If your instinct is to first throw yourself under the bus before anyone else, the likelihood of a helping hand being there to pull you out of the wreckage increases tenfold.
There are two young children, both of the same height. They are standing on a playground, when one parent hands one of the children a balloon. In this moment, just like in the cartoons, the balloon begins to lift the child off the ground, much to their delight. Now hovering a few feet off the ground, the elated and elevated child looks down at their friend still firmly planted on the ground and comments, “Look, I’m taller than you!” The grounded child replies, “From where I’m standing, we’re still the same height, you’ll realize that soon enough,” as they bend down to pick up a pebble, hurl it towards the balloon with sniper’s precision, popping the balloon. Only having been a few feet off the ground, the no longer elevated child’s feet are back on the ground, utterly aware of how their perception was off and how accurate not only their friend’s aim was, but insight as well.
Our purpose is threefold: Remember where we were, compare that to where we are and choose wisely about where we want to be. In past, present and future thinking, ego will paint with rose-colored strokes all our innocence – covering up all the hooks we’ve let ourselves off of with angelic wings. Humility is a homeless, wingless angel.
What we do daily is the result of how we think about our choices. When that little voice in our head speaks wisely, we tend to say less, yet our words carry more weight. When that voice amplifies our egos instead of our purpose, we tend to speak too much adding little value to any conversation.
Learned two valuable lessons this weekend. More precisely, I saw in real-time how two lessons I’ve understood intellectually actually feel to experience. For nearly 30 years, I’ve been playing drums in bands. This weekend, I played my first covers gig as a bassist, playing with a drummer I had never met before that evening. I got to experience how numerous other bass players experienced my drumming for the first time.
Floods of memories of how I tried to impress both the band and the audience with flashy chops or speed, failing to see how self-serving and ego driven I’d been. I thought about all the times I failed to do my job. The times I failed to make the music feel good. The times I failed to listen to what the other musicians, especially the bass players, were doing so I could figure out how to lock everyone together to connect the experience for the band and the audience. The times I broke the cardinal rule of never bringing what’s still in practice into a performance.
Being on the receiving end of a drummer that didn’t listen to lead from behind was frustrating, especially for a green bass player. Experiencing past the bar line, chopped-up, linear fills and metric modulations during extended jams on Marvin Gaye tunes left me feeling like I was drowning and being thrown weights instead of a life preserver. It also made the few people attempting to dance be unable to do so. Although it was an admittedly small crowd, the size of the crowd should never sacrifice the integrity of the performance. For if great care is not demonstrated from the stage, it can never be fully-appreciated by the audience.
The second lesson I learned was how discipline truly equals freedom. My inexperience as a bassist was confining. In a 4-chord song, I could play the root notes of the progression well-enough, but I had no freedom outside of adding occasional 5ths and octaves to enhance the musicality because I was literally locked in a box. I realized the importance of mastering the fretboard, the keys and the chord shapes to truly be able to be expressive. My lack of being a disciplined bassist meant I had no freedom to express the music beyond the bare minimum.
Although sometimes the bare minimum is just the right amount, in most cases, it simply means the job was done effectively. May we all aim to be more than simply effective in whatever work we do!
The lessons learned: 1) If you can put yourself on the receiving end of your own job, you’ll learn how to perform your job better. 2) If you can’t apply freedom to the job you do, you need to get better for your sake and for the sake of those you work with.
Calling attention to, or stressing the importance of, something while it’s in motion tends to be more destructive than objective in nature. For example, when a pitcher is in the midst of a no hitter, it’s not something to be discussed in the dugout. Similarly, sometimes it’s best for our awareness to be left unspoken. If a situation doesn’t benefit from our verbalized awareness, we are only truly self-aware if we know better to say nothing.
Sometimes the best tool for the job is not in our own tool kit. We must borrow it from someone else. There is no shame associated with not owning every tool. The same goes for asking for help. If, however, we find that we keep needing to borrow the same tool, and don’t make a plan to acquire that tool for ourselves, and allow ourselves to become reliant on others to provide for us what we need, that’s no longer a tool they can provide for us. Awareness is not an object we can tangibly possess. Awareness is the gift we can only gift ourselves – a gift received by giving away old vision in favor for seeing anew, like parting clouds revealing that the sun has never run away to hide. Awareness is always radiantly present, and our egos make for cloudy days.