Be Out in Nature

I say this a bit tongue-in-cheek. Right now I am on a campout with my boys and the local Boy Scout troop. We hiked a mile or so up to a secluded campground where we hung hammocks and pitched tents. Right now I’m enjoying the sounds of the woods as I relax in my hammock, surrounded by down quilts.

Sounds great, right?

The hike in was on an overgrown trail with sticker bushes everywhere. By the time we arrived in camp our pants were coated with stickers.

Then there were the spiders. We’ve had record rainfall all year and the woods are very lush and overgrown. The spiders are out in force! We ran into so many spiderwebs on the trail, most with large spiders on them. Nothing gets the adrenaline flowing like a spider on your face!

Despite all this, we’re pretty happy. In spite of the spiders and the weeds and the other nature that should make us cringe we’re calm and relaxed. Part of it is that the boys have no screens or devices with them. Part of it is that being out in nature brings something special out in each of us.

As I lay here in my hammock I’m grateful for the bugs and the laughing young men who likely won’t go to bed until after midnight. I don’t get to be out in nature like this often enough. I’m glad I get to be here tonight.


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The Profound Power in Showing Up

All skills, habits, hobbies, and jobs that are worth doing take time and repetition. They don’t come easily or without effort.

The process of acquiring these skills can be monotonous. Write 500 words. Throw 50 changeups. Create a lesson plan. Play your scales. Cook pasta. Repeat tomorrow and the next day and the next. It takes thousands of repetitions before something amazing happens, before the work becomes art. We usually don’t know exactly when the magic will happen and the wait can be tough.

Showing up to practice is so important. We’re all striving to make different kinds of art. The thing we have in common is that the only way to get there is to show up over and over again. We have to try and fail and improve, then try some more. It won’t be easy. Great journeys never seem to be.

Each time we show up is another vote cast for who we want to be.

I think something else happens when we show up consistently. We gradually conquer our fear, our pride, and our weakness. “I can’t” becomes “I can, and here’s how I know.” The record we build for ourselves fundamentally changes who we are. It gives us the strength to overcome in the most important battles we fight, inside our mind.

Start small. Tie your practice to something you already do consistently. Keep track of how you show up. The progress will come in much bigger ways that you anticipate.


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The Things We Actually Have Control Of

As I write this I’m listening to three student jazz groups playing. (I have one child in each group so I sit in between the three rehearsal rooms so I can catch snatches of each group as they play.)

Last week these groups held auditions. One of the students who auditioned got his placement today and wasn’t willing to accept it. He is the oldest bass player that tried out but was placed in the lowest of the three groups. I understand where he’s coming from. It’s embarrassing and discouraging when something like this happens. He spent the two hours of rehearsal time sitting in the hallway refusing to participate.

We all go through these kinds of situations. I think the key to getting through is to spend our time and energy focused not on the larger situation but on the things we can control.

So what exactly is in our control?

  • Our emotions
  • Our judgements
  • Our creativity
  • Our attitude
  • Our perspective
  • Our desires
  • Our decisions
  • Our determination

Pretty much everything else is outside of our control. But look at all we do have control over! This list encompasses so much. If we all learned to control even a sliver of this we would be unshakable.

I hope the young man decides that he is going to go forward and grasp this opportunity. This could be an important turning point for him. We rarely have control of the auditions in life but we do have control of our actions after. Taking control of those things we can control makes all the difference.


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What Stands in the Way Becomes the Way

It’s the nature of being human that we will have bad days. And sometimes bad weeks. Or bad months. Maybe even bad years.

The list of things that can go wrong or happen to us seems endless. (Not trying to be a downer here, but it’s true!) There is real pain and suffering in the world and it happens to me and you.

The good news is that we are never alone and that we always have a choice.

Go to friends, family, or professionals when you need help. You are not alone! Just knowing that can makes a world of difference.

As Marcus Aurelius said, “Our actions may be impeded but there can be no impeding our intentions or dispositions. Because we can accommodate and adapt. The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting. The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”

Whatever is standing in your way, use it to help you move forward.


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