Play Lightly When the Rhythm is Fast

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When playing jazz that has a swing rhythm to it, and the tempo is medium (walking pace or faster), many musicians find it helpful to tap their foot on the second and fourth beats that happen = 1 2 3 4. This reminds them of the swing rhythm emphasis (2 and 4 more than 1 and 3), helps them keep their place without exhausting themselves tapping on every beat.

When the song gets really fast (200 beats per minute and higher), it becomes too fast to tap 2 and 4. I end up just tapping on beat 1. Pat Metheny plays the jazz standard “All the Things You Are” at 280 beats per minute on his Trio Live album. That’s fast! To give you a perspective, walking pace is about 100 beats per minute. I don’t know for sure, but I imagine 280 BPM (beats per minute) is faster than a sprinter sprints.

At that tempo, you can’t focus on every single note. You rely more on patterns and the product of a life of persistence that came before this moment. And you play lightly. Watching the great chord harmonica player Bud Boblink play a fast chromatic run of chords on that demanding two-foot long instrument, it struck me how lightly he was playing them, barely touching down. Watching Pat Metheny or any other great jazz musician improvise at 300 BPM is like watching someone ice skating or dancing. These masters are dancing lightly over the fast rhythm, efficient. It’s as if they’re at rest in a way – loose, relaxed. They’re feeling a deeper, longer, slower rhythm beneath the frenetic surface pace.

Explore this idea more fully in Quixote Consulting’s teams building and team development activities:
Music of Teams – Music of Teams links music and the effective team and transforms your people into musicians of their work.
Bang On My Drum All Day – Get in sync with one another and drum up good business practices.
Sing the Blues – Learn the basics of singing the blues and then as a team write and perform a song backed by real blues musicians!

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Ode to Socks by Pablo Neruda (Pocket Poem)

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Ode to Socks
by Pablo Neruda

Mara Mori brought me
A pair of socks
that she wove with her shepherdess hands,
two socks soft as rabbits.
I put my feet in them
like in two cases
woven with threads of
twilight and sheep-skin.

Violent socks,
my feet were two woolen fish
two long sharks
of sea blue
pierced with one golden plait,
two gigantic blackbirds,
two cannons
my feet were honored in this way
by these celestial socks.

They were so handsome that for the first time
my feet seemed to me unacceptable,
like two decrepit firemen,
firemen unworthy of that embroidered fire,
those luminous socks.

Nevertheless, I resisted the sharp
temptation to keep them as schoolboys preserve fireflies,
as the scholars collect
sacred texts,
I resisted the furious impulse to put them
in a golden cage and each
day give them birdseed and the pulp of pink melon.

Like discoverers that in the forest
hand over the rarest green deer
to the spit and eat it with remorse
I stretched my feet and sheathed them in
those beautiful socks and then my shoes.

And the moral of my Ode is this:
the beauty is twice the beauty
and what is good is doubly good,
when it is a question of two socks
of wool in winter.

 

Translation © 2007 Rob Fletcher

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Quix Tip: How To Take a Mini Vacation

  1. Schedule five minutes, an hour or an afternoon with yourself for a mini vacation sometime this week.
  2. Clear this time of any responsibilities and stressors.
  3. Make some notes about your favorite parts of previous vacations – was it that there was no agenda, no answering to anyone? Did you love the play of sun on your face, the quiet sounds of water nearby? Did you enjoy the adventure?
  4. Creatively model your mini vacation so that it has one favorite element of a previous vacation.
  5. When the time comes, let your self fall into this small time of renewal and thoroughly enjoy.
  6. Repeat as needed (daily if you’d like).

Especially in the winter months, something in us cries out for a little bit more sweetness in our days. Even if you’re unable to get away for a longer vacation, a Mini Vacation is always a possibility.

Taking a mini vacation is an exercise in listening to what you’d like, what you prefer. We can get out of practice in being able to respond to the immediate moment. Usually if we’re hungry, we simply feed ourselves and then “come back to life.” It’s rarely that simple when we are asked to respond to other important parts of living.

So often, whether from fear or a sense of duty or obligation, we suppress our ability to respond to ourselves. We lose sight of the fact that our happiness, our ability to respond energetically, is entwined with listening to and responding to what we need.

Mini Vacations can be a powerful tool to bring us back to the life we love. This is deceptively important work. Robert Louis Stevenson said, “There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy. By being happy we sow anonymous benefits upon the world.” Mini Vacations increase the likelihood of our happiness and renew our natural enthusiasm for our work. By slowing down, and relaxing for a moment, even in the midst of anxiety, we paradoxically set the stage for better output and better relations with those around us. Bon voyage!

Explore this idea more fully in Quixote Consulting’s teams building and team development activities:
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.

Posted in Persistence, Quix Tips | Comments closed

Seven Yoga Hints For Daily Practice at Work and Everywhere

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  1. If you are seated while doing yoga, either use a chair with no wheels or lock your chair’s wheels.
  2. Keep your practice light and easy. The rest of life is hard enough. Allow yoga to be a reward, a gift to yourself.
  3. Your breath is the most important part of your yoga. Stay in the center of your body, of yourself, and let your breath flow freely and fully.
  4. Keep your movements slow and whole body relaxed, focusing on a delicious opening. No pushing, no tension, no bouncing.
  5. Your body is happy when your front body is higher than your back body. Sink your shoulder blades and lead with your heart.
  6. Avoid putting pressure on your knees or elbows. Instead of putting pressure on the knees use your thighs. Your thighs love resistance and you leaning on and against them, not your knees. Instead of putting pressure on your elbows use your forearms.
  7. Select the poses you feel most comfortable trying. Perhaps you’d like to focus on the poses that you would feel comfortable doing anywhere. For example, which of these would you like to try on your next airplane flight? Yoga teacher Rodney Yee has a series he uses where the movements are so subtle he can do a whole session while seated on a plane and those sitting next to him don’t even know it.

Explore this idea more fully in Quixote Consulting’s teams building and team development activities:
Office Yoga – Learn simple techniques to stay productive at your desk or energize your off-site.
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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How Music Team Building Gets Teams In Tune

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“Hey everybody! Let’s have some fun! Let the good times roll!” sings one excited participant as the rest of her team plays blues riffs on their harmonicas. Someone is playing the guitar; another, the tambourine. Everyone on stage is wearing retro-sunglasses and classic blues hats and having fun.

As a music team building facilitator, it’s always a pleasure to tell a group they’re going to learn how to play music. They light up, relax and get a little playful. Let’s face it – some people look forward to team building, and some are a little more ambivalent. But everyone loves music. And most people wish they could play music, not just listen to it.

While I’ve combined music and team building in a variety of ways – forming rock bands, playing ‘office percussion’, and writing and singing songs, the most popular is the Play the Blues program. In this program, everyone receives a harmonica and learns how to play. For the grand finale, teams write and perform original songs they wrote about themselves. And it’s not just the blues – “Piano Man,” “Love Me Do,” and of course the perennial favorite “Rawhide” are some of the songs that groups have learned over the years.

The best team-building programs incorporate something that people are already interested in with something new that will enrich their lives at work and beyond. I love it when I hear back from people that they now start every meeting with a song, or that they went home with their harmonica and taught their kids how to play some of the songs we taught them.

All of the performances are memorable – whether in quality or silliness. Everyone’s a beginner and that really helps to break down barriers within groups, especially when they are on very different levels on the org chart.

There are a lot of closet musicians in corporate America. Someone always surprises their team by picking up the guitar and playing or singing like Aretha Franklin. There are roles for everyone, and safety in numbers on stage helps even the most shy to have some fun.

Does this sound like your team? Everyone has a clearly defined role, an expertise and passion for that role, and the sum of the whole is greater than the parts. There’s a clearly defined goal that is adaptable enough to address the realities of the moment, a common rhythm, an extraordinary amount of listening, responding and interplay that’s all in the service of a tangible, customer-focused final product. That’s what a great band does and it helps teams to connect the metaphor of playing music together and working productively together in the work place. A great band or orchestra is perhaps the best model for a work-team to aspire to.

In the debrief at the end of the program, people talk about improving their listening, communication and creativity skills. They like getting to know each other in a different way and especially love discovering the hidden talents in their group. But the two words that come up most often are ‘memorable’ and ‘fun’.

Your Brain on Music

Brain research has revealed a number of enhancing effects that music has. For one, our brains link up with each other when we play music. Daniel Goleman talks of this phenomenon in his landmark book Social Intelligence. Other studies have shown that music enhances how we think, reason, and create.

The Right Place

I’ve led groups of almost every size and setting, from small groups of senior executives in a boardroom, to a theater seating of hundreds to groups playing on a House of Blues stage. I’ve seen music team building work for groups across sectors, ages, and nationalities. However, certain conditions work better than others. The more the atmosphere of a room can be transformed from the ordinary, the better. Meeting planners I’ve worked with have incorporated mason jars with candles in them on the tables, blue lights, blues videos playing on a big screen, and a riser for performances.

The Right Group

Groups that have ‘been there and done that’ with team building often respond well, as well as people who aren’t all that excited about a more traditional team-building program.

The Night Time is the Right Time

I have led music programs first thing in the morning, and they’ve worked out fine, but the best time for a fun and memorable time together seems to be the evening. Beer and wine are a nice complement to the program.

 

Explore this idea more fully in Quixote Consulting’s music team building and team development activities: 

Give the Kids Music – Learn to play and build musical instruments and then give the gift of music to underserved children.
Music of Teams – Music of Teams links music and the effective team and transforms your people into musicians of their work.
Build a Team Song - Write, record and perform an amazing team theme song.

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Quix Tip: Giving – The River That Flows Both Ways

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1. Pick one act of giving you can do for someone today, something that you can freely give. Not an object, but an action – the gift of your time, compassion, connection, empathy.

2. What can you give with your whole heart, without caring about how it’s received? What can you give without needing to monitor whether it will be reciprocated by that specific person? In fact, an even more useful challenge might be to give in a situation where you are certain the giving won’t be reciprocated.

3. Then, see how that giving might be flowing back to you in a small way that you may not have noticed. Perhaps the act of giving has softened your breath for a moment, or relaxed you enough to see something poignant in the way a stranger looks as you get your morning coffee. These small gifts, strung together comprise a well-lived life.

 

Explore this idea more fully in Quixote Consulting’s charity team building and team development activities: 

Teddy Bears to the Rescue – Teams build bears for children in need.
Charity Roller Coaster –Design and build the world’s most exciting roller coaster and help kids learn about science.
Military Salute – Teams build care packages to be given to soldiers stationed overseas.

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How to Savor the Moment

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The next time you get ready to drink something – whether it’s a beer, glass of water, juice, wine, pause to savor the moment. Use all of your senses to appreciate the impending taste.

Pause and let go of anything else you’re thinking about, whether future or past or mundane – let it go. Block out any other distractions around you, sharpen your perceptions and focus on your filled glass.

Look and enjoy the colors and reflections in your glass, swish the drink around in your glass and watch it flow.

Smell the aroma, breathe it in deeply and slowly.

Imagine its long complicated multi-level journey to get to you. Think of all of the people involved, what grew where, the sun that grew the ingredients, the technology that was created to make this possible. Now realize that all of that choreographed effort was done for you. It’s all culminating in you enjoying this drink in this penultimate moment. You’re the fruition of all that effort, the grand finale, the celebration. Congratulations!

Now taste. Slowly take a sip. Eke out every bit of pleasure from each mouthful. Savor the taste and imagine the benefits of it going through your body.

Now pause a moment to remember what that first taste was like. Thanks to habituation, no taste after that will be quite as amazing as the first sip. Take a mental snapshot of your experience

After you’re done, share your experience. Either set up the experience for someone you care about or at least tell them about your taste trip.

Savoring in Action

This technique can be expanded to any mundane experience you have in a day. It’s in line with the emerging field of ‘savoring’. Fred Bryant and Joseph Veroff of Loyola University define savoring as “the awareness of pleasure and of the deliberate conscious attention to the experience of pleasure.”

By savoring, you’re giving yourself a chance to slow up, be present in a moment, be more mindful and concentrate better. Martin Seligman, the founder of Positive Psychology says, “The speed of our modern life and our extreme future-mindedness can sneak up on us and impoverish our present…saving time (for what?) and planning for a future (that arrived yesterday but also never comes), we lose acres of the present.” What better way to bring ourselves back to the present than by consciously experiencing pleasure?

Here are five techniques that Bryant and Veroff suggest to promote savoring:

  1. Sharing with others
  2. Memory-building
  3. Self-congratulation
  4. Sharpening perceptions
  5. Absorption

How many of these techniques did you find present in the tasting exercise above?

Bryant and Veroff also have outlined four kinds of savoring that these techniques support. Which kinds did you access when you did the tasting exercise?

  1. Basking (receiving praise and congratulations)
  2. Thanksgiving (expressing gratitude for blessings)
  3. Marveling (losing the self in the wonder of the moment)
  4. Luxuriating (indulging the senses)

Try savoring in small and large places in your life. Pause especially after the fruition of a large project, presentation, or anything you worked hard to complete, were a little scared about, and did well. We can all use more pauses like that in our life, a life that’s just waiting to be savored.

Further Reading:
Authentic Happiness by Martin Seligman
Savoring: A New Model of Positive Experience by Fred B. Bryant and Joseph Veroff

Explore this idea more fully in Quixote Consulting’s teams building and team development activities:
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.
At Your Best – Explore how to give your best and play to your strengths for sustained individual success.

Posted in Happiness, Passion, Play, Positive Psychology, Purpose, Resiliency | Comments closed

Leading Change: A New World Baked Fresh Every Day

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On my early evening walk I came across the mountain laurel, pink-budded and ready to bloom. Beauty! And in the warm late sunlight I heard crickets for the first time this year. Noticing is like that – it’s easier when something’s new and fresh to your awareness.

And every day brings something new. I once started – yet to be finished – a song called New World Baked Fresh Every Day. And it’s true! Every day we’re alive is baked fresh, whether we notice it or not.

And change is like that. It’s always happening. We, myself included, can regard looming change with a mix of suspicion, reluctance, anxiety, and whatever other emotion the word ‘looming’ inspires. The unknown by definition can be pretty scary. But, the unknown by definition is also an adventure, a daily hero’s journey.

This is the quest – a journey for something larger and better to benefit ourselves and everyone we touch and the greater world. To do that kind of work requires a great deal of change – both internal and external. This is the kind of work I explore in our change training sessions like Change Quest, 40 Days to Change For Good, and How to Lead Change.

Spring into summer is a perfect time in nature and in life to encourage us to see how beautiful and welcoming change can be. Here’s to you connecting with all deep, benevolent forces all around you and them fueling your quest for fresh changes to bring what your heart truly desires.

 

Explore this idea more fully in Quixote Consulting’s team building and team development activities:

Change Quest – Time for you and your team to evolve quickly, whether you’re driving the change or the rest of the world is.
40 Days to Change For Good – Don’t just manage change, lead it. Create a successful forty-day blueprint to lead a change that lasts.
How to Lead Change – Learn how to be an effective change leader and lead positive change that lasts.

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Quix Tip: What Can You Give Today?

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What are three ways to give today, this week?

Write down one way to give something small today to:

  1. Someone you know and like
  2. Yourself
  3. A Stranger
  4. Bonus!: Someone you know and don’t like

This can be an action, a smile, help, a courtesy, or an actual physical gift. Whatever it is, remember the two keys: small and daily. Think of someone you’d like to keep in your thoughts or a place that’s experiencing pain, unrest, or need.

Put some reminder of that person or situation in front of you on your desk – either a photo or a note. Every time you glance at the reminder, pause for a few seconds and bring them to mind, and perhaps sound out a wish that they are happy in this moment, or that their suffering is just a little lighter. It’s a nice way to pause from what you’re working on and refresh.

You may need to move the reminder around periodically in a day to keep noticing it. You can select a new person the next day or keep one around for up to a week.

Another twist on this is to set an alarm on your Outlook or iCal calendar or an actual alarm for a certain time of day – 2 PM for example. When you hear the alarm go off, take a minute to think of that person. Or if you prefer action, call them up or send an email. If it’s a situation, tell someone about it, or send an email.

Explore this idea more fully in Quixote Consulting’s charity team building and team development activities: 

Charity Bike Build – As featured on NPR! - Teams build bicycles for underserved children in their area.
Charity Wheelchair Build – Charity Wheelchair Build gets your team building wheelchairs to help disabled people stay independent in this charity team building activity.
Give the Kids Music – Learn to play the and build musical instruments and then give the gift of music to underserved children.

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Quest Story: ‘Our Love is Here To Stay’ By Rufus Collinson

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‘Our Love is Here To Stay’ By Rufus Collinson

One cold October afternoon several years ago, I accompanied Rob Fletcher, founder of Quixote Consulting, to a nursing home in Gloucester, MA where he was performing the music of Frank Sinatra for the residents.

Standing before a group of nursing home residents and staff, he opened his performance with “Come Fly with Me.” As he crooned and strummed his guitar, I watched the room come to life. Nearly every person within those clinical walls began to sway and tap. From the very first line, they were transported. Some of the residents began to hum. I could actually see them remembering moments in their lives…moments that still had the power to bring a smile.

And then something truly extraordinary happened.  The staff had wheeled in one woman, bed and all. She had been in a coma for several months, but they thought that she could hear. I watched her face as the songs filled the room. At first, she seemed frozen, nearly corpse-like. Somewhere, in the midst of “The Lady Is a Tramp,” I thought that I noticed the beginning of a smirk.

It was just as Rob began to sing “Our Love Is Here to Stay” that the miracle happened. This woman who had been frozen in her bed, completely unresponsive for months, sat up!  The staff were in shock. They gasped and cried and went to her side. “Grace! Oh Grace,” they whispered. And then, Grace sat up straight and reached out…both arms stretching, stretching toward Rob as he moved in her direction, singing just to her now, “Our Love is here to stay.”

I will never forget it.

Explore this idea more fully in Quixote Consulting’s music team building and team development activities: 

Give the Kids Music – Learn to play and build musical instruments and then give the gift of music to underserved children.
Music of Teams – Music of Teams links music and the effective team and transforms your people into musicians of their work.
Build a Team Song - Write, record and perform an amazing team theme song.

 

Posted in Music, Passion, Purpose, Quest Story | Comments closed