I finally came to some understanding of what it means when I hear “past, present and future are one.” It’s a perspective thing. When we win in this life, we change the nature of all the sufferings everyone experienced before us. All the tribulations our parents or ancestors went through take on meaning when we shift the trajectory of this, our generation. After all, what have we often heard? I just want the/my kids to have it better than me. That’s why I lean my head like a dog trying to understand people gibberish when someone complains about “how easy kids have it these days.” Isn’t that what you wanted? Besides, go have a look at my article about the Next Great Generation. I beg to differ. And that article was implying a future I didn’t know. It was during the before times (pre-COVID) that I wrote it.
When we hold onto the past after we’ve learned whatever lessons were required of us, it’s like we’re dragging a heavy anchor across a sandy desert. It’s an unnecessary weight, a self-imposed hardship. And, as implied by this interesting metaphor, it makes no freakin’ sense. Anyone who knows me, knows I’m not talking out my backside on this. I’ve not only suffered my share of troubled times, but I’ve also owned many great and shiny anchors, and a couple started to get pretty caked with sand before I finally severed the chain. And with things like PTSD, it’s all the more challenging. So, please understand I’m not saying “get over it.” I’m just saying, go do the real work at healing, learning and growing, and the rest of the time keep it at bay. And yep, it’s fine if you feel like you’re fairly regularly breaking the chain. That’s redetermination. I do it all the time. Stupid shit reminds us of hard times, too. So, it’s not like denial is the way either. We should own our feelings. But again, don’t live there.
A similar thing can be said of the future. Worrying about the future is worthwhile, in that it motivates you to do the right things toward creating a brighter one. But surrounding ourself with anxiety bubbles is truly distracting. It keeps us from seeing the future for what it is; not here yet. How can we know what the right thing to do is in this very moment? Have a purpose. Yep, it’s that thing again. But also, take decisive action. Make a move. It has power. You can shift course as you go. Be adaptable. Be creative. Use your imagination.
“Oh, sure, Phil,” you may be starting to say, “that’s easy for you, Mr. Musician Guy with a couple cool schools, a beautiful actress wife, a Zen-like understanding of songwriting, and a general gritty handsomeness. You got all that.”
Well, maybe I don’t need to point out the wealth of musicians living on friends’ couches, losing hope faster than my Uncle Herb lost his hair (fast). But, just to make sure we understand each other, musicians aren’t all deeply driven by a purpose. In fact, I’d venture a guess that the highly successful musicians out there are much more like the highly successful anyones out there; part of the fortitude that got them there was based on believing that something bigger than their wallets and knighthoods mattered. Purpose breeds hope. Hope sees a future we design.
Only a sense of our future drives us through obstacles. I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s a good one from a great one. Wayne Shorter said, “resistance is my ally.” That’s got a couple connotations, doesn’t it? One is the understanding that we grow when we overcome hardship or resistance in any form. Then there’s the idea that resistance is an indicator of where we need to go in order to grow. Why wait for it to stop you in your tracks, when you can get a good preemptive running start? And let’s not forget about the sinister resistance we place in our own hearts and minds to prevent ourselves from moving forward. That’s the fight, flight or freeze reaction to fear. Look, I’m deeply aware of the uncertainty facing the world, but I’m also deeply confident in mine and yours and others ability to adapt.
In The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey says,
“People can’t live with change if there’s not a changeless core inside them. The key to the ability to change is a changeless sense of who you are, what you are about and what you value.”
There it is! The last phrase, what you value. With all the changes continuing to happen in the world (and they’re not going to stop), this is saying that we can handle it if we have core values. I also see this as a great place from which to examine what any successful business or artist or leader needs to understand in order to continue succeeding. Being comfortable with change means you’re adaptable and it’s pretty clear that businesses that don’t adapt eventually fail. You can understand why that’s important to me, as I’m expanding my music schools. It’s also crucial to mine and my team’s ability to relate to and guide our students into a life of music, that we can understand this innate power of creative adaptation.
And then there’s the ever-present, um, present.
I like to work. I always have. My drive has been a valuable asset throughout my life. Except those myriad times it wasn’t. Like when I lost control of my health or my personal relationships, or my health. Did I mention my health? What I seemed to consistently miss was that, with all the causes I made to move things forward (the past), I could trust that sometimes I may only need to guide my craft (life) around obstacles in its path toward an end (the future), and that I could actually live in the, you guessed it, present. In fewer words. Let it all catch up with you once in awhile.
Well, I’m going to go enjoy a day off and let everything catch up. I hope you will, too. Here’s some stuff to ponder, meditate, journal, answer, until we meet again.
What are you carrying around that you can address in the now, sever the chain to, and leave in the desert behind you?
What are you anxious about that demonstrates your inflexibility?
And my favorite question lately:
What are you planning toward 2030? Or better yet, 2050?
Yes, I’ll be 64 at the first milestone, 84 at the the second. But having that longview has been motivating me a lot.
Start with the end in mind.
I’ll see you along the way.
Peace and music,