Branding | Creativity | Life

Category: Advice (page 2 of 2)

Why I’m Glad I Broke My Guitar.

I’ve been trying to learn guitar for years. I’d  pick it up, learn for a stretch, get into it, stop making progress, forget about it, lose my callouses Rinse and repeat. When Covid hit, I had more time and decided to, once again,  take another stab at learning the guitar. Fender made this easy by offering all of us shut-ins free lessons.

A few weeks in I was still at it, and decided I wanted to try and  change the strings on my favorite guitar. I’d never done it by myself before, so I asked Olivia, my oldest daughter, if she wanted to do it with me. She’s getting older and, though still a couple of years away from college, I already see the writing on the wall and sometimes feel pre-wistful about her eventual departure. I may be Superman to the outside world, but my girls are my Kryptonite, so whenever I get a chance to spend time with them, I carpe that diem.

Anyway, she said sure, we sat down on the floor, pulled up a You Tube video, and got to the step-by-step work of replacing the strings.

Just me and her trying to figure it out. Laughing, talking…just being. It was simple and effortless and breathtakingly fulfilling in the way that only maybe a parent can understand. At one point we couldn’t loosen one of the bridge pins that hod the strings down. I tried to use a pin-puller tool, slipped, and put a pretty good ding in the top of my otherwise near-perfect Guild D50.

No, not a hole, but, well...Aaargh!

“It’s alright” I said, and we got back to the business of changing the strings. And talking and listening and learning and just just having great time together, me and my 16-year-old buddy.

Finally we finished, tuned up, gave each other a fist bump, eventually put it back in the case, and left.

A few day later Olivia asked me if I was going to get the ‘ding’ fixed. I shrugged “I don’t know” I said.

Later that night I pulled it out to play and ran my fingertip over that chip in the finish. But when I looked at it all I could see, and feel, and relive was a great, warm, fun time with my daughter.

Not a now-imperfect  guitar. Not a ham-handed mistake that I regretted. Nope, that ding will remain forever, because every single time I think about it, or see it, a smile comes to my face.

I will never fix it.

As a brand copywriter and strategist, a lot of my time is spent shaping perception. One thing I’ve learned is that the meaning we assign to things is, in large part, more real than the objective thing in and of itself. Long story short, we have a choice about how we see the world. How we respond to everything that affects us. And how we feel.

We can choose to define something as good or the bad by what we associate with it. The meaning we choose means everything.

How we choose to see becomes our truth. Our truth becomes our Life. And our Life can be made better or worse, painful or joyful as a result.

When we remember this, even in these odd times, we realize we have all of the power to be happy or otherwise.

Every time I pull out my guitar, I see that chip in the finish. And I smile.

Choose wisely.

The Antidote – A Poem For 03/28/20

Everyone Breathless in Panicky State
Is there nothing to do now but just Sit and Wait?

And to TV and Phone
Check for Constant Update?

To Confirm More Bad News,
Addict’s Itch must we Sate?

Forget not that all ‘News’
Is not Kind Service Free

But most Business of Profit,
That gains each time we See.

For each Tidbit or Promise
Or Lead they do Tease

Brings more Money to Them,
But to Us more Unease.

In a country of Millions
Are thousands Infected,

And while Prudence is Wise
Still to Fear we’re Directed

No, I Do Not make Trivial
This Dire Heath Threat,

But also do Caution
World’s End is Not Yet!

‘Twas just Few Weeks Ago
You said ‘I Need a Break’

And while NOT one like This
Still Advantage should Take!

Yes, This Too Shall Pass –
Yes it Certainly Will

And when does Don’t Be One
Who asks ‘Why’d I Sit Still?’

Yes I Hope that you’re Healthy
And Hope You Are Well,

But Caution you Not
To Fall under Fear’s Spell.

No, I Do Not Belittle
What we’re Going Through,

But how You Respond
Still Remains Up To You!

Remember All Those ‘Things’
Always ‘Want To Get To’?

That ‘If Only Had Time’
You Wanted To Do?

Guess What? You’ve time NOW
But Forever t’won’t Last

And Soon, I Do Hope,
This ‘Stop Time’ will have Passed!

So let’s All Take a Breath
See this Unwanted Gift

Of a Break in Routine
Chance to Take Stock and LIft

Your Future Life to
Better Place You CAN See

You’ve Time Now to Take Steps
Toward you YOU Want To BE!

Every Day, Even Now
Presents Each with a Chance

To Sit on Sidelines
Or Partake in The Dance!

I do Urge you the Latter
If Music you Hear,

And if NOT do Suggest
That You Q-Tip your Ear!

Make the Most of this Time
It Won’t Always Be Here

Know that Seeds you Plant Now
Will Bloom later This Year

To come from this State
Might seem There’s Nothing Good…

But with Courage and Purpose
Say I Something Could!

So Turn Off Those Screens
That Bring Fear Through the Air,

And Remember Action’s ALWAYS
Antidote to Despair!

Why You Can’t Get It Done – A Poem

When there’s a small thing
That’s been weighing on you

A task that you know
That you simply must do

One task in The Past
Perhaps you’d not embrace

But still needed to do
In your great Career Race

Yes a small and dull part
Of All that you do

When the much Larger part
Was to your own heart True

Back then you could do it;
‘Twas quick; you were done

And Free once again
To Pursue what was Fun

But now once-tiny thing
That with Ease could complete

Seems an out-of-reach Deadline
You cannot quite meet

A small taunting thing
With intent to Elude

You as if slippery,
Or does oil exude

You see now Time has passed
And that Unwanted task

Seems to be, more and more,
From you All that they ask

That ‘So-Not-You’ thing
That now smothers your day

Qualify to yourself:
‘It’s a Price I Must Pay’

And that hopeful career
That once brought you to life

Deep inside, loathe admit,
Brings just Wither and Strife

You Deny and say
‘Well I’m sure things will get better’

But over time sense
To Wrong Path, you’re now Fettered

No you no longer Leap
From your bed every day

But now Will yourself up
And go Just for The Pay

And though Dark it may seem
Hopeless Fear-Frantic Rut

I offer you Hope
In the form of a But

But maybe consider
The thing that they ask

That ‘just-not-you’ thing
(And now Primary Task)

May hold critical clue
Why upsets you so Deep

And may just Reveal
From Yourself secrets Keep!

See, if after some Time
Daily Smile’s mere Mask

And Heart never In-Step
With those things that They ask

Know if that is the case,
Well All parties do lose

And Clear Signal to You
That New Path you Must Choose

For the worst thing to do,
Once Inside you Do know

Is to let Fear Of Change
Force you same line to tow

Yes that pesky Task-Battle
That just can’t be won?

Could be  great flashing sign
That’s it’s YOU who are Done!

You say NO! You React!
‘No this simply can’t Be!’

But your pushback is Futile;
Truth Cannot One Unsee.

Yes this Race you’ve run well,
But now cannot be won

It’s Okay, Walk Away
Leave Old Shade, Find New Sun

Yes, now Gather your things,
And Bid All Kind Adieu,

Know that Everything Changes,
And Know That Includes YOU.

The Key to Sustainable Peace and Fulfillment, or How to Become So Much Less in 2020

How did you get to where you are? If you’re in a good place, and generally happy, you probably don’t think about this sort of thing, and good for you!

But if you’re somewhere on the spectrum between blandly-existing-and-not-too-happy-about-it and holy-crap-if-I-don’t-do-something-about-my-miserable-existence-I’m-going-to-explode, well, this post is for you.

I’ve been working on my own life quite a bit lately (and to be honest, like most of us,  for years in some way or another), and somewhere between existential navel-gazing and more focused journaling to figure out my next steps, I think I’ve found at least one key that will unlock maybe one lock on the path to – or even better, path of –  fulfillment and peace.  And no, I didn’t say happiness; in my experience, the state of being happy, though welcome, is an ephemeral sort of thing, and maybe simply a by-product of being fulfilled and at peace, regardless of circumstance.

That latter part – fulfillment and peace – is what I’m shooting for. And what I’m hoping that, by sharing, I can help some other folks find their way to as well.

Anyway, here’s something I’ve learned that might help you: as we go through life, over time we kind of accumulate lots of things.  When we’re young and start out fresh, we run mostly on instinct and curiosity – and that’s a great thing.  We keep it simple and naturally pursue only those things that interest us and, maybe more importantly, energize us.  We’re pretty lean and unencumbered, in-motion and fueled by the energy of momentum and genuine interest in the world around us. We’re restless with ‘what-if’, and grow fidgety when we have to slow down or stop. When we’re young, we are simple and basic and true.

Having lived through childhood, some of that is rose-colored glasses stuff; it certainly wasn’t easy, just easy to see it that way from a later, more experienced perspective.  But there is truth to the power and fulfillment of the ‘lean’ approach – the not overthinking, trust-your-gut and just do it choices of your youth, because they worked.

Problem is, over time, life gets in the way.

In my case, it’s always been the saying yes to things that’s gotten me in the most trouble.  My motivation is typically either because someone asked me, and I’m wired to tilt at windmills, or — especially more recently over the past decade or so, and with the growing demands of caring for a family and employees and running a small business — our of FEAR.  Take the money as long as you’re doing no harm. Bills to pay, mouths to feed…it’s an easy justification.

But when you do this, you are doing harm.  To yourself.  But unlike a useful and immediate pain response – like take your hand off the hot stove, dummy – this type of harm is considerably more insidious.  The damage happens over time, and by the time you finally figure it out (journaling helps with that, btw), you’ve got a real and complicated problem on your hands.

When you keep taking things on that aren’t aligned with your genuine interests, talents, or passions, you are growing bigger and slower and more encumbered. You’re like a snowball that keeps rolling along, picking up twigs and stones and rocks and garbage until you reach a point where you no longer resemble snow at all – just a rough and immobile pile of unrecognizable things, most of which are not you at all.

At a certain point, you become too big to move. There is no energy to you. And the real you is buried inside.

The good news is that last bit: you’re still in there.  But you have to unbury.  You need to unearth that genuine and entombed bit of you that, when you consult your own inner voice — you know, the one that you ignore, but that’s ALWAYS right and that you’re generally too chickenshit to act on – tells you the exact thing you must do, and the path that you must take.  The one that is natural to you, and aligned with your interests and talents and just feels right.

You know that path, that one you don’t overthink – or even consider, but just ‘do’. And when you do, time disappears. THat’s the one you have to dig out.  And muster up the courage to walk.

Yes, reality is reality. You’re not going to return to childhood, and probably really don’t want to.  You have responsibilities and they’re quite real.  I get that – I have them too.

But you ALSO owe it to yourself and your family and the world to be the best version of yourself, and this is how you start: you chip away.

That mass of everything you’ve said yes to over the long haul – that thing that is big and immobile and sedentary and sad and that can’t even bear its own weight anymore – that thing needs to get smaller.  And it gets smaller by willfully discarding all of those things that are not you, and by saying no to even the seemingly best opportunities and possibilities that are not aligned with those few simple things that you really are. It is like a sculptor chipping away at a block and removing all of those things that are not the exact thing they want to realize. When successful only the Art remains, nothing else.

This is not easy. It requires mindfulness, courage, skill and spine. It is a daily practice, but like a sensible diet should not be an extreme or overwhelming one. More of a lifestyle change that reveals its benefits over time.

Yesterday I was offered a new and lucrative opportunity. But I am busy and, more importantly, yearning toward the new, not the more of the same. And as this new opportunity has nothing to do with writing, creativity, brand communications, strategy, helping others or, as Neil Gaiman so aptly put it, will allow me to “Make Good Art“, I will pass.  Someone else is a better fit for this. And yes, I could use the money.

But I will say no, politely, to this one.  Because I already have too many rocks and sticks on my snowball.

And I really want to see just the snow again 😉