day of rest. I tend to plan so much to do on my days off that it feels like I never actually do have a day off. Well last week despite all of my to do list planning, I did absolutely nothing on Thursday. For most of the day it felt great to just relax and spend time with my family for once as opposed to constantly feeling like I had to be getting something done. Sure those thoughts tried to creep in a couple times but I didn’t let it happen. I found myself worrying that because of my day of rest that I wouldn’t get the things accomplished that I needed to in my remaining days off between jobs but something really cool happened. I got up on Friday ready to get work done. I felt refreshed and happy and I couldn’t remember waking up like that anytime recently.

In the end I actually didn’t get everything done that I wanted to during my 4 days off but that was more weather related than anything. I did get to spend a lot of time with family though. We played several games of Pirates, went to a carnival, and spent time with various family members. And then I started my new job yesterday. I have to say it was retail as usual but at the same time slightly overwhelming because I have never worked with pet products before and if you never have worked for a pet retailer you can’t truly appreciate the extensive variety of products that are available for every kind of pet. Once I actually know the job though, I anticipate that my stress level will be much less than at my previous two jobs.

So don’t be afraid of taking a day of rest. If you are like me and forgot the value of them, force yourself to relearn this ancient concept. I know it’s a struggle but put more home related tasks on to the days that you are already working a full day at your job. You’re tired anyway you might as well be more tired. Then when your day off comes you can just soak in all that relaxing goodness.


Beating Your To-Do Lists

There you are at the office on Friday afternoon thinking to yourself that you’ve got your whole weekend ahead of you. (I’m speaking hypothetically of course. I neither work in an office or know what it’s like to have weekends off.) You know you’ve got a lot to do at home and so you begin to write out a to do list of everything you want to get accomplished. You say to yourself that this weekend will be the one where you get everything done and you can finally relax because you’re caught up on work around the house. But then the weekend comes and goes and you find that you only got a small portion of your list accomplished and your precious time away from your job was filled with fruitless hours of trying to accomplish work that ultimately didn’t get finished because real life happens and family needs or whatever have derailed your carefully planned to do list. Feeling disappointed and anything but rested you return to work on Monday and already begin to calculate next weekend’s to do list that this time will succeed!

I’ve been in this cycle far too many times. I’ve tried different methods of breaking the cycle to varying degrees of only partial success. Recently though I tried a whole new approach to to do lists. If I know that, by some miracle, I will have multiple days off in a row coming up I will try to make a big to do list several days in advance. If I don’t specifically write down everything that needs done around the house things will be forgotten, it just happens. Once I have made my list I try to get as many things accomplished on that list as possible before the days off even arrive. The goal here is to get my giant list down to just a few things before the weekend starts, so that when I do have time off from work I’m not spending all of that time working. Otherwise it kind of defeats the purpose of having time off doesn’t it?

Give it a shot and see what happens. I know that when I get off work each day the last thing I want to do is more work, but if it means a day or two without having anything that needs done to do, well then that is completely worth it.


Seeing Your Goals Through To Completion

Some people get writers block, I just get bored. I’m the type of person that can think of many different ideas for projects but then once I get the ball rolling I often lose interest and want to move on to something else. The problem with this approach for people who are working for themselves and not someone who has minions to carry out his wishes, is that there is no one left to carry on the project once the original idea maker has decided to move on.

If you are trying to get out of the rat race then you can’t afford this approach to your ideas. You either need to plan for and recognize in advance which ideas are not even feasible, and therefore not waste time pursuing them, or you need to see things through to completion. And completion of a project can mean many different things, including years of hard work depending on what you are attempting to do. You need to be able to honestly ask yourself if that level of dedication is something you want to commit to and if not you need to bale out before you even begin.

Getting more to the heart of what this article is about though, what if you are already committed to an idea? You’ve dedicated time, resources, and money to a concept and now the day to day drudgery of seeing the idea through to completion is starting to wear you down. Maybe you thought it would be a good idea to make money from a blog and now you’ve got to have high quality original articles written on time several times a week and let’s face it sometimes you just don’t feel like it. So do you throw in the towel when the going gets tough?

That would be the easy path to take. The path of least resistance that takes you right back where you started. Right back where you can briefly follow another tangent of an idea instead of really committing yourself to one excellent idea and pursuing it with all you have. I’m preaching to myself here as well, though I’ve seen others far worse at these things than I am. I’ve known a couple people that think of lots of ideas and start making investments into the ideas only to abandon them shortly afterwards and sometimes trying to get others to develop their ideas for them for a small cut before the final abandonment happens.

I’m not innocent of this approach to projects either but here’s the best advice I know how to give: Slow down, think on it, sleep on it, keep a file on your computer of your really big impossible to accomplish ideas, and then pursue what seems best and leave the rest. Seek advice from others when possible though be aware that anyone is capable of stealing your ideas. The theft of an idea isn’t so bad in and of itself, it’s the completion of an idea that matters. So don’t be so paranoid that you can’t lean on others for advice but don’t be so trusting that you are easily taken advantage of.


Live It Like You Mean It

My recent employment issues once again has me contemplating where my life is headed. As should be pretty clear to regular readers of my articles I obviously have no love for being a part of corporate America. And the main reason is because I’ve got other things I want to be doing with my life. And I just keep realizing how time keeps going by without me being all that much closer to achieving my life goals. When I was away from home for a month earlier this year training for my wonderful new job that has turned into a nightmare, I was able to write half a dozen new songs while in my hotel room. I returned home excited by the possibilities that new musical productivity in 2008 would mean. Four months later though those songs haven’t been recorded and I’ve barely touched my new songs. Thanks largely to a job where I’m working 50 hrs a week instead of the 40 that I used to work.

So here I am on the verge of another possible job change and I have to question what this next move has in store for my creative pursuits. I’ve known people much more talented than myself that have quit any creative pursuits in favor of college or jobs. There’s obviously nothing wrong with any of these choices for people who don’t have creative aspirations for a dream. But for me it is a dream and I can’t just let it die because of a job. The question I find myself asking myself is, what if I continue down this path for ten more years? Those thoughts scare me like not much else can. I’ve worked in retail for more than 7 years and its been 7 years too long. The idea that ten years from now I could still be working retail and no closer to accomplishing much with music or writing is a depressing thought indeed.

But if am completely honest with myself, I need to acknowledge that I haven’t done everything I could to pursue my dreams. Far from it. Everyone needs time to relax and kick back after a hard days’ work but it is all too easy to become complacent and plop down in front of the television for hours or play video games or whatever. If I and anyone like me is truly serious about our creative pursuits then we need to live like we mean it. I did some serious editing to this article before I posted it and the main reason is that the original tone was one of frustration at my circumstances. But then today during my lunch break, I spent most of it playing games on my phone instead of using the time to write like I usually do. If I really do want to get somewhere I need to actually put in the effort even when I sometimes don’t feel like it. I’ve dealt with this idea in the past, but it seems like I need to keep reminding myself.

So what is my solution? What is my hope for the future of my dreams? I have to believe that I haven’t been given talent for no reason. I have to believe that I was meant to use my talents for something more than just entertaining myself. I have to continue to believe that one day I will actually be doing something more meaningful than helping customers buy office products. And at the same time not lose site of the possibility that there is a reason why the people I work with are in my life, that they might somehow need me in their lives and that I might somehow need them in mine. I must be resolute in my pursuit of my dreams, yet not take for granted what is around me in the here and now. I’m usually not this introspective on this blog but recent events have me being a bit introspective lately.

Some random trivia for you: The title for this article was taken from a line in a song I wrote a few years ago titled “You Remain.” It’s about someone reaching the end of their life and questioning whether any good had come from it. It’s sung from the perspective of someone affirming to the person that they had indeed impacted many lives.


Uncommon Opportunities For Growth

I’ve never really been the pessimistic type and believe that some measure of good can be found in just about every situation. When it comes to personal growth, I’ve had a couple of good examples in my own life.

When I was a senior in high school I had the misfortune of getting sick with mononucleosis and subsequently missed six weeks of school. By the time that it was all over I was severely behind on some of my classwork and had missed out on a lot of what seniors have fun doing their senior year. But it wasn’t all bad news. I used some of that free time at home to improve on guitar and at web design. At the time I was really just starting out in both and the amount that I advanced during those six weeks has always amazed me.

At the time I had been dating a girl for a year and a half. It was a rotten relationship that was going nowhere, I just couldn’t see it at the time. She was a bit obsessive and seemed to even be angry at me for being sick and not being able to spend my every waking moment with her. And so having mono drove division between us and helped me to see things more clearly than I had before. We broke up a month later and then she went completely crazy which only affirmed to me that I had made the right decision.

And now here I sit on the couch with my broken ankle. I’ve been missing some work and my household chores have been piling up on me (though my wife has been doing a lot of them for me). Once again though I find myself able to draw some good out of this situation: I’ve been writing, a lot. The amount of work I’ve been able to get done on my novel is just fantastic.

When troubles come your way, it’s extremely easy to dwell on how it is negatively affecting you. I encourage you however to take some time to reflect on what good can come out of the bad situation you are in. Maybe your problem is finances, goodness knows I’ve been there too. Last year was probably one of the most stressful in my life simply due to how bad our financial situation was. But we made it through and learned lessons in frugality that others who haven’t faced similar situations can’t fully grasp. We still aren’t great financially but it continues to amaze me how we have no debt but people making two or three times what we make are thousands of dollars in debt.

It may sound cliché but try to look on the bright side of things when trouble comes your way. I believe there is a purpose to life and its not just a bunch of random events. Maybe the purpose of breaking my ankle was so that I would finally start writing fiction in a way that my dream of finishing a novel would actually come true some day. Or maybe I’m just not very coordinated.