The Hard Work Factor in Making It

hard-workIf you stop by The Upside often, you’ll know that over the past number of years, I’ve mentored  young leaders..  During one particular period, a handful of guys in their twenties met with me and we discussed leadership, family, career and steps to success.  They were inspiring and invigorating meetings.

A couple of these men work between ninety and one hundred hours a week.

No, that wasn’t a typo.

90-100 hours every week, holding down multiple jobs.

You simply cannot expect to advance in your career, increase your income and become exceptional in your vocations and avocations without putting time into them.  A lot of time.

There are no shortcuts.  Those who are “getting rich quick” with cheap moneymaking schemes will eventually lose.  Being clever is not necessarily the mark of being a professional.  Nor is it a benchmark of character.

These guys earn my respect.  They are putting out to get ahead for their families—multiple jobs, college and vocational schooling.  And they carve out a couple of hours each week to meet and be challenged.

I’ve long admired the cultural, economic and vocational achievements of the Jewish people.  Jews make up one fifth of one percent of the world’s population and yet have won about twenty-two percent of all Nobel Prizes awarded since 1901.

This is due in part to a sober understanding that to get ahead and make an impact in the world takes an enormous amount of focus and hard work over many years.  The Jewish people have understood this as well as any people group in history.

God initially set the bar for humanity when He said, “Six days you shall labor and do your work.  The seventh is a Sabbath (rest) to the Lord your God.”  The Hebrew day was a twelve hour day.  Over a six-day period, that comprises seventy-two hours (no, I didn’t say forty).

There are no shortcuts.

I left our meeting challenged by the lifestyle of my colleagues.  How much would my skills as a writer and a musician improve—exponentially—if I worked ninety plus hours each week (including my forty-hour day job)?

How much indeed?

Time to get at it.

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“The Geese and the Ghost”…And Its Influence

geese-and-the-ghostHave you ever found something that has been hidden in plain sight for years and you simply didn’t know it was there?  And then kicked yourself saying, “How did I miss this?”

I did a few years ago.  Anthony Phillips, one of the original members of Genesis.  I found him in an oblique way.  And I’m delighted I did.

Thirty-four years ago I was a young guitarist, taking lessons, playing in bands and dreaming of one day becoming a rock star.  My guitar teacher turned me on to a guitarist I’d never heard of—Phil Keaggy.  My teacher had a handful of albums by Phil.  I fell in love with The Master and the Musician.  Fingerstyle, jazz, classical, rock, medieval, Celtic.  It has it all.  Phil’s palette is multifaceted and displays many hues.  It remains my favorite instrumental album.

What I did not know at the time was that there were two weighty things influencing Phil Keaggy’s creativity during the  period in which the pieces on The Master and the Musician were composed.

First, Phil and his wife, Bernadette, had lost five children due to premature birth difficulties during the mid ‘70’s.  One can’t even imagine their sorrow.  Phil channeled the pain of these terrible losses into his music.  (This, according to Bernadette in her book, Losing You Too Soon.) This was the difficult season in which the pieces that comprise The Master and the Musician had their genesis.

Second, Phil had been listening to Anthony Phillips’ brilliant album The Geese and the Ghost during this period.  A friend turned him on to it.  Phil unquestionably has his own voice and creativity—he’s recorded over fifty albums now—but you can detect flavoring from his enjoyment of this fascinating recording.

The Geese and the Ghost is primarily instrumental.  There are a few vocal pieces, all winsome, featuring Phil Collins among others.  The album has a certain otherworldly, at times medieval, vibe.  Brilliant, cascading 12-string guitar work.  Multiple overdubs.  Oboes, recorders, mellotrons, synthesizers, strings.  And lots of guitars.  It will take you to another place.

We all tend to be composites of our influences and that is a beautiful thing.  Who has influenced you, artistically or otherwise?

Buy The Geese and the Ghost as well as The Master and the Musician, both available through the iTunes Store.  See what you’ve been missing.

The Value of Difficulty

Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:17-19)

Problems.  Difficulties.  Challenges.  Tough situations.

Do these serve any other purpose besides stressing us out and making our lives chronically and acutely unhappy?

When our first parents ate the forbidden fruit from the tree God set off-limits, it plunged the human race into an existence where work no longer was sheer joy.  Work became, well, work.

We’re not told what kind of fruit they ate.  We don’t know that it was an apple.  We only know that the eating of it produced undesirable consequences.

Is there more than just misery as a result of this?

There is.  God told man the ground was cursed for his sake.  Other translations say, “Cursed is the ground because of you.”  There are some very helpful things that issue from this as we approach our the work of our lives.

  • Work became difficult.  But it is this very difficulty that helps us grow and learn to solve problems.  This very difficulty acts as resistance to develop muscle in us.
  • Work became a more time-consuming pursuit to grant yield.  This helps us 1) stay out of trouble because a long week’s worth of work tires us out and 2) it gives us appreciation for a job well exerted and well done.
  • The work in our fallen world teaches us our reliance upon God and the consequences of bad choices.  When you experience difficulty that issues from this state of things, it is a reminder to do the right thing.

Nobody enjoys stress, but it can work in one’s favor.  Leverage and grow from it!

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Hobbies

Bill Hybels, pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in suburban Chicago—one of the nation’s largest, recalls a time in the late 1980’s when the church was experiencing unbelievable growth.  This growth taxed him and his staff in a big way.

Eventually Bill reached a breaking point.  Burned out.   Letting fly on his colleagues in an unprofessional and inexcusable way.  He needed help.

He’d been urged by friends to get counseling.  Ego caused him to balk at this until he could take no more.  He went to a counselor.

One of the first questions his counselor asked was, “Bill, what do you do for relaxation?”

“That’s easy.  Nothing.”

“This has to change.”

He urged Bill to find an outlet.  Recreation.

A hobby.

As a younger man, Bill loved sailing.  But, worried about the disapproval of parishioners, he didn’t pursue it.  What will people think if their pastor buys a sailboat?

He decided to let the critics think what they may and bought an old sailboat.  He remodeled it and made it seaworthy.  Then he formed a sailing team and entered regattas.

It has been a godsend for him and he’s had the time of his life.

Everyone needs a hobby.  I’m a musician and an audiophile, so mine happens to be collecting records.  33&1/3 vinyl albums.  The sound is better.  The artwork is outstanding.  And I can get treasures on the cheap.  It is quintessentially cool.

I’ve just begun a rather long vacation, the longest in years.  I plan to indulge my hobby as I hit thrift stores and some record stores as well.  I have a few in my sights (“From Genesis to Revelation” by Genesis and “The Geese and the Ghost” by Anthony Phillips).  It is an adventure.  Recent acquisitions: “Dreamboat Annie” by Heart and “The Rose” Original Soundtrack to the Motion Picture

How do you relax?  Tell us about your hobbies.

Enjoy!

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Geese, Ghosts, Influence and Keaggy

Have you ever found something that has been hidden in plain sight for years and you simply didn’t know it was there?  And then kicked yourself saying, “How did I miss this?”

I did this past year.  Anthony Phillips, one of the original members of Genesis.  I found him in an oblique way.  And I’m delighted I did.

Thirty-two years ago I was a young guitarist, taking lessons, playing in bands and dreaming of one day becoming a rock star.  My guitar teacher turned me on to a guitarist I’d never heard of—Phil Keaggy.  My teacher had a handful of albums by Phil.  I fell in love with The Master and the Musician.  Fingerstyle, jazz, classical, rock, medieval, Celtic.  It has it all.  Phil’s palette is multifaceted and displays many hues.  It remains my favorite instrumental album.

What I did not know at the time was that there were two weighty things influencing Phil Keaggy’s creativity during the  period in which the pieces on The Master and the Musician were composed.

First, Phil and his wife, Bernadette, had lost five children due to premature birth difficulties during the mid ‘70’s.  One can’t even imagine their sorrow.  Phil channeled the pain of these terrible losses into his music.  (This, according to Bernadette in her book, Losing You Too Soon.) This was the difficult season in which the pieces that comprise The Master and the Musician had their genesis.

Second, Phil had been listening to Anthony Phillips’ brilliant album The Geese and the Ghost during this period.  A friend turned him on to it.  Phil unquestionably has his own voice and creativity—he’s recorded over fifty albums now—but you can detect flavoring from his enjoyment of this fascinating recording.

The Geese and the Ghost is primarily instrumental.  There are a few vocal pieces, all winsome, featuring Phil Collins among others.  The album has a certain otherworldly, at times medieval, vibe.  Brilliant, cascading 12-string guitar work.  Multiple overdubs.  Oboes, recorders, mellotrons, synthesizers, strings.  And lots of guitars.  It will take you to another place.

We all tend to be composites of our influences and that is a beautiful thing.  Who has influenced you, artistically or otherwise?

Buy The Geese and the Ghost as well as The Master and the Musician, both available through the iTunes Store.  See what you’ve been missing.