Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Commute. Create!

Five days a week I commute to my day job office. Same time, same route, same same. I am one of approximately 130 million commuters in the US. (Some mornings it seems like they are all on the road with me here in Northwest Florida!)

I have found that the 30 minutes I spend in my Mini each morning (and 30 more in the evening) can become some of the most productive minutes of my day. I seek to leverage my commuting time and focus on being creative.

Want to make the most of your commuting time? Here are some suggestions:
  • Turn off the radio. Why allow someone else to dictate what your mind focuses on? Yes you may like your music (or talk show host, or news report), but ask yourself if you are making the best use of your time.
  • Get off the phone. Unless your job requires you to be on the phone, or a pressing personal issue needs your attention, end the call. Especially if you have others in your car. Are your children with you? Engage them, communicate with them, challenge them. (I addressed this in a previous Blog post.) Are other adults commuting with you? Speak with them, practice your listening skills, build your relationship with them.
  • Choose what to listen to. If it's music, select what will prepare you for your day, what will motivate you, what will benefit you. The music I choose inspires me to create new music, and to focus on my Creator. Maybe you can listen to teaching CDs or books on CD. Remember: you are seeking to make the most of your commuting time.
  • See what's around you. Sometimes the same route creates a drone-like mentality. We just drive/ride every day and don't even notice what's around us (when did they build that Super Walmart?). I have the privilege of traveling a route that goes for 12.5 miles along the pristine white sand and turquoise water of the Santa Rosa Sound. I can't always see the water because of the structures or trees, but when I can see it, I look. This morning I watched the sun directly in front of me burning through the fog. A surreal sight, but it gave me an idea...
  • Pray. This may be a requirement on some commuting routes (the DC Beltway...). But I am referring to proactive praying, where you are leveraging your time and making the most of your commute. Pray for what? Yourself, your family, your co-workers, the people in the cars around you...
  • Create. Allow ideas to fill your mind, rather than music, chatter, and noise. Dream, think, create, imagine. That's how the Blog post you are reading was conceived. I turned off the noise, and in the silence allowed my mind to conceive, envision, and create.
Question: What would happen if you took control of your commuting time? Share your thoughts below in comments.
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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Is Easier Better?

Last night I made a change in next Sunday's song list for our church's worship team. Not only did I change a song, but I realized that to continue the flow, I needed to transpose the song into a different key.

I could have used one of the many auto-transpose tools that are available to musicians. But instead I chose to manually transpose it, chord by chord, line by line.

Why? I want to keep my transposition/charting/theory skills sharp. There was an easier way, but was it better?

I remember being a wide-eyed freshman during my first week of college, hanging out before Stage Band class in the music department. A few of the older students in the stage band were sitting with our director in his office watching while he was working on some music.

I was intrigued as he lowered the turntable arm onto a Chicago LP, listen for a few measures, lift the arm, and write the music he had heard on score paper, then repeat the process for another instrument. (We did a lot of jazz-rock music, covering groups like BS&T, Billy Preston, early Stevie Wonder, Chicago - most any group with a horn section... Oh, and the LP thing - hey, this was 1974!)

I came away from that moment very impressed with my director, and determined that I was going to develop that skill. I knew very little music theory, and even less about chord structure, but I purposed to learn what was necessary.

With a lot of trial and error, study and practice, over time my ear developed where I could successfully accomplish that process.

I would be at concerts, in worship services, or listening to the radio, and find myself breaking down melody lines, identifying chords, and writing harmonies in my head. It was work, but it was coming naturally.

Then tools (software, websites, services) became available to make the process easier. But did it make the process better?

Many times we are offered helps and tools that are designed to make our lives easier. For creatives, could those tools hinder our creativity?

I remember the scene from the movie Amadeus, as Mozart leaned over his billiards table with his scoring paper strewn over the surface, rolling a pool ball back and forth against the opposite side with one hand while he scored a symphony using a quill and ink with his other. Would his music be as good if he was sitting in front of a 23" screen on his iMac, scoring with software?

Call me old school, but I don't want to surrender to the fast and easy. I want to keep my mind and ears sharp, to hear a chord and dissect it, to be able to transpose on the fly. For me, easier is not always better.

Question: What about you... As a creative, is easier better? Share your thoughts below in comments.

If you like this post, you can re-post, 'share' it on your Facebook status, or forward it to your friends. Follow me on Twitter @bigcloudmusic if you find me interesting. Subscribe to this Blog if you'd like.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Win Twice

We've all heard it, most of us have said it: I was robbed! We had to beat the refs too! It wasn't fair! A bad call cost us the game!

Whatever form that it takes, using whatever words are chosen, the message is the same: It wasn't fair.

I learned something early in my journey: Life is not fair. Expecting an even playing field for all of my challenges, weather in school, sports, business, ministry, or relationships is unreasonable.

I remember the first wrestling match of my senior year of high school. Our coach didn't schedule any matches during the first month of the season, and then once we started we usually had three matches a week. His philosophy: train for an extra month, then once we began against opponents go strong and relentlessly through the season.

My opponent for that first match had a 5-0 record, all of them pins. I knew that my work was cut out for me. As I watched the four bouts before mine, I noticed that the referee was not being kind to our team. Marginal calls went against us. Points weren't given to us when due. There was a lot of complaining from our bench.

I surmised that I now had two opponents to defeat: my adversary across the mat, and the referee. I remember telling myself that I needed to be better than I was. There would be no complaining, there would be no excuses. I was determined to win, but if I lost it was not because of the officiating. I had to Win Twice.

(Disclaimer: It is not for bragging purposes that I share the result. It simply closes the story.) I won, soundly: 10-0. There was no pin - which in my opinion should have been called for me. I even said to the ref, "There it is Ref, there it is!" To which he replied, "I call the match young man, you be quiet.")

This is a determination that all of us should take to every challenge we face. We should never complain about circumstances for not achieving what we believe we are supposed to achieve. We should not point fingers and assign blame. Rather, we should become better than we need to be.

I believe that inside of each of us is the creativity, capacity, and character to rise above the circumstances surrounding us that seem to magnify our challenges. Think of a better idea. Work a little harder. Don't look for the easy way out. Some ideas:
  • Leverage your existing resources. Don't complain about what you don't have, but rather creatively use what you do have.
  • Deploy your existing personnel (both employees and volunteers). How better can the giftings and skill sets of each person be used to achieve our goals?
  • Control your character. Determine that you will not complain, assign blame, or make excuses. Rather, own what's yours, be what you were called to be, and do what you were called to do.
For many people, bragging rights and making excuses after a game makes for heated yet non-productive conversation. In life, let's let our actions, accomplishments, and character speak for themselves.

Question: What have you done to rise above circumstances and Win Twice? Share your thoughts below in comments.

If you like this post, you can re-post, 'share' it on your Facebook status, or forward it to your friends. Follow me on Twitter @bigcloudmusic if you find me interesting. Subscribe to this Blog if you'd like.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Speeding Ticket

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I've gotten two speeding tickets in my life. I received my first one after I'd had my driver's license for less than 4 months.

A group of us high school guys were working with some men in our church sanding and refinishing the floor of our youth room. I was tasked with returning the rented sanders before noon on a Saturday.

We loaded up the big floor sanders into the back of a borrowed truck, and off I went for a one-hour trip to the distant rental company. Doing some quick calculations, I figured I could get to the company before their noon closing with about 5 minutes to spare.

As I got closer, I realized that I was going to be late. So I started speeding. Sure enough, there was a Florida Highway Patrolman hiding on a strip of highway and he stopped me.

I was scared, nervous, and I didn't want to be responsible for being late with the sanders. So I began to make excuses: We were doing work at our church. I am not used to driving this powerful truck.

My efforts were fruitless. I got my first speeding ticket.

My second ticket was awarded to me many years later when I was with my 17 year old son and a friend of his attending the Cornerstone Music Festival in Illinois. We had gotten up very early to catch a flight from Florida, rented a car at the airport and driven over two hours to the festival site, spent the day listening to bands, and at 1:30 am the next morning we left to go to our motel.

I was tired, hungry, cranky, and in need of a shower. We were in the middle of miles of corn fields, it was 20 minutes to the nearest town where our motel was, and there was no one on the roads at that hour. So I sped.

When the Illinois Highway Patrolman approached my car, I had my license, insurance card, and rental car agreement ready. The patrolman said, "Good evening sir." I responded with, "I was wrong. I was speeding. No excuse."

I got my second speeding ticket.

Here are some things I have learned:
  • Accept responsibility. Our society encourages us to redirect blame and deflect fault. When we do what is wrong, we have done what is wrong. It's on us. I was wrong. I was speeding. No excuse.
  • Focus on the action. We tend to identify and draw attention to the result of what we've done, not the action itself. Most people will say: I got a ticket. Few will say I was speeding.
  • Receive the consequences. Consequences are the natural result of our actions. It's not about getting caught, it's about what we did in the first place. My choices bring repercussions.
  • Seek forgiveness. There is something to be said about asking for forgiveness. It accepts responsibility, it shows repentance, and it frees the one who delivers the consequence. (Not to be used to avoid consequences.) I was wrong. Please forgive me.
  • Learn from mistakes. If we don't learn from our actions and the consequences they bring, we will continue to make those same mistakes. Our goal should be to always move forward with our lives. What can I do in my life to be a better, more effective influence?
Have a nice day.

Question: What are your experiences with speeding tickets? Share your thoughts below in comments.
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