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DISCOVER, EQUIP, AND PURSUE YOUR PURPOSE

Archive for the tag “focus”

When You Know the Notes to Sing…

For 25 years I have been part of a singing ensemble. Different members have come and gone but the group has continued on in one form or another and I have remained a part of it, until this year. This year the group finally came to an end. It’s quite odd not to have regular Tuesday night practice, not to be in the holiday mood early because of working on Christmas songs in September, and not to have a reason for a new holiday outfit this year.

To keep from missing it too much, I chose to begin lessons with a vocal coach – not only to continue to have music in my life but also to keep me in front of an audience on a regular basis (if I have too long between public appearances, whether speaking or singing, I tend to develop a touch of stage fright). Right now I am preparing a piece for a recital. While it’s strange to be working on only one song instead of fifteen, it’s fun to be laser focused on making that one song completely mine – crafting it to take advantage of my abilities.

It’s an interesting process. First I found a song I liked. Then I searched the internet and listened to 38 different artists to find a version that suited me. I found two I liked equally well and couldn’t decide between them. My vocal coach and I decided to combine them — take the best pieces from each and splice them together. In order to do that I needed to learn to sing the parts of the songs EXACTLY as the original singers do: their notes, their timing, their inflections. Once I mastered that, only then was it time to work on folding them together. And after that, I was finally able to put my own spin on it and make it MY version.

That’s pretty much a basic formula for anything one wants to do well in life:

  • find something you enjoy and for which you have a natural aptitude
  • find someone to mentor/coach you
  • find someone to model who does something similar with excellence and study them – duplicate their movements toward success until you know what you are doing very well; then step away and put your own spin on it.

It’s similar to learning to write in cursive in grade school. At first it’s all about holding the pencil exactly right, then following the patterns of each letter perfectly, row after row after row. Then in the end you’re free to write any way you choose, with your own personal flair.

vontrapp family

photo courtesy of Internet Movie Database (imdb.com)

Remember the Von Trapp children from The Sound of Music?  Once they knew the notes to sing, they could sing most anything!

It’s true professionally. There are hundreds of financial experts. All of them have the purpose of increasing their clients’ financial portfolio. But each one has their own variation on it. Suze Orman, the Motley Fools, Clark Howard, and Dave Ramsey are all people who are in tune with the same basic principles and do what they do very well, but very differently.

It’s also true personally. Whatever your purpose is, take advantage of the people out there who are doing it well now. Don’t be too proud to ask for assistance – ask questions and try out their methods. Read books, visit websites, go to seminars, or plays, or concerts, or sporting events and watch and learn.

Why start from scratch when you don’t have to? Get the basics down, establish a foundation, and then move out and find your own style and make your own kind of music.

You can read about networking on one of my previous posts:  Stirring the Embers

There’s Something About Passion

Born in 1868, Florence Foster Jenkins, above anything else, loved to sing opera. When she was 17 years old, her wealthy father refused to let her go abroad to study music, so she eloped. In 1909 her father died and she used her inheritance to kick start her career, taking lessons and becoming active in Philadelphia and New York City musical social circles. Florence made several recordings and began giving public performances in 1912. There was great demand for tickets to the recitals, but ticketing was typically limited to a few favored associates and friends. Then in 1944, at the age of 76, she gave in and gave a public performance at Carnegie Hall – the event sold out weeks in advance. One month after that success, she passed away.

And so here is the secret about Florence Foster Jenkins: the girl could not sing.

Not a note. She was known for her lack of pitch, tone, and rhythm. She couldn’t even pronounce the words in her foreign language songs. She was popular for the amusement she provided. And while she was aware of her critics (and the laughter her performances evoked from audiences), she really didn’t care. She was doing what she loved. “People may say I can’t sing,” she said, “but no one can ever say I didn’t sing.”

On the surface it seems like just a precursor to contemporary famous-for-being-famous non-talented reality TV stardom (shudder). But Florence’s story stirred something up inside me.  There’s something about her saying, “People may say I can’t sing, but no one can ever say I didn’t sing.” There’s something about passion.risk anything

When I look back on my life it’s the things I did not do or try that I regret the most. I have more, “I wish I would have…” than “I wish I wouldn’t have…”  Thinking back, the reason I didn’t do things was because I was afraid of failure and what people would think of that failure. The funny thing is that in the opportunities I did take, and did fail at, and people did deride me for – I don’t really regret them. In a funny way I have gained strength from them, a sense of increased self-knowledge, a sense of survival and ability to endure and persist through the next challenge.

The library and the bookstore are full of books. You may have received 20 rejection letters from publishers. Does that mean you shouldn’t write? There are millions of corporations and companies around the world. You may have failed all your business courses. Does that mean you shouldn’t start your own business? There are thousands of bands and singers in the world. You may be refused by “American Idol.” Does that mean you shouldn’t sing? Florence Foster Jenkins didn’t think so — and I don’t think she had any regrets.

Who said it was all about success anyway? There’s something about passion.

Fill in the blanks for yourself:

People may say I can’t _______________,

but no one can ever say I didn’t ___________.”

4 Things the Seahawks Taught this 12

I am a Seahawks fan.  (Don’t let that make you go away – there’s a good application coming!) They became a franchise when I was a freshman in high school, about 60 miles south of Seattle.

I was born and raised rooting for the Dallas Cowboys back in their glory days.  It was hard moving allegiance from a dynasty to what, at times, felt like a high-school league team.  But Jim Zorn, Steve Largent, Steve Raible, Norm Evans, and the rest of the gang all loved football, loved Seattle, loved the fans.  That made it easy to love them.  My fandom was solidified when I was a freshman in college and watched the Seahawks play a charity basketball game as the “Rainhawks.”  They won my heart with their humor and humility.  They weren’t a very good football team, but they had their moments and the 12th Man (as we were eventually called) has learned, if nothing else, to lean on each other for encouragement.  This was often needed as the Seahawks’ success progressed and we became arguably the most hated franchise in football.

As you are probably aware, the Seattle Seahawks are now the reigning Super Bowl champions.   Maybe you don’t give a rip about football, perhaps you are one of the many who love to hate “us”.   That’s okay with me.  But don’t let it keep you from learning the four things the Seahawks have taught me.

1.  You don’t have to do everything perfectly (especially in the beginning).

Set your goal and continue to strive towards it.  When you fall on your face, try again and again and again.

2. You don’t have to be loved by everyone.

Haters gonna hate.  Find the people who do support you (even if there’s just one or two) and keep them close and build your relationship with them.

3.  Change it up.

Win new supporters (and build new skills) when you branch out and go beyond what you are currently known for.  Let people see who you really are, aside from your resume.

4.  Don’t be afraid to be good.

Sometimes it’s hard to be successful.  It’s hard to change people’s perceptions when it’s taken you a while to break through.  Don’t let that stop you from achieving greatness.

In conclusion, GO HAWKS.

seahawks2

Getting Out of Your Own Way – Part 6 of 6

In order to fully pursue the purpose God has placed on our lives, we are looking at how to avoid self-defeating behaviors. Each week for six weeks we’re looking at one of the following:

To get out of you own way, you need to remember…

1. …your identity
2. …what you are doing
3. …your purpose
4. …the people
5. …to be strategic
6. …the outcome

For the final week:

REMEMBER THE OUTCOME

“My purpose is all about me.”   Well, it is and it isn’t. It is about your passion and your talents and what you are doing in your life. But  in the end it’s about how all of those things put together influence and impact the world you live in. Often we find ourselves working towards only what will bring us attention, respect, etc. – getting people to see and to respond to us in the way we manipulate want them to.

Ultimately, our goal in finding God’s design for our life must be focused on accomplishing something worthwhile for Him. And God’s basic thing is relationship. That is the ultimate outcome that we shoot for. And that is where it is “all about me” – as in “Him and me.”

He stated that the greatest commandment is “to love the Lord Your God” and the second “love your neighbor.” When we lose that basic understanding, we are defeated before we even begin. The greatest design we plan, the greatest service we provide, the greatest product we develop, the greatest sale we make, the greatest goal we achieve – it means nothing. The use of God’s gifts to simply achieve greatness or self-satisfaction will bring neither.

When you are stuck and unable to move forward in your purpose, take a moment to ask: ” How is my relationship with God?”  When that is settled, you can face the challenges, side issues, and feelings of defeat with a sense of hope that everything will come together eventually and that everything does not need to be figured out perfectly. When you realize that neither the weight of the world nor the accomplishment of your purpose in life is completely  on your shoulders, it will be easier to get unfrozen and move on.

One of my favorite musical artist, Sarah Groves, succinctly writes about  the sense of things not being quite right in her song How Is It Between Us.  Link below.

http://youtu.be/e5zkOfSJSn4

Getting Out of Your Own Way – Part 4 of 6

In order to fully pursue the purpose God has placed on our lives, we are looking at how to avoid self-defeating behaviors.  Each week for six weeks we’re looking at one of the following:

To get out of you own way, you need to remember…

1. …your identity
2. …what you are doing 
3. …your purpose 
4. …the people 
5. …to be strategic 
6. …the outcome

This week:

REMEMBER THE PEOPLE

Your purpose in life is never all about you.  While you discover your purpose by considering your own abilities, passions, and desires, gratifying those traits is not what it’s all about.

Focusing only on you – what you are doing and what will benefit you – may be one of the reasons you find yourself frozen and unable to move forward.

A business or organization may focus their mission statement on marketing a product, but they cannot lose sight of their customer.   Your purpose – whether written on paper or on your heart – cannot lose sight of those who will benefit from your commitment to your purpose.

When you take what you are doing out of the realm of self-fulfillment and consider the influence/support/service/relief/comfort you provide others through it, you reshape the nature of your approach and your expectations.

Thinking about the needs of those you impact can often give you the kick you need to lift yourself out of those self-sabotaging behaviors of procrastination, lack of focus, perfectionism, fear, etc.

chalkboardpurpose

Next week:  REMEMBERING TO BE STRATEGIC

Getting Out of Your Own Way – Part 3 of 6

In order to fully pursue the purpose God has placed on our lives, we are looking at how to avoid self-defeating behaviors.  Each week for six weeks we’re looking at one of the following:

To get out of you own way, you need to remember…

1. …your identity
2. …what you are doing
3. …your purpose
4. …the people
5. …to be strategic
6. …the outcome

This week:

REMEMBER YOUR PURPOSE

When people talk to me about feeling blocked or frozen in pursuing their purpose, about 99.9 percent of the time it boils down to having unfulfilled or distorted expectations of what the road to their purpose is supposed to look like. They have an idea in their heads of exactly how everything is supposed to be, forgetting that there are many ways an objective can be accomplished.  When their anticipation of a smooth, effortless sail into how they expect things to go doesn’t happen , they are caught up short.

They didn’t think they would have:

  • to work so hard
  • to pay out so much (financially or emotionally)
  • problems convincing others
  • to try things a different way
  • so much competition
  • to make hard decisions
  • to change priorities
  • to give up things they enjoy
  • people stab them in the back
  • people try to deceive them
  • people try to stop them
  • to face fears they didn’t know they had
  • problems in other areas of their lives
  • so many twists and turns and choices
  • to continually fight for what they truly want

They forget that their purpose is not about making them rich or well known or well respected, or making them/others feel good about themselves or their place in the world.

Our purpose is to know God and make Him known. (see this thought expanded in the “Purpose” section of my October 15, 2011 blog)

Many Plans

Next week:  REMEMBERING THE PEOPLE

Getting Out of Your Own Way – Introduction

On Burn Bright’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, I recently asked readers to complete the following sentence: “The biggest obstacle keeping me from truly pursuing my purpose is __________.”

The overwhelming response boiled down to just one word: MYSELF. Whether exhibited as procrastination, lack of focus, perfectionism, or fear (of change, of failure, etc.), this self-defeating behavior is a challenge everyone faces. We undermine ourselves and become paralyzed, unable to move forward.

Can we get unstuck? Yes, we can. And we must. How do we get unstuck? In order to break past our block, we have to change the way we think. Easy to say, hard to do? Yes, but as writer/speaker Denise Vaughan says,

“Moving forward, even if I’m scared, is a better feeling than being stuck – or regressing.”

From my own experiences of self-sabotage (and there have been a few), I have discovered that there are six things to consider, specifically related to pursuing your purpose, that will help you get out of your own way.

It’s a big subject, so over the next six weeks I’ll focus on one step per week, digging into detail about what each one means and how to correct the way we think about it. So bookmark this blog and come back and join the conversation.

To get out of you own way, you need to remember…
1. …your identity
2. …what you are doing
3. …your purpose
4. …the people
5. …to be strategic
6. …the outcome

Next week: REMEMBER YOUR IDENTITY

Self sabotage is when we say we want something and then go about making sure it doesn’t happen.
Alyce P Cornyn-Selby

Competition or Just a Kick in the Pants

GROWTH

“The fact is, that to do anything in the world worth doing, we must not stand back shivering and thinking of the cold and danger, but jump in and scramble through as well as we can.”
(Robert Cushing)

EXCELLENCE

  • When Person A was the only game in town they encouraged Person B to pursue their heart’s desire, knowing full well it was similar to their own.  When Person B’s version of the business started doing well, Person A cut off all contact.  That was even though A’s business was not diminished but was even promoted by B.  Person A felt distinctly threatened.
  • There is a writer who limits herself to writing small articles now and then.  The reason?  Too much competition.  She says when she walks into a library and sees how many books have been published it discourages her that she’ll probably never stand out.
  • K. doesn’t understand why their career never took off while watching enviously as other in the same field flourish.  K. has much more talent than others I know in their line of work, but I’ve never seen them try to move forward.  They keep waiting for people to come to them, and keeps growing in resentment as others hard work pays off.

I found myself similar circumstances recently.  One of my friends was talking about preparing a book for publication – something I’ve been talking about for a couple of years.  She asked for some direction and advice. As she talked excitedly about it I realized that I had been kind of slow – okay, okay, lazy – in my efforts in that area. I thought I had so far to go, but realized that I really was almost there.  As I spoke to her I was surprised at how much I actually did know about it and how close I was to being ready to take the next step. It would have been easy for me to feel threatened by her coming close into my territory.  I could have been discouraged that she was moving at a faster pace and could easily surpass me.  I could become resentful  that she is probably nearer our mutual goal than I am.  I could see her as competition that threatens my existence.

Instead I decided that I to take this as reinforcement and inspiration – a kick in the pants, if you will.  I invited her to the Northwest Christian Writer’s Association meetings and Writer’s Renewal.  I gave her ideas of what to do next and suggestions for her to research.  I want to encourage her as much as  possible to pursue her purpose and to equip her for it.  I also want to see it as healthy competition – not to be better than her, but to keep myself in top form as I pursue my purpose.  To make sure that I am doing and giving my best towards my own goals, but with the realization that I am not the only game in town but am willing to help others succeed – even to a higher level then me.  I want her to be successful.  I want me to be successful.  It can be mutual.  In fact it must be mutual.

PURPOSE

if you are true

A Change in Perspective or What I Learned from The Evil Baroness and Shirley Valentine

GROWTH

The happiest life is that which constantly exercises and educates what is best in us.
(Philip Gilbert Hamerton)

EXCELLENCE

PURPOSE

When I was seven years old and watching The Sound of Music I thought the Baroness was akin to the Wicked Witch of the West, attempting to destroy my beloved Maria.  In my twenties I felt sorry for the deluded (albeit much better dressed) gold digger.  But somewhere in my forties I noticed my eyes filled with tears, just as hers did as she said good-bye to the Captain. I felt bad when I realized her hopes and dreams (and hard work) for security had been dashed by a beautiful, younger woman – and I noticed the dignity with which the Baroness gave up that hope.

I started watching the movie Shirley Valentine when I was in my late twenties.  There is a scene where she has an “aha” moment and looks in the mirror and says, “I’m not going to look at myself and say, ‘Geez, you’re 41, Shirley.’  I’m going to say, ‘Shirley, you’re only 41!’”  The sense of that played out differently in my head when I watched it at 29 (oh, poor woman) than it did when I was 41 (preach it, sister), and, again, at 50 (self-acknowledging chuckle).

As you go through your life, your perspective of your purpose will change as well.  That’s a good thing.  As I’ve said before, I don’t think that we see our purpose perfect and whole in the first place.  I believe that God gives us a taste of it to stir our passions up and to get us going.  Sometime the twists and turn come from challenges and circumstances.  But sometimes they come from simply having a different perspective, an “aha” moment that puts a different spin on things.  Don’t let it scare you or stop you.  It doesn’t mean anything is wrong, things are just playing out differently in a different time of life.  When this happens, it’s important to  slow things down a little and allow yourself to take advantage of this gift of a fresher take on things, of being able to keep what you’re focusing on relevant.  Don’t think what you’ve known and learned up to this point should be tossed out – carry it with you, but don’t let it alone define you.

Getting to your purpose is not about racing to the finish, it’s finishing the race well.

Go Back to What You Love

GROWTH

“In learning to know other things, and other minds, we become more intimately acquainted with ourselves, and are to ourselves better worth knowing.”
(Philip Gilbert Hamilton)

EXCELLENCE

image from ubercomments.com

PURPOSE

Whether you are just starting to discover your purpose in life or you’ve lost a bit of confidence and you’re unsure of what to do next, there’s just one thing you need  — go back to what you love.  It’s the absolute foundation for where you are heading.  Even if no one else understands it, even if it doesn’t make sense, even if you haven’t paid attention to it in a really long time.  Go back to what you love.  Even if it broke your heart earlier in life.  Go back to what you love.  Even if you feel like you messed it up or missed it earlier in life.  Go back to what you love.  And if you can’t get back to exactly what it was, then find a reasonable version of it.

In one of the first classes I taught on finding purpose, there was a young woman who had always wanted to be an Olympic speed skater.  She had let it run through her fingers when she was younger, but discovered she was still in love with competitive skating. But now this dream seemed like pie-in-the-sky.  She really wanted to train to see if she could qualify, but since she was only a couple of years away from being too old, she let it go.   I encouraged her to do some research and, with the rest of the class, asked questions to discover what this passion was all about.  We discovered she loved the rhythms of skating, she loved speed, she loved the physicality, she loved competition, she loved the comraderie.  We brainstormed what could satisfy those needs in her life.  She determined that as long as she could still do a bit of skating, she could be satisfied with helping others prepare and compete.  Almost immediately she found a skating club and had begun training to see how far she herself could go.  I ran into her a few years ago and she told me she had begun to do some individual coaching at the club.  She was very happy.

Don’t limit yourself by thinking there’s only one way that your purpose in life can be achieved.  That way of thinking discourages you and blocks its fulfillment.

I love the way The Message version of the Bible puts what God says to us:

“I don’t think the way you think. The way you work isn’t the way I work… For as the sky soars high above earth, so the way I work surpasses the way you work, and the way I think is beyond the way you think.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

What is it that you really and truly love?   Are you blocking that dream by assuming there’s only one way to fulfill it?   What exactly about it stirs up your passions?  What else might satisfy those passions?  What we love may not end up being exactly  what our purpose is, but it is always a good foundation we build to that purpose.

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