Insight and Inspiration for Flying Higher in Endeavors that Make a Difference
In any endeavor worthy of your time and talents you'll face challenges, obstacles, and problems. There's a time and there's a place for educating yourself, preparing, and planning for these moments. There's also a time to dive in and thrash your way to clarity and resolution.
Thrashing is the process of learning, iterating, and improving by doing. This needs to be done strategically, with intention, and in service to the change, you seek to make. Without having a goal in mind and a clear idea of what success looks and feels like, thrashing can become exhausting and frustrating.
Thrashing can also become a seductive invitation to hide in busy-work and avoid the more important emotional labor of connecting and collaborating with those who need you.
Done well and done right, thrashing can be exhilarating and encourage a greater sense of flourishing. In addition to bringing your endeavor into clearer focus, this approach encourages forward motion and builds resilience.
The composer knows the rules. He's studied and done his homework. He writes well-crafted arrangements. Specific and carefully chosen instructions are included. The work of a composer reflects his character and purpose, especially when played by those who know how to do as instructed.
The improviser has the same training, but a different approach. She understands the structure and intent of a piece and sees the possibilities. The improviser's stance is, "Let's play with this and see what we can come up with." She serves the song but isn't enslaved by it.
Composition and improvisation are equally professional approaches to the same situation. There's a time and there's a place for composing, especially when you want things to turn out as expected. But when you want to investigate and innovate, the improviser's process is better suited for that endeavor.
The composer relies on what's been done. The improvise leans into "what's next."
Composer or improviser. Which posture will...
It's the day after Thanksgiving here in the States.
If you participated in this tradition built upon gratitude and family, you have a choice to make today about how you want to begin the next holiday season.
Begin the season of generosity and goodwill with a frenzied foray into the belly of the beast of consumerism? Or be present with loved ones who are close at hand right now?
What if we began the season of giving by offering our presence right now instead of collecting presents for later?
Keep flying higher!
A 100-year-old Stayman Winesap apple tree in full bloom is a pretty majestic sight.
That's all my wife and I remembered from a tour of the 38-acre farm in Check, Virginia that we purchased soon afterward.
We raised our two sons there, in addition to dogs, cats, chickens, fruit trees, berry bushes, a vegetable garden and more than a few eyebrows.
Every year the apple tree bore fruit in such abundance that we couldn't keep up with processing and canning apples or pressing them into cider. The boys spent endless hours climbing that tree. My wife spent countless hours gazing out at it from her office window.
One spring, the apple tree was so loaded with blooms that it visibly vibrated with the pollination activity of bees. The limbs became so loaded with apples that they had to be propped up with two-by-fours.
The very next year the tree was obviously in distress. It appeared to be dying. My wife and I, and our boys, were devastated.
We called the county agricultural agent out to take a...
“I’m not good enough.” Or, “I’m a work in progress.”
“I’m stuck.” Or, “I’m ready!”
“I can’t catch a break.” Or, “There’s opportunity in every obstacle.”
“I’m scared.” Or, “Isn’t that interesting...?”
“No one ever helps me.” Or, “Let’s go!”
“I don’t deserve more.” Or, “I am worthy.”
“I must put my family first.” Or, “I must take care of myself to best serve others.”
“I need to learn more.” Or, “I know enough to start.”
“I don’t know how to start.” Or, “I’ll start where I am.”
“What if I fail?” Or, “Failure is not fatal.”
“What’ll people think?” Or, “Shun the non-believers.”
“I can’t afford the time or...
Grace is the act of extending forgiveness or mercy. The word itself comes from the same root as that of gratitude and is embedded deeply into the practice of generosity. Grace requires and promotes excellence of character which includes both moral virtue and ethical will.
Grace is central to many of the world’s religions and most impactful social movements. Turning the other cheek, forgiving those who harm you, and embracing anguish and misfortune are powerful and moving responses to trying situations.
Nothing is more challenging than the pursuit and practice of grace. That’s why it’s so valued and worth your persistent effort.
Only grace leads to enlightenment, wisdom, and transcendence. And grace begins with you.
How can you possibly extend forgiveness and mercy to others if you can’t yet extend them to yourself? You are an imperfect being. A broken vessel carrying around a fragile soul. Be kind to yourself, and it will be much easier to extend kindness to...
“Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle. Some things are within our control, and some things are not.” - Epictetus
Agency is as intoxicating as it is elusive. When the breaks go your way, it’s easy to believe it’s due to your intelligence and planning. When things go awry, it’s easy to blame others or fate.
The truth is, very little within your control, but at the same time, you do control everything required to maintain your sense of well-being and prosperity.
You ultimately control only two things. You determine how you choose to perceive yourself, others, and your situation. You also control what you decide to do next.
Everything else is beyond your control.
Your body is subject to disease, decline, and ultimately death. The attitude and behavior of others are for them to decide, not you. And there are forces far more powerful than you at work in the social, political, economic, cultural, and geographical arenas.
Is “what happens next” due to fate or the exercise of your free will?
It's comforting to believe you control what happens next. But do you? What if what happens next has already been decided? What if everything that happens is fated?
"My formula for greatness in a human being is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity." - Friedrich Nietzsche
Why not love fate? A life that is fated does not imply that it just happens to you. Life also happens through you.
In a fated cosmos, you may be a tiny cog in the machinery of the universe, but you still have a vital role to play.
Past events alone don't determine your future. You can, and should, be an active participant in your life now. How your life proceeds may be fated, but it also reflects your character. Why not do your best and let what unfolds be what it will be?
Acceptance of what happens next is the path to well-being in your endeavor. This doesn’t make you...
Art transforms culture. Art elevates and enhances generations. Philosophy and jazz are just two examples of art that changed the culture in which they were born.
Yet when these arts were dragged into the halls of academia to be dissected and disseminated, they died. Sure, you can argue that within the halls of academia philosophy and jazz are on life support. But in the popular context, they are all but extinguished.
This isn't a rant against teachers. Teachers matter. In fact, teachers are vital. If you want to learn anything worth doing, you must learn from those who already do it. But you don't have to go get schooled in an academic institution to learn about the art of living or how to swing.
In fact, I'm asserting you shouldn't.
In order to systematize, institutionalize, and monetize a subject, academics take it apart, prioritize the pieces, and codify them into a curriculum. They put the subject under glass. Nothing thrives under glass or this kind of...
Contemplating life's big questions can make you really uncomfortable. But if you seek meaning and significance, it's worth it.
Here are some that I've asked myself many times:
And the answers I arrive at are never final. They change with the situations, the scenery, and the souls I'm surrounded by through each season of my life.
Here's a process you may find helpful for assessing your current level of satisfaction with important aspects of your life and how well balanced it currently is.
There are questions worth asking yourself and processes worth considering.
What questions are you asking yourself today? What process are you using to answer them?
Keep Flying Higher!
BTW, in my upcoming book, Endeavor, I begin with these three questions:
Endeavor also explores a process for thriving through work that...