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DISCOVER, EQUIP, AND PURSUE YOUR PURPOSE

Archive for the tag “growth”

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

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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 ___________.”

Waves of Change

There’s a different flavor to this entry – much more personally vulnerable than usual, but hopefully helpful to those facing a similar situation.

Alteration, modification, variation, transformation, adjustment, amendment. I like all of these words better than plain old “change”. More syllables somehow gives a sense of fluidity and even feels gentler verbalizing than the abrupt and harsh “change”.

I am facing unwanted, fast change in my life. I don’t mind things ebbing and flowing over the natural course of time. I don’t mind a surprise now and again. But massive, out-of-the-blue change – the kind that knocks you on your rear end and the breath out of your lungs? Or how about the baited change – when you expect one thing and get the other. Of those I’m not much of a fan.

You can utter all the platitudes, repeat all the affirmations, read all the quotes, get patted on the back by friends, and try to pick yourself up. And, most times, in your head you know that things will eventually smooth out and you’ll get back on track again.

Then there are those times when forced change can spin you into the Kubler-Ross Five Stages of Grief. (Here’s a quick list so you don’t have to search: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.) I think there should be another step squeezed in there somewhere: being frozen.

For more than a few months now I have been going through a tough time spurred by a rising river of unwanted, uncontrollable change. I was expecting some change, but it came in greater number, speed, and force than I had prepared for. It spilled out of the river banks and wiped away the sandbags I had stacked around certain areas of my life. Nothing was protected. All I could do was stand there and watch it pour over me and around me and watch it carry everything in every area my life away with it. There has been nothing that hasn’t been affected. I haven’t really talked about it with anyone at any length and prayer bounces off the ceiling. Writer’s block has taken full root (this entry is one of maybe three things I’ve written in months). I put up a barricade by freezing myself from feeling anything or reacting to anything, relegating myself to a sort of half-life:  there physically but not emotionally.

Then last week, something sort of happened.  I continued to be deluged by unexpected blows and watching myself not responding. Maybe it was a “last straw” type of thing but when I received one certain piece of news I sunk down into the chair I was sitting in and thought to myself, “But I don’t want to be an empty shell person.” When you stop fighting all the changes, but not in a let’s-figure-this-out-and-move-on kind of way, then you allow the changes to beat you up and toss you emotionally and spiritually into nothingness. I’ve seen people like that. They’ve resigned themselves to victim status and accept whatever is thrown their way, thinking it is what they deserve, too worn out to hope for anything more. Their lights go out. And they never recover. I said, out loud, “I don’t want to be like that. I want to recover. I don’t want other people to face that, I want to help them recover before it’s too late.” And a little spark was lit. 

It wasn’t a blinding revelation, there was no instant transformation.  I still feel very deflated.  But there is a spark.  A lot of tears have blurred my eyes as I’ve written this entry. I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen from here. I don’t know if Burn Bright will change (or even continue) as a blog or business. I don’t know where I’ll be living or working or worshipping or people I’ll hang out with, or activities I’ll participate in this coming year. But rather than roll up in a frozen ball and be tossed in the waves as the changes continue, I’m going to try to thaw, stretch out, bodysurf, and ride them to whatever shore they are taking me. 

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

Adjustments Along the Way

adjustsailsEarlier this year I got a new vehicle – I went from a sedan to an SUV. There were definitely some adjustments to be made. The simple act of putting the key into the ignition and turning the engine on was no longer one smooth move. It took me almost a week to get used to positioning my fingers and hand differently. Then there’s the gear shift. In my car it was on the floor, in my SUV it’s on the steering column. At times I still find myself grasping in midair for the stick.

As I changed careers and started building my own business, I found myself grasping in mid-air for things as well. Simple things like working outside of the standard eight-hour workday and catching up on my sleep at 2:00 in the afternoon, felt odd and at first produced massive guilt. And having worked for years in a highly professional arena, where the rules of deportment were clearly established and followed, it was a shock to my system that not everyone knew appropriate business etiquette (and didn’t want to). Slowly I learned to reposition my way of thinking – not to ignore or forget what I knew, but to adjust my expectations and learn how to shift the way I approached people and problems while maintaining my values.

As you pursue the purpose for your life, you should expect change to be a given. Don’t feel threatened or fearful. It’s not always about having to throw out your ideas or standards you value. Many times it’s just a simple adjustment in the way you approach things, a small change in the way you are holding onto something, or a new way of looking at people and their needs. It may be a bit uncomfortable and require a little bit of time (and practice), but you will eventually stop grasping the air and move into a new flow along your way.

There’s Nothing Wrong with New Year’s Resolutions

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with making New Year’s Resolutions.  A resolution is simply a firm decision, a determination to change something.  Nothing wrong with that… but don’t leave it at that.  Doing two simple things will take it out of the realm of mere intention:

  1. Tie your resolution to the purpose God has for your life. Fitting it into the big picture gives it a meaning and value that will take it beyond just the heady rush of the first week of the new year.
  2. Write down the resolution in the form of an actual goal.  Use the SMART acronym to get it on paper and in your heart and mind.

goals

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with making New Year’s Resolutions, but without a form to them, an actual reason and an actual plan, what’s the point? Be intentional. Burn bright.

name logo

When That “Someone Else” Is You

The definition of “better” includes being more pleasing, acceptable, or of greater quality, usefulness, or suitability than something else.  While it’s a good thing to be acceptable, useful and suitable – the trouble comes in trying to be better than something else.  And, let’s face it, we’re typically trying to be better than someone else.

It’s a great concept in the world of business and sports, but when we attempt to surpass someone/something else with regard to pursuing our purpose in life, we wind up making judgment calls about that person.  And what happens when that someone else is ourselves?  Is there something wrong with trying to be better than ourselves?  My debatable answer is… yes, there is a problem.

Do you realize that God does not call us to be a “better” person? I’ve searched scripture (and the internet) and can’t find it anywhere.  However, there are plenty of times when he calls us to be a different person… a new person.  (2 Corinthians 5:17 and Ephesians 4:22-24 are just two.)

I like how CS Lewis put it:

“God became man to turn creatures into sons: not simply to produce better men of the old kind but to produce a new kind of man. It is not like teaching a horse to jump better and better but like turning a horse into a winged creature. Of course, once it has got its wings, it will soar over fences which could never have been jumped and thus beat the natural horse at its own game…”

When we try be more pleasing, acceptable, or of greater quality, usefulness, or suitability than what we were in the past, we are taking on a responsibility that God has not given us: judging ourselves (both in the past and now).  In 1 Corinthians 4 the Apostle Paul denounces this.

Looking back on who I was ten years ago, I don’t know if I can claim to be a better person now, but I can confidently state I am a different person. Why should I attempt to prove myself against a long-irrelevant standard or compete against/surpass a past version of myself?  I am not who I was – I have acquired new ways of thinking and doing things.  My direction has changed – the activities I am involved in are not the same. My current decisions are made for what I am pursuing now, not then.

Each of us has a unique purpose and an inimitable way to pursue it.  This quest is not a struggle to transcend ourselves, but an invitation to build upon what God has given us to do – where we are and as who we are now without comparative references.

self compete

Stir the Embers

Whether you are just discovering your purpose or have been on this journey for a while, you know that it’s not always easy or comfortable.  You can’t always expect immediate results.

You may have had a smoother transition to something in the past, or you may see someone else who seems to have it easier than you.  It can be frustrating when you have a picture of what you want but it’s not coming together in real life.

Your purpose does not have to be big or perfect coming out of the gate – it’s not intended to. We are pursuing our purpose – which means “to follow, continue, or proceed along.” Real progress takes time, so you need to learn to apply yourself consistently and patiently.

You do not create your purpose out of nothing.  It’s not just an idea out of the blue.  Rather you take what is already within you and stir it up.

fire2It’s like a fire on the beach.  People build campfires near the dunes and when it finally burns out and they’re ready to leave, they bury the remains in sand.  You can find where the fire was because the sand covering the place is warm.  Then you can dig down to the embers and stir them up and create another fire.

So it is with your purpose – it’s burning deep within you and what you need to do is find where it is, dig down, and stir it up.    It takes time and patience.  Fires and purposes need to be stirred up and built gradually in order to Burn Bright.

“A fortunate few cherish that flame, nurture it, hold it as a torch to light their way.”
(Haruki Murakami)

Don’t Settle

Don’t ever settle for ordinary, average, unexceptional.  I’m not talking about the scale, quantity, or fame of your achievement, but rather in the quality and influence of your purpose.  Investing in people, building your confidence by stepping out of your comfort zone, and being bold will drive you forward and bring increase.

The value of your purpose is neither in its size nor in the acknowledgement of others.  Feeding a family in your neighborhood, feeding the homeless downtown, feeding millions in Africa – which has more value?  Whichever one is done with passion and out of compassion.   Whichever one challenges you to step outside of yourself.  Whichever one is done with excellence.  And no one can really know this except you.  How many you reach pales in comparison to the quality of your reach.

Even when you’re feeling small, or others think of you as small, don’t settle for mediocre. Taking the easy route will always leave you feeling less than confident in what you have to offer and keep you from moving onward and upward in your purpose.

mediocrity

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

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