I’m very grateful to report MeBuilding has exceeded the previous visit record set in April. The five most popular posts for May are:
Archive for May, 2010
Tags: achievement, attitude, belief, change, discovery, excellence, exploration, failure, focus, happiness, happy, help, life, living, mindset, passion, purpose, running, self, succeeding, success, truth
Tags: air force, army, country, dementia, duty, grandfather, grandpa, honor, love, marines, memorial day, memory
Flag-draped coffins are the currency of a heroic payment.
An email circulates from time to time honoring the armed forces for having written a “blank check…to the United States of America for an amount up to, and including, their life.”
Most who serve return home alive, though.
Regardless of whether they are bandaged or not, men and women who have seen combat are wounded.
Brains have been rattled in the pressure cooker of battle, shaken by horror and crushed under sadness.
War continues to withdraw from them throughout life.
They are asked to be husbands and fathers, wives and mothers. They become businessmen and policemen, preachers and teachers. In the years beyond their call to duty, their contribution is woven into that of the country as a whole.
Their passing occurs quietly as a largely oblivious world is unmoved by the death of the assimilated, forgetting the sacrifices they made and the valor of survival.
Those who’ve died in foreign lands under heavy fire deserve their place in the pantheon of American grit and glory. Let us not forget those robbed of their innocence and forced to fit into a world unable to comprehend their experience.
My grandfather’s “blank check” taxed him for sixty-plus years.
He witnessed disturbing deaths.
He had a woman kiss his muddy boots for simply letting her have some food.
He spent years required to fire a rifle into his infinite respect for the dignity of every human life.
The memories brought nightmares and tears each time.
But you hardly would have known.
He helped raise four children and owned an electronics shop, all the while demonstrating tireless commitment to integrity and service. As his family grew to include grandchildren, he became a whole new person.
He began sharing wisdom like “eating green beans will put hair on your chest.”
He pioneered the simple fun of laying on the floor and throwing a Nerf ball between rotating fan blades.
He made sure to show each child how to do a headstand in the corner of the living room.
He boosted multiple youngsters onto the bathroom counter and ensured all faces were covered with some fresh lather, then made sure everyone–not just he–left with a “clean shave.”
Then, we lost the soldier we hardly knew.
The things he wished so long to forget–the violence, the suffering–disappeared into a thickening fog of dementia. The bloodshed and terror faded away, taking with them his sense of humor and vitality.
The effervescent man became a shuffling shadow.
I write this to remind everyone of the heroism of survival, the value in returning from an unspeakable time in a fearful place and creating a legacy grander than what you left with.
Honor these men and women for the entirety of their work, as their days in uniform are usually short and their civilian lives–where they make the largest difference–relatively long.
We must never forget because they might not remember.
Tags: belief, excellence, happiness, happy, inspiration, life, living, mindset, music, passion, self, shakespeare, truth
The man that hath no music in himself, nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds, is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils. The motions of his spirit are dull as night…Let no such man be trusted.
William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, Act V, Scene i
Music–like all forms of art–is a gateway into the mind.
Through it, the soul calls forth the imagery of deep truth, recognizing itself in the mirror of common experience.
Melody elicits emotions far more ably than its cousins in creativity, so governed by images or words. Lacking the rigidity of prose or two-dimensional confinement of pictures, notes are able to float through the air, free to land in the brain with the force of a feather or cannonball.
My writings are compositions, symphonies of syllables in the manner of Bach or Mozart.
As I touch my fingers to the keys, I concern myself with arrangement, tone and rhythm. I command my instruments to give strength to my highest voice, that it might serenade you and stir your spirit to raise a hymn in reply.
Without a song in your heart, you’re unable to carry a tune to the world.
Made an instrument of another’s work, you’re a part of the orchestra instead of the conductor.
By playing under the direction of someone else, you’ve given away your greatest gift–you.
And thus, you cannot be trusted.
Tags: achievement, attitude, belief, discovery, excellence, focus, genius, happiness, happy, inspiration, john mayer, life, living, mindset, passion, purpose, succeeding, success
I enjoy windows into another’s creative process.
There is an unspoken kinship amongst humanity, a deep and constant knowledge begging to be expressed–and therefore recalled–in the outside world. Ultimately, each of us must find our own way to share the message with others and the opportunity to see how someone else bridges the gap between “ethereal” and “tangible” fascinates me.
Over the last decade, John Mayer has risen to fame on the wings of his lyrical agility.
Though checkered by an uneven relationship with his own celebrity I(and the press it attracts), his talent for producing tracks which give voice to the “quarter-life crisis” and its anxieties is unmatched.
Recently, America was given the opportunity to peer into his brain a little.
He took the stage in New York for VH1′s Storytellers and described his songwriting brainstorms during breaks from playing various parts of his catalog.
He alluded to a few bars that traipsed through his head for months. He would sit with his guitar and “play it for hours” without any real idea what it was for or how it could be used. It was just there, persistent and unyielding, for him to toy with and shape to his satisfaction.
Tinkering with a simple trill led to his second major hit, “Your Body is A Wonderland.”
Being a writer, I instantly identified with the uneasy feeling of groping in the dark corners of the brain armed only with the certainty something meaningful is there. For days afterward, Mayer’s revealing soliloquies wandered through my mind as I pondered his undemanding and unhurried playfulness while pursuing progress.
Then, I asked the right question.
“Why do you have to be any different?”
I felt a sense of relief. In an instant, “stop forcing it” calmed my jangling nerves. I thought, “You’re an arrogant ass, believing you have to write something perfect from the start.”
The moment was pure clarity—the lunacy of attempting to muscle an unprepared idea into something larger became unmistakable. It makes as much sense as polishing a diamond before you’re done digging it up.
How can you expect an exquisite outcome ahead of schedule?
Advancement is a series of short spurts.
Your ability to shine light on truth grows with time, as you grasp the magnitude of it.
It’s the way life has always worked.
When you strike out on the path focused on your own beliefs, faithful to the result, you are headed in the right direction.
Pace is irrelevant.
What matters is holding firm to your core values and being honest as you evaluate your performance, then correcting you course using subtle shifts.
This is how you attain the heights of your dreams.
Achievement is rooted in proceeding as yourself, guided by your principles to your ends. Patient adherence to the intuitive action plan oozing through your essence will always get you where you’re going.
And that’s how you succeed like John Mayer.
Tags: achievement, attitude, excellence, genius, help, inspiration, life, living, miles davis, mindset, relationships, succeeding, success
There can be little doubt our environments affect our performance.
Whether leading or being led, a situation’s confines guide results. Sometimes these boundaries foster imagination or, at others, conformity.
Success is driven by innovation.
In the history of music, there are a handful of albums which can be said to have redirected a genre. Kind of Blue by the Miles Davis Sextet is one of them. Considering his tendency towards minimal direction, the man at the helm in Columbia 30th Street studio must have known a simple fact:
Creativity is the byproduct of free thought.
Each performer was invited because he brought the requisite skill to the converted church on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Cannonball Adderley and John Coltrane both had skyrocketing reputations on the saxophone. Davis held Bill Evans’ work on the piano in high regard, often calling just to have the phone’s receiver laid beside his playing friend.
In order to squeeze the best from yourself, be surrounded by genius.
The brilliance produced throughout by every artist–each a virtuoso in his own right–makes it one of the finest musical achievements ever. Melody, tone and rhythm emanate from the instruments in exquisite harmony. The ensemble is at a peak, moving from note to note deftly before giving way to a counterpart.
Witnessing another reach heights of inventive ecstasy can only inspire you to do the same.
All this sprung from disjointed sketches and sparing guidance given to men of tremendous ability. Consciously or otherwise, Davis managed to change jazz by heeding the words of General George S. Patton:
Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.
Tags: beauty, genius, inspiration, miles davis, music, so what
I could listen to Miles Davis all day.
Passing my waking hours with my iPod looping the three-plus hours of his music through my ears would be a quiet pleasure.
Jazz is an art form capable of spanning the emotional spectrum quickly and the trumpeter from Illinois was adept at eliciting them all.
Davis’ popularity blossomed in 1957 after the release of critically-acclaimed Miles Ahead, the bebop-influenced Birth of the Cool (recorded in 1949-50) and his work on Ascenseur pour l’échafaud, setting the French film’s mood with sultry compositions like “Generique” .
The following year, he began experimenting with modal composition and worked it into his take on George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, as well as the studio-made Milestones.
Then, in 1959, Kind of Blue arrived.
Turning aside the complex chords of his past alongside Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker completely in favor of simpler scales, he produced a landmark in the history of recorded music. By unleashing the artist, he turned the genre on its ear.
The sextet on hand at Columbia 30th Street Studio included Davis and other luminaries of the time–Bill Evans, Cannonball Adderley and John Coltrane–roaming free across countless notes in unbridled improvisation.
With its smooth transition from indignant apathy to wistful romance, this is my favorite album of all time.
What makes it even more remarkable is the fact each of the five original tracks were produced with little in the way of direction or rehearsal. Davis was known to encourage expression and creativity by leaving his fellow musicians practically in the dark about the intended result of a session together.
The melodies are produced mostly by feel.
And that’s why I love it.
It’s all ingenuity, all the time.
Enjoy the opening song, “So What,” below.
Tags: achievement, action, attitude, balls, belief, excellence, life, living, mindset, passion, stupidity, succeeding, success
There’s a certain level of deafness required for great achievement.
When it comes time to make the leap from old habits to new ideas, voices must be silenced–your own or another or both.
An old friend reminded me of this a few days ago.
I smiled wide when this came across my Facebook news feed:
You can call it balls or you can call it stupidity. Today, I’m auditioning for the Omaha symphony, not because I think I can win, but because it’s a challenge I have not faced. Regardless of the result, this will be a positive in all aspects of my playing and in my career.
Success is a combination of having the guts to put yourself out there and the ability to “unknow” what might lead you to think you’re incapable.
Notice the boldness and resolve.
No matter your viewpoint, he grabbed the bull by the horns and went along for the ride. Mind you, he’s the most talented musician I’ve ever personally known and I’m certain getting a seat in any orchestra is within the range of his skills.
What is important to recognize here is the outcome taking a back seat to the effort.
The audacity of the risk succumbed to the necessity of pushing the limits.
Reasons the task was “too hard” evaporated.
“Why go?” became “Why not?”
Focus cleared the air of doubt and nothing remained but carrying out a dare made within.
The artist tuned his hearing only to the song of his heart and let the rest be damned.
And, by that, he succeeded.
Tags: achievement, action, archimedes, attitude, belief, change, excellence, focus, math, mathematics, mindset, passion, purpose, succeeding, success, work
Mathematics is the fundamental science of the universe.
The cosmos can be broken down into a series of complex formulas. Additions, subtractions, multiplications and divisions shape everything from planetary gravity to interpersonal relationships and all in between.
Our knowledge is the result of discerning the underlying combinations acting as root cause of our observable, testable reality.
Archimedes felt so certain of this truth, he declared:
Give me a lever long enough and a place to stand and I will move the entire earth.
According to this Greek, one of the leading scientists of his–or any–time, creating global change demands only two things:
1. A Place to Stand
In the equation of life, one must have core values. These beliefs are the solid footings of your mind driven deep into the bedrock of your purpose. Even as other systems fail, they remain to stabilize you.
When wind gusts slap your face, you’re unbent.
As waves of disappointment crash against you, you’re unmoved.
If the ground rumbles beneath your feet, you’re unshaken.
And you’re able to push back.
2. A Lever Long Enough
Regardless of your convictions’ strength, there comes a moment when action is required. The force of your faith must be applied over some distance with steady, passionate focus in whatever direction you choose.
Length here is primarily a function of time. Leverage builds as you continue exerting energy through challenges arising over hours, days, months or years. Monumental shifts are always the end product of tremendous persistence despite daunting odds.
Drive with all your might on the objective, brushing aside physical and mental fatigue.
It’s how movement happens.
Tags: achievement, attitude, belief, certain, certainty, confidence, convinced, doubt, focus, mindset
Doubt is a frightening companion.
Like an attention-starved child, it makes as much noise as you allow it to.
You do your best to ignore it.
Questions needle your delicate confidence.
“How can I do this?”
“Is there any way for me to succeed?”
“Am I in over my head?”
The venom increases, poisoning your mind.
“How did I think I could do this?”
“Is it me that’s incapable?”
“Am I too stupid?”
Suddenly, you’re paralyzed with fear.
You’re unable to display your talent, robbed of the opportunity to show off your hard-earned knowledge because reluctance opened the door for terror.
In the rush to find reasons you’re incapable, you’ve forget what you can do.
With proper management, though, uncertainty is a whisper against the wind.
Until you’re able to brush it aside, here are five steps to overcome that vile voice slithering into your ear:
1. Just say “No”
Though it’s natural to waver a few moments from time to time, halt the flow and avoid being overwhelmed. Catch your brain in the act of sliding on the downward spiral to prevent four or five raindrops from becoming a flood.
2. Play the part
Simply put, preparation is a key part of confidence. Taking the time to “practice” for your starring role–whether going over your lines or nailing down your movements–lays the foundation for exceptional acting instead of stage fright.
3. Execute strategy
Regardless of the challenge, you must carry out a plan of attack. Resolve to impose your tactics on a situation to the fullest extent–and find satisfaction in that, first and foremost.
Results are secondary to performance quality, especially early on.
4. Be patient
You’ve probably spent most of your life afraid the results you desire will be snatched up well before you’re able to attain them.
They’re your results. No one else can make them happen. Either you will or they won’t occur.
The mark of a great craftsman is the ability to hide mistakes in the finished product. Use your misjudgments and errors to improve your plan for each task further down the road.
Your steadfast persistence and smooth adaptability demand disbelief guess where you’ll be next. Eventually, you’ll be so far ahead, hesitation will be washed into the background.
And you’ll have silenced the stealthy tongue holding you back.
Tags: achievement, attitude, belief, believe, believing, certain, certainty, conviction, convinced, excellence, focus, happiness, happy, help, life, living, mindset, succeeding, success, truth
Twitter is a fascinating piece of the social media puzzle.
Filled with everything from high philosophy to inane drivel, it is an interesting window into the moment-to-moment attention of its millions of users. It allows the masses to engage celebrities, permits companies to track customer complaints and helps individuals to build fledgling businesses of various kinds all within 140 made-for-ADHD characters.
It’s almost like a search engine with a pulse.
For example, I often find quotations to add to my considerable collection flowing through my tweet stream. I began saving various thoughts from all sorts of luminaries almost a decade ago and have gathered 25+ pages worth over the years for use as inspiration across the spectrum of life’s experiences.
Yesterday, I had a “Duh!” moment when I saw this:
I wondered how such a simple, elegant truth escaped me for so long.
History–whether personal or global–is replete with examples of bedrock faith preceding visual confirmation.
Regardless of your outcome, there is always a mental component at play in the production of it.
This is the essence of self-fulfilling prophecy.
Deep-seeded ideas blossom into the fruits of your labor, whether sweet or sour. Despite what you profess with your tongue, the activity of your imagination–positive or negative–drives you on.
As Steve Jobs said, “The vision pulls you.”
Look at Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
Can you feel the conviction in his voice?
Something so strong is more than heard, it is experienced. Your soul stirs under the force of his passion, your heart swells with the recognition of a glorious future–and breathes life into it.
“If you want to be convincing, you must be convinced,” goes the old saying.
You have to know there’s a better place you’ll reach through the constancy of your effort, a mountain you’ll climb by single-minded perseverance for the greater good.
In the tough times, it may be all that keeps you going.
Such certainty mutates your DNA.
The mission becomes central to your being.
You transform into a fountain of passion and purpose.
The depth of your confidence–and your inspired action–blows open the door between “possibility and probability,” shrinks the distance between “likely” and “accomplished” and turns “fantasy” into “reality.”
And you’ve taken the first step towards “there” from “here.”