We all have blind spots. When searching for a path forward, may we use our resourcefulness to get a better sense of our surroundings. In the darkness, what our heads might first perceive as a dead end, may actually be a door. Feel around!
When surrounded by people with hands that are willing to applaud your best efforts, but won’t offer a helping hand when you’re down, get up on your own. Then, walk on.
When we blame, we tend to blame what’s right in front of us, ignoring the iceberg of situational relevance beneath the surface. For example, you experience terrible wait service at a restaurant. At the end the meal you ask to speak to the manager, and proceed to vent your frustrations about the server’s incompetence. However, did you overlook the incompetence of the manager? Somebody, not the server, was responsible for hiring the server.
Perhaps the reason the service was poor was less due to the incompetence of the server, but a problem in the meal prep and kitchen line. Perhaps your expectations about the service are the problem. Should we expect the same level of service at T.G.I Fridays or Olive Garden that we would receive at Mirazur or Osteria Francescana?
In situations like these, the more constructive route would be giving feedback to the manager explaining why the service was bad and how it reflects upon the entire establishment. If the manager is unaware of the server’s performance, you may be providing insights to help the manager coach an employee. If the manager seems unfazed by your complaint and doesn’t take action to correct the situation, the server has no opportunity to learn or improve, which increases the probability of future disgruntled diners.
In life, constructive feedback is always in season and on the menu. How we serve up our feedback is as important as what we’re giving feedback on.
When working out, we know what it feels like to work to failure, where the thought of one more rep feels like it may kill us, when in reality we know that it’s our thoughts that fail us more often than our bodies do. If we experience that point of failure with our bodies in the moment, we know that tomorrow we’ll be back. We know this because after a five minute break, when our breath and composure return to normal, we know we could do one more rep right then and there if needed. If we approach our mental efforts and daily work with the same mindset, we can push to failure and beyond.
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.
Learning is not so much about acquiring knowledge as it is about decoding the process of understanding. Once we learn how to learn, deciphering the process by which we learn best, we have become active students in our lives. We can learn anything, because we know how to approach it with our reasoned choice. This creates lasting understanding through our unique lenses. This drives innovation and progress. If we continually focus on memorizing what’s been written by others or memorizing facts for facts sake, we are learning by the adage of insanity: repeatedly doing the same thing yet expecting different results. It may work from time to time, however, our originality is noticeably absent. This is running in place.