I’ve been thinking a lot about the space between the notes, in music and in life. Quite frankly, the blending of the two. As a musician, I was taught about the discipline of waiting and going forward. The discipline has served me well. Its been a cruel teacher when I’ve failed to take it seriously. It has been a two-sided friend.
I read a quote once credited to Bill Evans. He was asked in an interview why he seemed to linger after striking certain notes. His response was simply his desire to wait and see what the next note would bring. Jazz musicians have always been credited with strong improvisation skills. Obviously, or not , Bill Evans was a master at it. He believed that music was conversational.
Life is conversational.
In your race to grab a hold of something or someone, are you missing the space in between? Could it be that what you’re looking for is found there? The impact is always felt once a note is played. The best artists know true impact is felt in an echo or the lingering tone. It’s instinctive in so many respects, yet ignored in the same frame.
Is your life just a flurry of notes, full of hurry, clutter, fear, and doubt? Why won’t you slow down? Why won’t you let go?
I know many who fear what’s in between the notes. Between the notes we find the wounds. People often fear those same wounds will be exposed. Who will listen? Who will give empathy? The world has become shallow, and safe places to open up are becoming more rare. Social media has made it worse. I sometimes think about what it would be like to wave a magic wand and change it all, but of course I don’t possess that power. Life is tough and it can be daunting.
I’ve lived long enough to have lost some things. The list includes people, careers, health, and more. Probably true for you as well. The reality of loss is not an age-related thing, though our culture still sells the BS of loss is for the older crowd.
I value what I’ve lost.
I hear Joni Mitchell in my head singing “well somethings lost and somethings gained in living everyday.” Our best remedy is the art of reflection and being. The consequence of reflecting and being, is you can’t be so distracted and doing in life. You better get this one down, your life, and its quality, might depend on it.
Hear’s what time hasn’t taken from me:
In all of life’s losses and heartbreaks, love remains. Whether I’ve fallen, chosen or awakened to, love has remained. That poem at the beginning is true, not even death. How can that be? I’ve had my moments of wondering, but the truth remains. When love enters you it never leaves. The colors and brush strokes may vary and change, but love never leaves.
I can’t think of a more abused/overused word than “leadership.” So few practice well the ARS DUCENDI (latin for the art of leadership). Seems like we should shy away from using it. But, alas, this post isn’t about how to remove a word from our modern lexicon.
I’ve come to a point in my life where I believe that the “art” of leadership is found in integration and balance. Show me a man or woman who integrates and applies balance to their lives, and I’ll show you someone who understands what true leadership is. They may not have a title, may not have a corner office, may not rake in tons of dough, but they know and live the art of leadership.
The integration part is when the leader sees all areas of life (eight in my view) as important and therefore worth the time and work needed. It would be easy here to anoint then as a superhero/heroine. In a culture like ours (America in my case) we see these folks as superhuman and worthy of worship. This is a fatal mistake. We should never allow any human to live out our destiny for us. As rhetorical as that statement sounds, many people are on the sidelines, content to let someone else play their role. As you have heard before, only you can be you.
The balance part is a thing of beauty. I consider it the knowing when to and when not to. Miles Davis was brilliant at this from a musical standpoint. He seemed to know that the music was inside him and he needed to get out of the way so that it could flow out. Balance is found when you know the context and you live accordingly. For example, you know you’ve hit the point of diminishing return in the workday and your daughter is nudging you to communicate. You want to tackle one more email, but there she is. At this point, those who practice balance know it’s time to shut the work down and inject themselves into the life of their daughter. Like Miles, you get out of the way.
It’s time for you to start your version of ARS DUCENDI. You can’t ignore it and expect to have a life you want. Fools have tried and find themselves in the sad state of regret.
In my last post I gave you a glimpse of how I manage my life. I didn’t quite describe it as “life management,” but you get it.
So if life is a composition, then what are the notes?
Thoughts, words and actions are the notes. They are the power in the music. Thoughts, words and actions will determine the beauty or the ugliness of the composition. Even more importantly, the hearer will be influenced. Daunting.
I’m always floored when I think of how many people manage life by accident. The jumping from thing to thing, just to land in a place I don’t recognize doesn’t appeal to me. I want to make deposits into eternity.
Considering that more than a few people have seen me as a man from mars, for putting so much emphasis on the composition, explains a lot.
I’ve made some mistakes with my choice of notes. I sometimes tried to play a dance song, when I should have played a ballad. I sometimes had the volume too loud, when a soft melody would have sufficed. Just the same, I keep practicing. I keep practicing because I want my life to sound something like this:
I’ve been reflecting on how life is much like a musical composition. My love for Miles Davis is not a mystery for many, but his art has impacted my life on so many levels. If you read anything about his musicianship, often you’ll find statements about his ability to know where to place notes, and use very few notes to create beauty.
We’ve been given a few notes to play and a limited time to play them.
Every day I wake up, I’m confronted with a composition (my life) and the choice of notes to play. The notes chosen will mean everything-today and into eternity.
Funny, when I was always “busy” I played a lot of notes. A virtuoso to the world, but hollow inside. I can vividly remember thinking the notes were not mine. So why do it? Pressure to be, pressure to say, pressure to find, is all I can come up with. Time has a way of ridding you of this, if you let it. I got older and started wondering “what the hell am I doing?”
Reducing notes in order to play the true ones is not an overnight thing, and at some levels the temptations always lurk in the shadows. My current state has taken almost 10 years to get to. But I am fully alive in the process.
The following is how I approach the composition (life) and the notes I’ve been given:
I let God inform me daily
I review the melody of the day and play it over in my head and heart
I look for opportunities in all facets of life.
I don’t have expectations, I take what He gives me and I play
I always remember, like Miles, that I only need a few notes.
Tis the season for year-end lists, so here are my top wellbeing finds (the type that impacted me) 2013.
Facio. Facio is a cloud-based tool to help you stay on track with your happiness. It also has some corporate functionality too, if you are so inclined. The founder of the company has a pretty inspiring story too.
Jot Script Stylus. Adonit has made one of the best stylus tools out there-at least for me. I’m a big user of Evernote and Penultimate. The Jot Script stylus works beautifully on my iPad and has helped my efficiency.
Yoga. This one is perpetually on my year-end lists. The practice of yoga has made such a difference in my wellbeing.
Daily calendar affirmations. I started the habit of using a calendar reminder relating to affirming my family. It truly is a pouring out of me into them dance.
Pecans. A nut with so much to offer in the way of nutrition and overall health. Go organic, if you can here.
2010 L’Ecole No. 41 Syrah. You can do the research for yourself on the health benefits of red wine, and this bottle is downright magical.
Charles Swindoll. This guy’s thinking and voice have been a constant for me, especially in 2013.
Music from the soundtrack of Arbitrage. Cliff Martinez has scored quite a few movies. This one really struck me, for reflection and writing. I liked the movie too.
My friend, Marc, shared this performance by Carlos Santana and Wayne Shorter with me and it truly inspired. Instrumental music has always created space in my head to dream, write and most importantly live freely. The genre of jazz has always struck me as a living music as well. The movement, the improvisation, the unexpected beauty.
Just felt this was important to post for me today. Hope you feel the same.
Time Stand Still
I turn my back to the wind To catch my breath Before I start off again. Driven on without a moment to spend To pass an evening with a drink and a friend
I let my skin get too thin I'd like to pause No matter what I pretend Like some pilgrim Who learns to transcend Learns to live as if each step was the end
(Time stand still) I'm not looking back But I want to look around me now (Time stand still) See more of the people and the places that surround me now Freeze this moment a little bit longer Make each sensation a little bit stronger Experience slips away Experience slips away
I turn my face to the sun Close my eyes Let my defences down All those wounds that I can't get unwound
I let my past go too fast No time to pause If I could slow it all down Like some captain, whose ship runs aground I can wait until the tide comes around
(Time stand still) I'm not looking back But I want to look around me now (Time stand still) See more of the people and the places that surround me now Freeze this moment a little bit longer Make each impression a little bit stronger Freeze this motion a little bit longer The innocence slips away The innocence slips away…
Summer's going fast, nights growing colder Children growing up, old friends growing older Freeze this moment a little bit longer Make each sensation a little bit stronger Experience slips away Experience slips away… The innocence slips away