“What’s up? How’s things?”
“Crazy, man, I’m swamped. I feel like I’m just holding it together.”
Who’s been there? Rhetorical question. Anybody who’s breathing, with a job or life, knows the feeling of overwhelm. As I write this, I’m in the process of moving my home to L.A., while making sure my music school in Chicago is ready to be run by my team there, as I open my new music school in Westwood, Los Angeles. My wife is in L.A. working and can only do so much from there. Although she did look at and approve our new space. Meanwhile, I’m working through a bum knee that I don’t recall ever injuring, I’m 56 with COPD (lost a bunch of weight though!) and our cat died in front of me while I was on the phone with my wife. Seriously!? Yep.
There’s a lot going on! But is it all too much? Not if it’s happening! What does that even mean, Phil? Not if it’s happening? It’s simple. I’m firm in my belief that we are never given more than we can handle. Even when we feel like it’s more than we can handle, it may be a sign that we need to ask for help. I’ve actually done that; asked for help. In 2016. I was talking to my wife, Megan, on the phone. She was here in Chicago, I was in our old place in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. She was the advance team looking for our apartment and starting a job, while I was packing our apartment and finishing my work up north. Sounds familiar, right? I was a little overwhelmed, surrounded on all sides by boxes of stuff, still striving ’til the end in Wisco, and working to find new students and gigs down in The Chi. I suddenly blurted out,
“I can’t do this alone! I need some help, here!”
There was a deafening silence, until Megan responded,
“I don’t think I’ve ever heard you say that.”
“I know, it’s weird.”
It was also a learning experience. As it should be. Here’s one thing your overwhelm could be; An opportunity to assess. Are you in love with chaos because it makes you feel productive? That’s a special kind of addiction. Work on your self worth. It doesn’t come from others approval, especially when you think that approval will come from acting like you’re insanely busy. No form of happiness comes this way. Or do you believe, maybe a little naively, that you can do it all! That may actually stem from not trusting others to do things for you. I know. My biggest hurdle with opening a second school in L.A. has been learning to fully trust my amazing team of Chicago teachers to run the old place well. I have no good reason to believe they can’t. I do have reasons. Just not good or realistic ones. My reasons are fantasies. Which is also what a ton of our anxieties are. Think about it. How often has your worst anxiety come true, without you just doing the self sabotage dance to make sure you were right? In other words, when you’ve managed to hold it together through some hardship, did you notice that many of the things you imagined would collide, didn’t actually do so? Then you feel saddened by your unnecessary anxiety, right? You know, it’s like Legolas to Aragorn at Helm’s Deep:
“I was wrong to despair.”
So anyway, I’ve come a long way! I’ve asked for help a couple more times since 2016, sure, but I’ve also learned to just do what’s in front of me, deal with this thing now, and move to the next. In a coaching session, Tony Robbins, asked, “What are two things you waste time on every week?” My first answer required no thought. It came right to me: “Worrying.” I can’t actually recall what the other thing was. Maybe I cured it, I dunno. But I have gone back again and again to this first answer to remind myself how much time I waste spinning around the worries in my brain like it’s some rock tumbler from hell. I’m getting better at it. I keep at the rewiring. And I keep seeing the long haul as part of my journey, and therefore it’s all a source of growth.
This has been a helluva a few years. I say that a lot. But it’s gaining excitement in its tone, which you can’t hear in my text. Three weeks from this writing I’ll be on the road to Los Angeles to open my new music school for adults! Are things stressful? You bet! But I just do this thing in front of me, confident that I’m on my path and that I will continue down it. I wasn’t even planning on this specific path, so much as it rolled out before me. Sooo, why would I sit and worry about how I’m going to get it all done? Trust got me here. Faith, an expectation. I expect to get there because it presented itself to me and I know full well how to take decisive action. I just keep on moving through what needs to be done. Lately (as I write this), each day has brought a new and interesting person into my life just by selling stuff from our old Chicago apartment! Yesterday, it a Ukrainian Bandura player buying my DJ chair for his teaching. Today, it was Chance the Rapper’s Assistant Music Director picking up a table and some guitar stands. Why would I want to ruin these wonderful experiences by winding myself up like an explosive slinky? Why would I want to catastrophize my difficulties and live down to my anxieties?
My level of trust in the way in which our life pulls us toward our outcomes is deeply rooted in a sense of being here for something of purpose. And each week, I learn something new with my students simply by the process I embrace when I teach. We can do this in life. Need to solve a problem? Before you start the math, ask yourself what you can learn from it. How can you grow? This will activate your creative brain, which may lead you to a better outcome and a new algorithm being wired into your sub conscious. At the very least, it’s going to make problem solving a more curious activity because it becomes more creative. Purpose is easier with growth. I hope you find both.