I’ve been a big fan of experimental jazz/jam band Medeski Martin and Wood for while now…great music to write to by the way. In any case, the Wood Brothers is a folky blues band that features MMW bassist Chris Wood and his brother Oliver. One thing I think you’ll notice and appreciate is the sound of Chris Wood’s standup bass which really gives their music a nice groove. The song featured today is a cover of the popular Allman Brothers tune. It’s a big more mellow, but I really dig their interpretation and hope you do too. Have a great weekend!
Archives for January 2011
About a year ago, I had the good fortune to witness an amazing Pecha Kucha presentation from Maria Scileppi about her Peoplescape project. I later featured Maria and interviewed her about her life-changing project (check out Peoplescape pt. 1 and Peoplescape pt. 2). Now, a year later, I became aware that her presentation was captured on video.
I realize this video might be a little long, but I really believe it’s worthy of your attention. One thing I was impressed with when I talked to Maria was the amount of preparation and rehearsal that went into it – approximately 60 hours.
As someone who gives presentations through my Toastmasters group – and enjoys the spirit and energy of improvisation, I often wrestle with how much time I need to prepare a speech. I think you’ll see here how Maria’s preparation enables her to tell a better story and have a greater impact on her audience. Enjoy and have a great weekend!
“Is your life a living hell?
Change your act, re-write the script the way you planned it”
– The Fixx, from the song Privilege
I was first introduced to the idea of life being like a story on the Fixx’s 1982 album, Reach the Beach. I was a young, impressionable teenager and in addition to the music, I analyzed and soaked up the lyrics which were printed on the back of the album. Those words always struck me as interesting but I’m not sure I thought about it too much of it until recently.
Last week, I finished Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. If you haven’t read it, you can read Chris Brogan’s video review and Lori’s thoughts on the book. If you’ve reviewed or read the book, I invite you to include a link or review in the comments section below. I don’t want to turn this post into a review, but I will say I was blown away by Miller’s book and really enjoyed his take on living our lives as characters in one big story.
And much like characters in books and movies, we love to see these characters overcome large problems and obstacles to find happiness. Miller stresses, however, that our lives don’t always offer a nice, neat resolution to our problems. But he encourages us to live with more courage and excitement…much like we’d want the characters in our stories to live.
But the thing that I love the most about the book is how it has helped me re-frame the way I look at problems and challenges in my life. Instead of feeling like “woe is me,” I’m realizing that these challenges and obstacles are an opportunity to really learn and grow…to become a character in life that evolves and becomes a better person as a result of these challenges.
The idea of living life as characters in one big story may not be a new one – but this book tackles this idea better than any I’ve read.
How about you…as screenwriter of your life, how would you write the script for the next chapter in your life? How would you overcome your present-day challenges?
Creative commons photo courtesy of Horia Varlan.
I first read Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Wherever You Go There You Are back in the mid to late 90’s. It was one of those books that opened my mind to the idea of mindfulness and it soon became one of my favorite books. Having gathered some dust over the years, I decided to re-read the book to see if it was still up there as one of my favorites.
I’d have to say, easily, that it still is.
“What’s the big deal about mindfulness?” you may ask.
First off, I am amazed how the simple act of focusing on your breath can have a calming effect. Through the years, focusing on my breath has helped me stay more calm when driving in rush-hour traffic, flying and during moments of stress at work. Focusing on my breath has also helped me to better focus on the present moment and helped me forget some of my anxieties.
The book is broken into three sections.
First, The Bloom of the Present Moment introduces us to mindfulness and gives us a bit of historical perspective.Â We’re reminded of how important mindfulness is to to Buddhism and how we can find its influence in the works of Thoreau, Emerson and Whitman.Â We also learn that mindfulness is about letting go, non-doing and non-judging among other things.
The second section, The Heart of Practice, focuses on meditation and some of the ways we can practice our mindfulness.Â We learn that by focusing on our breath throughout our day, we can meditate while we walk, sit or lie down.Â Zinn provides some great suggestions for meditation including my favorite, the Mountain Meditation.Â In it, we can use images of mountains to help us practice stillness and help us feel more rooted to the earth (or wherever we are).Â Most importantly to me, Zinn reminds us that there is no one “right way” to meditate.
The third section, In the Spirit of Mindfulness, focuses on how we can apply mindfulness in our everyday lives.Â It explores topics like karma, anger and parenthood.Â While I am not a parent, Zinn’s chapter on using mindfulness in raising kids and becoming a better parent is one of my favorites in the book.Â I really like how he describes parenthood as an opportunity to practice and learn, which reminds me that any challenging situation in our lives is an opportunity to learn.
I also like the quotes that are sprinkled throughout the book.Â These nuggets of wisdom from figures such as The Dalai Lama, Lao-Tzu, Thoreau and Gandhi provide additional insight and give the book an almost poetic feel.
There are plenty of books out there that explore the topic of living in the present moment.Â I’d have to put Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Wherever You Go There You Are right at the top.
How about you…do you practice mindfulness in your daily life?
Combine guitar players from early versions of both Genesis and Yes and you get one of the 80’s greatest supergroups – GTR. The band features Yes’ Steve Howe and former Genesis guitar player Steve Hackett. Being the guitar nerd that I was, I saw this band play Chicago’s Riviera Theater with couple buddies in the summer of 1986 and it was one of my earliest and favorite concert memories. “The Hunter” is probably my favorite song off that album and has a haunting bassline combined with a dated 1980’s sound. This is good ol’ classic rock at its finest. I hope you have a great weekend and enjoy…
This month’s RAOKA (Random Acts of Kick Arse) topic is simplicity. Each month a new theme is explored. To get involved, please visit Positive Provocations.
Let’s face it – we live in an incredibly complex world filled with more choices and more demands than ever. In addition, we now have access to more information than ever which can lead to information overload in our brains. Which is why I love the RAOKA topic for January – simplicity.
If you’re like me, you can sometimes make things more complicated than they are. I remember, several years ago, a co-worker of mine stopped into my office to tell me that I tended to ramble on too long in my voice mail messages to her. There was a part of me that felt offended that she brought this up to me. My ego wanted to say, “shut up!” But I soon began to think of our conversation as a gift. It made me realize that I tend to make these voice mails more complicated than I needed to. I needed to practice simplicity in my correspondence.
Which got me to thinking: all of us do things in many different ways and areas to make our lives a little less simple. A few examples:
- Putting too much copy/too many words on PowerPoint slides
- Talking too long in our speeches, presentations and stories
- Having too much clutter or too many ads on our blogs (is the money you’re making worth the annoyance to your readers?)
- Multi-tasking – are you doing any one task well or are you doing five things sort of good?
- Work projects – are you providing more details and information than is needed to complete a project? Are you too detail-oriented?
- Holding onto too much stuff in our closets or storage at home
- Surrounding ourselves with too much stuff and clutter at our desks
- Not organizing our e-mails into folders
My simple suggestions to simplify our lives is to first become aware of the many ways we make life more complicated. Then make positive changes. Believe me, I’m no expert and I’m guilty of many of the above areas. But, I’m getting better at realizing how I can sometimes make life more complicated.
I’m beginning to realize I like a clean, sometimes minimal design style. I like a clean coffee table with only limited amounts of coffee table books. I enjoy presenters who stay on topic and on time. I like my counter space in my kitchen clean at all times.
Yes, life can get complicated and messy – there’s no doubt about it. But yet, if we can become aware of how we sometimes make it that way – it can be simplicity amazing!
How about you…how do you make your life more complicated than it needs to be?