Mixed Signals

Ok, let me come clean right at the beginning.  I should not be confused about this topic.  I am, after all, someone who gets paid to mentor, advise, teach, and supervise college students. I am not new to the job either.  Some  would  say that I am pretty good at my job too.  However, the truth is… I am sometimes as confused as many of the students are, maybe even more so, about the big questions.  The questions are like, “Should I go to college to study what I really enjoy or study a discipline that will allow me to make more money when I graduate?” (By the way, research shows that the advice given will vary depending on the person’s stage in life. Our perspectives change.)

Another question is related to the two objects in the photo at the top of this post. They are both on my desk at work. I bought one last summer in a hippie store in Boulder, Colorado.  I purchased the other one at a corporate bookstore, Barnes and Nobles.  They were bought about six months apart and when both were purchased, I thought, “How true!”  It wasn’t until I put them side by side, I discovered the problem.  I believe in both.  I wonder if I could arrange for some type of metaphysical debate between the two authors?

Live in your strength seems to me to be very wise advice from a very wise person.  I have watched many people spend time trying to improve in areas that, at best, they would be mediocre.  They spend their precious time pursuing mediocrity all at the expense of doing what they are really good at doing and also love doing.  I have seen more than one college student fail out of college because they selected a major that they were not prepared to pursue, they didn’t particularly enjoy, and they had little aptitude for it. I was one of those myself when I was guided into computer programming when they were still using punch cards to feed the programs at night. It was not my strength and I chose to spend my class time swimming in the American River in Northern California.  I got a very nice tan that was complimented with a 0.00 grade point average.

In my creative life, I LOVE the sound of a guitar.  I spent considerable amount of time trying to learn how to play the instrument only to never reach a level of competence that would be worthy of the time of a non-family member listener. In the middle of a guitar lesson a couple of  years ago, I told my guitar instructor, “You know, I am not progressing very quickly here.  I love to write songs.  Could I play a few for you?”  We now have spent our time together recording those songs and many others.  If I say so myself, my songwriting is much better than my song playing.  It has opened a new world of companions, worthy challenges, and an opportunity to think a little deeper about the connections of life.  If I hadn’t stopped the formal lessons, I would still be trying to learn a scale or how to grip a barr chord or how to play that dang fangled F chord with one finger on the first two strings. I never would have spent time at what I really like to do…write story songs about observations and feelings.

But,… life begins at the end of my comfort zone so says another wise person. Oh, where is that guitar? I need to practice, push myself, and stop doing what I am so comfortable at doing.  I am limiting myself.  Well, wait a minute…I did sing those songs that I wrote after years of being too self conscious and too self critical to sing in public.   I still cringe when I hear my voice on those tracks, but I made myself do it.  Why? I think because I believe life begins at the end of my comfort zone.  Singing is not my strength Lao Tzu, but I really needed to do it.  (By the way, the very same comments hold true for my golf game.)

So here I am, still confused.  Could they both be right?  Another wise person is quoted in the New Testament as saying, “When someone has been given much, much will be required in return.”  I guess this might be part of a solution to my dilemma.  Take your talents, take your strengths and commit yourself to fulfilling your possibilities in life.  Let someone else do what you are not good at doing. However, that doesn’t give us a free ticket to a life of mediocrity. That would just be laziness.  In fact, I think it holds us to an even deeper, maybe even a spiritual, commitment to our lives and supporting the lives of those around us.

I think I will keep those two sayings next to one another on my desk for awhile.  Maybe I need to learn more from the wisdom of the two.

Brielle DePatra is one of those incredible artists on Soundcloud.  She has posted some wonderful Christmas songs on her current page including Brielle DePatra ‘The Gift’.  I would recommend listening to all of her songs and then continue to follow her as she post her new tracks.  She seems to be spending her time using her strengths and getting out of her comfort zone which brings a lot of joy to people like me.

Take care,