I recently read Malcolm Gladwell's new book, Outliers, the Story of Success. In it, he wonders why people are successful. It was an altogether interesting book, but the part I want to tell you about is the Beatles. Why were they so successful, when there were so many other bands around? I don't have the book with me, so I may get some of the details wrong, but the gist of it is this. Early on, the Beatles spent a couple years in Hamburg, and they performed there a lot. They played in front of audiences for as many as 8 hours at a stretch, and for days on end. That is one of the reasons for their success – practice. Of course there were other reasons, but their inordinately extensive practice in Hamburg allowed them to hone their skills in a way that other bands just didn't do. Their practice set them on the road to mastery.
That's why everything I suggest in this newsletter I refer to as practice. Because that's what it is. And as with the Beatles, the more you practice, the better you get. The one who practices has an edge. In the practices of this newsletter, you have an edge in the performance called life.
My sister wrote a book
Actually she's written a few books, she's a professor. This book, Caring as Tenacity: Stories of Urban School Survival, examines why some children, even children in dire circumstances, succeed in school while others don't. Again and again, she and her team of researchers found that children succeeded because someone in their lives was tenacious in paying attention to them. In one case, it was just the man who owned the corner store where a boy liked to hang out because his home was not a place he wanted to be. The storekeeper asked the boy every time he saw him if he'd done his homework. He was tenacious with that boy, for years reminding him to do his homework, and that boy was a successful student because of it.
Can you be tenacious on your own behalf? Ask yourself every day if you've done your practicing. Consider these newsletters as tenacious encouragement, practice what they suggest, surrender to the possibility they offer, let go, dive in, really do it, and see what happens.
Maybe I should start sending little daily encouragement notes. Hmmm... The Tenacity Notes?
Would you subscribe (free of course) to a daily sentence or two of encouragement? Let me know. It's an idea that just showed up now, as I was writing, so I'd have to think about it a bit, but please let me know what you think about it.
Or, having thought about it for 5 minutes – perhaps not daily, but how about frequently, at least weekly, and sometimes daily? Let me know.
Remember Ray Charles
I'm sure I've told you this before, but it's a story that bears repeating. Many years ago, long before Malcolm Gladwell, I heard a radio interview with Ray Charles. It was on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of his first recording. The interviewer asked him if he still practiced the piano. Of course, he answered, he goes to the studio every day to practice. Then she asked him if he practices the songs he will be playing in concert. He laughed, long and hearty and deep, and said no, he practices the scales. Every day he practices the scales, so that when he gets on stage his body, his fingers, will do what he asks of them.
Musicians know it
Over the years I've had several students who were musicians, and they all say the same thing – to be really good, to be as good as you can be, you have to practice a lot, you have to practice every day. A good enough musician who practices will be better than a gifted musician who doesn't. We all have abilities, but it's practice that turns those innate abilities into skills.
We are all here to live our life, to live it to the best of our ability. Awareness sets us on the path of becoming masters at living our own life. Awareness, and the choices it engenders, is a spiritual practice. What do you practice? How much do you practice? What will you make of this life of yours? Are you tenacious? Are you steadfast? Are you honing your abilities into skills? Are you reaching for mastery?
What to practice?
First of all, practice intentional breathing and drinking water. That's the basics, that's the scales. Like Ray Charles, practice the scales every day. What else are you practicing? Look through the past newsletters, find a suggestion that intrigues you, and go for it. Practice it a lot. Surrender to it. Take it on as your spiritual practice. Then let me know, let us all know, what you find.
Soon I will have a granddaughter (I already have 2 dear grandsons). When she comes, any day now, I will go to northern Minnesota to meet her. Also soon, if what the boss says really happens, which is always questionable, we will be moving from Louisville, Kentucky to Beulah, North Dakota for Deb's job. Hopefully the birth and the move will coincide. I have enjoyed Louisville, but it's getting too hot here for us. We're yearning for the northland.
Small world story
When I was in Texas, in my small-town winter home of Blanco, I happened to meet a woman in the cafe, an elderly woman, who grew up near Beulah. She'd moved away from North Dakota many decades ago to live in the southwest. I generally try to hold my Minnesota accent in check, because people in Texas, and even here in Louisville, think I am a visitor from Germany or Norway if I don't. (Really, people are convinced that English is not my first language!) But when I heard that this woman was from Beulah, I unleashed my accent, and she cried to hear it.
Ya, it was a wonderful thing, then.