Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Tuning Slide: In Everything You Do

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

In one of our discussions at the trumpet workshop it was pointed out that many of us would not be making a living as a musician. As much as we love playing trumpet, that will not be our “day job.” In the different bands I play in a majority of the members are not professional musicians. Health care and computers have both been a major part of the community’s economic base. As a result there are many different health care professionals and computer engineers in the groups. Sure, there are also a sizable number of band and music teachers as well as some who make their living performing music.

As we thought about this we were reminded of something that we should not forget.
    Things you learn playing the trumpet will make you a better… surgeon, teacher, worker, friend, spouse, etc.  
We all have various skills and personalities. What we discover in playing music- the discipline, the ability to work with others- are also essential to our vocations. What music teaches us is very much what is essential in our lives.

It’s also a two way street: If you have developed into a good (fill in the blank), you can become a good musician. It takes the same commitment, discipline, and work. The things you learn in life or career will make you a better trumpet player.

This brought to mind a comment a friend made to me back in July. He was talking about some of the wisdom he has been given by others and quoted this tidbit. It boggled my mind and twisted my life like very few things do:
    The way you do anything is the way you do everything.
Looking it up on Google I found that there are a number of apparent “sources” for it. In any case, it is one of those statements that is so profound as to shift one’s world view.

    •    Do you find shortcuts at work in order to get done faster, although not necessarily more effectively? That may very well be how you do a lot of other things?
    •    Do you treat people with condescension and not really care about them? Chances are that’s how you treat your family and friends as well as strangers.
    •    Are you careless in how you take care of things you own? Are you taking care of even important things in the same way?
    •    Are you satisfied with “good enough” in projects you work on? Maybe “good enough” is all that you will ever be able to achieve.

This is not meant as a judgement but an observation. If we don’t pay attention to how we do some things, chances are we may find it hard to pay attention to other things. This has to do with style and habit as much as with a conscious attempt on our part. It has to do with what we want to get out of our day-to-day lives and how much we put into it. It does not mean suddenly becoming a Type-A workaholic. It does not mean that we change our entire way of doing things. Some of us are more intuitive and introverted while others of us are far more cautious about making sure we plan well. Some of us would die if our entire day was closely scheduled while others would die if it wasn’t. It is rather about how we utilize who we are, our personalities, skills, etc. in order to reach our goals.

Two weeks ago I was talking with this friend again and told him about how he had thrown me into a mental wrestling match. He agreed that the same had happened to him. It was then I realized that his statement along with the discussion at camp had been at work for me in this past year. For over 18 months I have been working on what it means to be retired. Yes, I am still working part-time, but I have been wandering around being retired. That has given me to be able to develop what I have called my “third-career.” While I did expand my music into a nearly full-time avocation, I knew there was more to it.

Then a year ago, the events that started this Tuning Slide blog and threw me into a completely new way of working on my music. Within a few months I went from a person who worked on whatever needed working on to a systematic trumpet player. After nine months of increased practice at a 7 out of 10 day pattern I made it to the daily practice level. Since mid-April, for example, I have missed two days of playing my trumpet- both long travel days. My trumpet playing is probably the best it’s ever been.

But the real surprise I realized two weeks ago, after a year of a whole new regimen of music practice, discipline, and growth, a number of things came together in June and July. It was a true “A-Ha” moment as it all made sense. Some of my retirement questions seemed to disappear and I found the direction I have been waiting for. In other words the way I was doing music in new ways, was the way I was now doing some new things with my retirement.

The way you do anything, is the way you do everything. It can go from the music to other things- or from other things to the music. In reality it is not an either-or idea. It is a both-and action. It doesn’t even have to be conscious. When you discover a new path, a new idea, a new discipline, a new reason for getting out of bed in the morning- that will interact with everything you have been doing.

How then do we do that? How do we work at making sure we are doing our “everything” the right way to be healthy and helpful to us? How can we aim at living a life that is consistent, starting with our musicianship?
  • First is passion. What excites you? What are you willing to take extra time to accomplish?
  • Second is focus. Are you ready to bear down and discover what living out that passion means? Are you honest with yourself about what that will mean- what sacrifices you will have to make, what changes you will have to work on- in order to be successful?
  • Third is action. If what you say you are passionate about doesn’t move you to do, can you really say it is a passion? This takes dedication and determination. It takes a commitment to do- not just talk.
Make your list. Begin to think about some goals. Look at ways you can enhance and grow from your previous experiences and efforts.

Now, how does this apply to the every day things that you do- simple things like how you follow through with promises, how you treat your family and friends, your simple actions? Do these fall in line with what you have written- or do they show that you need to do some changing in order to get where you are going?

It takes that kind of commitment. In the Twelve-Step recovery programs there is an often used question based on  a phrase from the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book:
If you have decided you want what we have and are willing to go to any lengths to get it….
If you have decided you want to move into the area of your passion- or even just to be better at being who you are as a person, are you willing to go to whatever lengths are needed to get there?

Don’t worry. We don’t have to do it overnight.

So get out that horn and keep working.

The way you do your music is the way you do everything.

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