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Archive for the tag “passion”

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.

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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.

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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 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 1

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 IDENTITY

Your identity, your value, is neither dependent on the things you do nor on the opinions of other people.  The list of titles you hold or the roles you play do not validate who you are.  Being CEO, or manager, or movie star, or salesperson, or writer, or parent, or spouse is not the measure of your life.   Your finished “To Do” list does not give you meaning.  If you receive position, power, wealth, security, etc. from a person, then a person can take it away.  If you receive it from an event or activity, it will last only as long as that event or activity is deemed important or remembered by others.

Ecclesiastes 2:11

Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
nothing was gained under the sun.

You are significant because God loves you. He called and you responded.  You cannot earn it by what you do, so you cannot lose it by what you do (or don’t do).  God gives it freely to you and will not take it away.  Mistakes, delays, failures, successes, accomplishments, advances – they do not affect His view of you or His heart for you.  Nothing can change God’s passion for you.

 Romans 8:38-39

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

As you pursue your purpose, you will face many challenges and roadblocks.  Don’t allow them to undermine who you think you are or who you think God is.  It is important to remember that these difficulties have nothing to do with who you are but are about what you are trying to do… which is next week’s topic.

Next week:  REMEMBER WHAT YOU ARE DOING

My “Aha” Moment from “Legally Blonde”

GROWTH

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Reese Witherspoon as
Elle Woods

In the movie comedy Legally Blonde, the character of Elle Woods was originally on the road to a career in fashion merchandising.  There was nothing wrong with her dream.  It’s what she wanted, it’s what she was good at, and she had the complete support of her fawning sorority sisters, jetsetter family, and old-money fiancé.  But when her fiancé, an aspiring lawyer heading to Harvard Law School, breaks up with her, Elle wants to win him back.  Much to everyone’s surprise, she is able to pass the Law School Admissions Test and is accepted at Harvard.  It is here her worldview is shaken.  She does not fit in with the culture and is considered a joke by people at every turn.  People think she is dumb, especially her ex-fiancé.

Rather than retreat, Elle takes the opinion on as a challenge and raises the bar (no pun intended) for herself.  Applying herself in her new culture, she discovers she actually understands and enjoys the law.  Applying her social skills from her old culture, she builds a support base of quirky friends around her. She begins a new journey. Eventually it is a combination of old and new skills and abilities that bring her success and a new life.  But not, of course, without the mandatory make-it-or-break-it moment along the way.  At one point Elle decides that it is more than she can handle.  She decides to give up, crying “No more trying to be something that I’m just… I’m just not.”   Her friend’s response:

What if you’re trying to be somebody you are?”

Those are brilliant words.  That was a personal “aha” moment for me.

We tend to think that our past, our present, and our future are at war with each other, and that the only way into the next one is to make a violent break with the previous one.  While there is certainly old luggage that we don’t want to carry with us that often takes ruthlessness to let go of, to totally thrash all we have ever known is usually a mistake.

When you are in the process of discovering your purpose in life, you take into account the passions you have, the talents God has given you, and the dreams you hold.  Those passions and talents and dreams didn’t just drop into your heart yesterday.  They have been building and interweaving your whole life.  Your experiences, both good and bad, have influenced them and helped direct their growth.  As you move towards your purpose, things begin to adjust.  One of your passions cools down.  You discover a different outlet for your talent.  You discover a hidden talent. The journey to your dream slows wa-a-a-y down or perhaps picks up what feels like too much speed.  This can be disconcerting, it can be hard.  It can cause you to question yourself.  It may feel like you’re trying to be something you are not.  But,

What if you’re trying to be somebody you are?”

Proverbs 25:2 tells us that God takes pleasure in concealing things and we have the privilege of discovering them.  And the verse that follows talks about the endless depth and width of our heart.

We need to recognize that there is so much more to and for us, and we need to go after it and find it.

  • Rather than look at your past as an enemy, why not use it as a resource?  Start looking through all the dirt and find the gold.
  • Rather than being in such a rush to leave the present to get into the future, why not make the most if it?  Start looking at everything you have going for you now and see what other possible applications there might be.
  • Rather than stubbornly holding onto what you insist your future must be, loosen your grip and expand your horizons.

You can be more than anybody thinks, expects, or wants you to be.  You can surprise everyone, including – just like Elle Woods did – yourself.

EXCELLENCE

“Excellence means when a man or woman asks of himself more than others do.” (Jose Ortega y Gasset)

PURPOSE

“There comes a special moment in everyone’s life, a moment for which that person was born. That special opportunity, when he seizes it, will fulfill his mission – a mission for which he is uniquely qualified. In that moment, he finds greatness. It is his finest hour.”  (Sir Winston Churchill)

What I Learned from My Mistake (It’s Not What You Think)

GROWTH

I made a mistake this week that has stayed with me, but not for the reason you may think.

I was singing with a quartet at a public venue.  One of the songs we do is an a capella rendition of Oh Come Emmanuel which is quite beautiful and haunting.  In the middle I have a couple of solo soprano notes, the last of which is the note everyone else keys off of for the next part of the tune. I sang that second note wrong.  In the split second (which was to me an eternity of self-flagellation) my three colleagues took a beat and then recovered as only seasoned veterans are able. Very few in the audience realized what had happened.  I felt like crying – first for missing a note I had never missed before, and second for the complete grace that was shown me by my friends.  When our set was done I apologized to them and each was completely kind and forgiving.  Yes, I had made a mistake.  And we recovered together. That did two things for me.  One, it made me want to keep singing with them.  If they had degraded me, I would have had a hard time continuing with the group.  Two, when I started to keep hold of the humiliation I felt, I had to ask myself, “What would I say to someone else who made a mistake?”  I would also be kind and forgiving and encouraging – so I had to do that for myself. Since I was already thinking of the application for this in pursuing my life’s purpose,  a Sunday morning sermon on Making Mistakes  made my ears perk up.  The pastor used a variation on a certain phrase several times – about how when you create an atmosphere that fears making mistakes, you kill creativity and risk taking. I recalled several times when I was on the job and made mistakes that were somewhat more serious than a missed musical note and impacted more than just a few people.eraser

The times I was berated and the mistake was held over my head, I was terrified to try again.   When the mistake was acknowledged, discussed, and released, I would willingly try again, and sometimes even come up with a better way to approach it. To me there is an emphasis in my musical experience, the sermon, and my work experience.  That emphasis is on relationship.  When those in a relationship have a culture of forgiveness and acceptance and camaraderie, the mistake – even though it may be great – becomes easier to overcome and creates a connection, a bond if you will, as you work together to overcome it and prevent it from happening again.   And when you live and work in that kind of environment, it will rub off in how you treat yourself when you make a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes – so expect them along the way as you pursue your purpose.  But do something for me:  If someone else makes one, be kind and gracious  and intentional in helping the person recover.  Change the atmosphere for someone.  When you do make one, ask yourself, “How would I respond to someone else who did this?”  Be kind and gracious and intentional in helping yourself recover.  Change the atmosphere you have created for yourself.

EXCELLENCE

“Don’t be afraid to take God-led risks, eliminating regrets. There is enough life in you to do all you desire… everything is gain, including the hard times.” (Jevon Bolden)

PURPOSE

make it happen

Can You Fake Courage?

GROWTH

An easy way to develop yourself is to read how other people develop themselves.  My friend over at the blog Neeserisms, always has thoughtful insights about her life’s journey.  A current entry is all about how to Encourage Yourself.  Click on the link to enjoy her wisdom.

EXCELLENCE

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”
Anais Nin

A client (let’s call him Sam*) and I had a really good discussion about courage.  If there is one thing I could bestow upon people who are pursuing their purpose, it would be COURAGE.  Merriam Webster defines it as “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.”   It goes beyond faith, it goes beyond belief, it goes beyond hope.  I completely agree with C.S. Lewis’ assessment:

 “Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.”

There have been times when I have met the meaning of the word full on, refusing to back down and advancing forward in glory.  Other times I do not.  Other times I isolate myself or run away.  Sam felt the same way.  We agreed that we could both probably withstand most of the onslaughts if we gave it half a shot.  But we don’t.  Sometimes we feel too weary, but mostly we just become fearful.

Then Sam brought up something very interesting – those times when it looks like we are being courageous, when we convince ourselves and others we are being courageous – but it’s absolutely not true.   Sometimes what appears to be moving out into something new and adventurous, is really just a way of avoiding something we need to deal with.

I thought I knew a little bit about this.  A couple of years ago, people told me I was courageous when I left my job.  I wasn’t.  It was just the last of the options available. I have absolutely no regrets about leaving – it was necessary for my mental and physical health – but it wasn’t courage.

But Sam had a different twist to it.  Sam gave up on his business after years of hard work. It was a big dream for him – something he’d been building towards for years.  Things were going really well and they were about to expand to the next level, but within just days of making their planned expansion, one of his partners dropped out.  Sam was devastated.  He had other partners who still wanted to go forward, but Sam’s pride and ego were demolished.  He could shake neither the humiliation nor the fear of losing control again.  When he made a comeback, everybody thought it was so brave of him to start again, so courageous to try it a different way.   But he says now that wasn’t true.  He was actually running from that humiliation and fear – trying to distance himself from it, protecting himself from being hurt again and trying to prove to others he could do it without help.  He told me now he wishes he had had true courage – the resourcefulness to have picked up the broken pieces and forged ahead through the pride and ego, to blaze through the humiliation and fear.  He wishes he would have stayed the course and taken his business to where he really thought it could go.  But he had given up and used doing something different and easier as an excuse.  The result was that he lost a sense of himself along the way, forgotten what his passion was, lost a sense of his purpose, lost a big chunk of his dream.

Sam’s story challenged me.  I wonder how many people have convinced themselves they are being courageous by doing something different but it’s really just an excuse to give up.  I think it can be a super fine line that moves around with the circumstances.

I’d like to hear from you about what you think (or what you’ve experienced).  How do you make the hard call?  When can you tell that you’ve crossed it?

*Story used with permission.  Name has been changed.

PURPOSE

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