Remembering Your “Why”

My father recently found an archival audio recording of my Masters degree recital.  You can listen to it here and read some of my thoughts below, if you’d like.

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Life has spun an unexpected journey in many ways since I performed that recital.  As I listened to the program on my commute earlier today, it occurred to me that the recital represented life lessons I’ve learned more deeply and reminded me of my true inspirations.  It is so easy in the grind of life to forget your “Why” or what drives you to achieve, serve and contribute.  I suggest doing whatever you can to remember your “Why” each day, each month, each year.  My path has changed many times, forcing me to adapt, but even at each turn there are some things that I realize now have been steadfast:

1. No Single Label – This 50 minute recital program had music spanning over 200 years and representing five different countries.  More so, the character of each piece expressed something very different but no one piece expressed everything.   I have realized as I’ve grown older that the quality of my life is the combination of many roles I play, but no one role defines me completely.   Each person is equally multi-faceted and that is why building relationship requires work to see and value all parts of that person.

2. Discipline is Freedom – The works on this recital program were not easy.  They took months of preparation on my part and I mapped out on a calendar how exactly I was going to learn the music in the prescribed time.  (I even had to learn how to make a completely different reed for the Xenakis that could play the multi-phonics and super high F-sharp.)  As I listen to the performances now, the atmosphere of each piece sounds so free even though I remember all the methodical work I put in.  Freedom comes from the hard work we put in to life.

3. No Regrets – I can hear a note crack or at times not even come out during this recital.  These are usually at points where I was risking trying to play too loud or too soft.  Every time there was a disruption, I kept going – almost like it didn’t happen.   Hearing the boldness in my playing to the point of risk was something that made me smile.  At the time of this recital (2004) and at the time of this post (2018), I had gone through some very difficult times in my personal life.  My reaction then was the same as it is now: get back up, be bold and work hard towards a new goal. Always commit 100%, don’t regret – learn and move forward.  There was something rather comforting knowing that part of me hasn’t changed even after all these years, and I am inspired by my 25 year-old self.

4. Collaboration and Community – Both this recital and my Bachelors degree recital included several musicians.  It strikes me now that I have always loved to collaborate with others.  I am energized by their contributions and life is more meaningful together.  As I’ve grown older, I have had to be intentional about keeping a community around me.  That community energizes and inspires me.  That community has also held me upright in challenging times.  Life is more meaningful together.

There was something altogether magical about listening to my old recital.  I don’t say that to be vain or pat myself on the back.  It was a strong connection and reminder of a very vibrant version of myself.  I am sure that life will continue to bring unexpected turns, each twist requiring me to respond.  I will stumble, I will fall.  But I will also try to remember the “Why” I adopted many years ago: work hard, express deeply to truly connect, gather together and serve those around you.







How To Train for Personal Crisis

This article was originally published on Echelon Front’s Platoon Hut website.

At some point in your life, you will deal with a personal crisis: death of a loved one, serious medical diagnosis, divorce, job loss. These extreme times can be incredibly stressful, disorienting and crippling. We cannot anticipate when we will be hit, but we can train now and be better equipped to navigate those challenges.  

There are four commitments you can make now to prepare for an unforeseen crisis. Strengthening these now will provide you with the foundation you need later:

  • Work hard to become an effective leader.  Have a relentless attitude about learning to implement the 4 Laws of Combat (Cover and Move, Simple, Prioritize & Execute, Decentralized Command).  Never be satisfied that you have it all figured out and pursue improvement every day. A crisis is the wrong time to start preparing. Prepare now and you will have the tools to begin getting back on your feet once the storm hits.
  • Build relationship with everyone you meet. Each day, you will have opportunities to build trust or break it. Commit to building relationship with everyone you meet. When we build relationship, we become better parents, spouses, friends and coworkers. When the crisis hits, those people will be there for you.
  • Practice gratitude. Be thankful for what you have. When relationship, health, possession, or job is taken from you, you will see how sacrifice and loss can still lead to opportunity. You will find light in the darkness.
  • Always have a mission.  As leaders, practice setting and achieving goals both big and small. When crisis hits, our new mission can be very apparent: survival. As we emerge from crisis we will likely need to define a new mission. When you have already practiced setting and achieving goals, identifying even the smallest new mission will be impact your ability to stand up, move forward and make the most of your new life.