Category Archives: Persistence

Huey Lewis has lost his hearing, now what?

Huey Lewis was in Dallas January 2018, heading to the stage with his long-time band the News when he says, “I heard this huge noise. It sounded like warfare was going on in the other room. I yelled, ‘What is that?’ They said, ‘It’s just Pat, the opening act.’ I put in my in-ear [monitors] in and couldn’t hear anything.” Once the opening song began, “I thought the bass amp had blown a speaker,” he says. “I just heard this horrible noise and I couldn’t find pitch or even hear myself. It was an absolute nightmare. The worst thing. Just horrible.” This was not new for Lewis. In 1987, at the height of his Top 40 success, something happened in his right ear. “I felt like I had been in a swimming pool and my ear was full,” he says. “I couldn’t shake it out or pop my ears. I went to all kinds of doctors and an EMT finally said to me, ‘Get used to it.’ I said, ‘Get used to it? I’m a musician!’” He got used to it. Now, thirty years later, this – the other ear. “I was suicidal,” he says. “There was literally a roaring tinnitus in my head. I just laid in bed. There was nothing I could do. I’d just lay in bed and contemplate my demise.” Would you rather win the lottery or go for a walk every day for a year? Everybody says the lottery, right? It’s smarter to take the walk. It turns out that we adjust as humans relatively quickly to really good things (winning the lottery) and really bad things (losing your hearing). It’s called hedonic adaptation. Blips up, blips down, for the most part (not with extreme things like abuse or PTSD) after something happens we return to near our original level of everyday happiness. We’re resilient. “It turns out you can get used to almost anything,” Lewis says. “I told myself things like, ‘At least I don’t have pancreatic cancer …’”  His hearing varies daily now. “Ten is what it was before this happened,” he says. “I’m at a five now right now, which means I can hear speech fine with hearing aids in. Under a three, I can’t even hear the phone ring.” But music is of course harder. “Music is much harder to listen to than speech because even one note occurs in all frequencies with harmonics and overtones and undertones,” he says. “I call it distortion. When I hear a bass part that goes ‘bump, bump, bump,’ I just hear [imitates the sound of loud, crunchy static]. I fight for pitch and I can’t find it. If I can’t find pitch, I can’t sing. It’s horrible.” He hasn’t done a full gig since that night in Dallas over two years ago.  Now Lewis is focused on his health. “The inner ear is one of the things that medical science knows the least about,” he says. “It’s cased in bone and there’s no surgery. But I’m taking stem-cell stuff and trying everything. With my hearing always fluctuating, my body is doing something itself. What I have to do is stay healthy, exercise, and hope my body will slowly take care of itself.” I’ve noticed this from tearing my PCL in my right knee while skiing just over a year ago. It’s never going to get better, and that continues to be hard to fully let in. And yet…I’m at probably a similar level of happiness than I was then. And I’m about as active – just now I wear a brace and choose activities that won’t trigger too much pain. I’ve adjusted, and will continue to adjust. So when you lose something you care deeply about – and you have, and you will, we all will – there will be a time for a descent. Like Lewis lying in bed contemplating his demise.  And then there’ll be a time when your resiliency kicks in and like Lewis says, “it turns out you can get used to almost anything.” And lastly, if you’re willing to do the work, you’ll return to the level of happiness where you usually live. Like Lewis, clearly a naturally ebullient person.  “I have a great life,” he says. “I’m a lucky guy. No matter what happens, I’m a lucky guy. Sometimes I have to remind myself of that. But I am.”

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Miles Davis on innovation and change, warmed-over turkey and hurt lips

Miles Davis started out playing bebop with Charlie Parker. From there he moved on to cool jazz, modal jazz (Kind of Blue), hard bop, free, electric, rock fusion, and on and on. He never looked back, never repeated himself. He was always innovating, always changing.  Why? He could have easily just re-done a version of Kind of Blue, the best-selling jazz album of all time, ad infinitum – lots of musicians and artists had taken that route. It pays the mortgage. “So What or Kind of Blue, they were done in that era, the right hour, the right day, and it happened. It’s over,” Miles told Ben Sidran in a 1986 interview. “What I used to play with Bill Evans, all those different modes, and substitute chords, we had the energy then and we liked it. But I have no feel for it anymore—it’s more like warmed-over turkey.” The great singer and pianist Shirley Horn (Miles was a fan) pushed him to reconsider playing the gentle ballads and modal tunes of his Kind of Blue period. She says he replied, “Nah, it hurts my lip.” He didn’t mean that literally. It hurt him in an essential place to try to live in the old – the warmed-over turkey. So how do we make a change, lead a change, how do we innovate?  We trust the dissatisfaction. We don’t push it down. We let in the feeling of having no feel for something anymore we used to have energy for. We don’t medicate it with busyness, Facebook, Netflix. We welcome it.  Dissatisfaction’s the force that will lead us on the hero’s journey to our new home.

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How do you get enthusiasm to persist?

The more motivation you have, the more enthusiasm you have. And if you’re in pain, or deeply unhappy, you’re motivated. So, if you’re in pain right now or unhappy, congratulations, you’ve got a potential highway to enthusiasm right in front of you. An alcoholic has more motivation to stop drinking than someone who isn’t. And an alcoholic that is heartsick at the pain she feels or is causing the people she loves is even more motivated.  Look for the pain your repetitive action is causing you. That’s your motivation to change. And motivation brings enthusiasm to persist at what matters to you. PS – 40 Days to Change For Good Virtual Training is now completely revamped and updated with the latest research! Don’t just manage change, lead it. Create a successful forty-day blueprint to lead a change that lasts.  Click here to start transforming your team.

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Busyness as usual: Is it business or busyness?

It’s business if you’re getting what’s important done. It’s busyness if you’re doing anything else or not getting done. Busy work isn’t work, it’s somewhere between meaning and pleasure, but not close to either one. ‘Busyness as usual’ is the zone I unfortunately see most working people living in. And it’s responsible for my least enjoyable days. The Pareto Effect applied to work means that in 20% of our day 80% of the work gets done. Then the rest of the day (all 80% of it) is going to be pretty inefficient and ineffective. It’s ‘busy work’ time. Or we could take a chance. It could be recharge time, play time, relationship time, learning time, exercise time, nap time, anything. That would be business as unusual.   Learn more: Resiliency: Five Keys to Success – Leverage the five principles of resiliency, engagement, efficiency, endurance, flexibility, and loving the game, for peak work performance and enjoyment.

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From the gross to the subtle

Whenever I’ve studied with masters of an art or a skill, there has been a common theme. They’re no longer interested in the big, obvious stuff. They’re refining their skills to focus on very small things. And they’re encouraging their students to be more mindful of the small as well. Yoga teacher Rodney Yee calls this going from the gross (big) to the subtle (small). When you see beginners at anything you’ll be forgiven for immediately thinking of the word ‘flailing’. They haven’t become efficient with their movements yet. With time and conscious attention this changes. Baby birds figure out how to use those wings. We have to start with the gross, but keep aiming for the subtle. That’s where mastery lies. Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as birds’ wings. – Rumi

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Waiting in the dark – The hardest part of personal change

This is why New Year’s resolutions don’t work. Waiting in the dark between where you are now and where you want to be is hard. Change needs action, the follow-through. But there’s also the waiting. This is the emotional part of it. It is as simple as withstanding discomfort.  People want to change, then change doesn’t happen, they get impatient, or unwilling to wait in the dark and the unknown, and pop back to the known, the familiar, the old way. They give up. Yet every heroes journey begins with leaving the known and descending into the darkness of the unknown, the underworld. No heroes journey, no story worth anything goes directly from where you are to success. There is always a road of trials. There is always a threshold to cross. Who wants to read a story about someone wanting something and then them immediately getting it, the end?  If you stick with the change you want to make, if you wait in the dark, your life just might become, like all great quests, a great story. I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love, For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting. Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought: So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing. – T.S. Eliot (From Section III of East Coker from The Four Quartets)

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Troubled? That’s great

When your conscious awareness increases, your dissatisfaction may increase. You wake up to the problem.  When a spouse leaves suddenly after years of mutual alienation, the problem didn’t start that day, it was years in the making. Awareness means you wake up to it. Think of the moment you realize you need to go on a diet. Yesterday you also needed to lose weight and exercise more, but today your doctor told you that you had to or you saw yourself in a mirror in unflattering lighting.  You notice something. And you don’t like what’s been noticed. The most painful aspect of meditation for me is it seems like there’s an increase in the number of runaway thoughts. My mind is always churning. But meditation teachers teach that the number of thoughts don’t actually increase, just your awareness of them increases. They’ve been endlessly flowing underground, but that stream breaks surface and blinders have been taken off your eyes for a moment. When you’re troubled, that’s good. Awareness has increased. Change can’t happen without it. Sunlight is the best disinfectant. “The more dissatisfaction, more questions, and more doubts there are, the healthier it is, for we are no longer sucked into ego-oriented situations, but we are constantly woken up…We are woken up constantly by the unrest.” – Chögyam Trungpa

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Is effort a bad word?

It takes more effort to play a song than to listen to one. It takes more effort to play a song than to watch TV. It also takes more effort to read an article than to watch to TV. It takes more effort to read a book than to read an article. It takes more effort to write an article than to read a book. It takes more effort to write a book than to write an article. So, is effort a bad word? It depends on what you want contribute to the world.  And it depends on the percentage of joyfulness in the effort…even if the joy is just at the end.

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The snow fort and the sidewalk

When it snows, do kids prefer to build a snow fort or shovel the sidewalk? What’s the difference? One of the differences is enthusiasm. Enthusiasm provides energy, while lack of it sucks energy out. If you’re having trouble persisting at something that matters to you, or even harder something that doesn’t matter to you, find the kernel of enthusiasm for some aspect of the work. Or some kernel of enthusiasm for the purpose for the work. Everything you do potentially contributes something to someone, even if it just contributes to you having food on the table and a roof over your head.  It’s not all sidewalk, there’s a snow fort in there somewhere.

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The slow glasses

Ann-Marie the optometrist cautioned me to go slow with the new progressive glasses. (Thanks for inventing bifocals Ben Franklin!) I ignored her advice, moved my head around normally and immediately felt sick to my stomach. It was going to take some time to get used to this new way of seeing.  My 40 Days to Change this year has focused on efficiency. And these ‘slow glasses’ were making me more efficient. No more throwing my head and gaze around willy-nilly. While adjusting, my head movements have been slight and slow.  That’s efficiency for you. It’s not moving faster, going harder and launching yourself at the work. Small and slow movements counter-intuitively instead get us to maximum efficiency. 

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