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Gooding with guitar

We overestimate what we can do in a day and underestimate what we can do in a lifetime. —Unknown

Focus on what you can control, and you can get a lot done. —Unknown

Ever want to smack the person who says, “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey”? I often think, yeah, that’s great, but the only reason it’s called a journey is ’cause you are trying to get someplace! OK, and then what? No one successful ever stopped once they got to their first big goal anyway. Matter of fact, many go through some depression wondering what is next if they aren’t right with themselves when some success finally comes. I have wasted a lot of years not fully enjoying the journey. My monkey mind tends to look for the next block before I have even learned to walk the one I’m on. I want to learn to enjoy every stop on the way, and the best way I find I can do that is to take some time in between the bigger goals to enjoy something small and achievable that I have some control over.

Last week, the mayor of our little town, Kingston Springs, asked me to kick off 2019 with a run. Despite not running for years, I was thrilled he asked me. When the mayor asks you to run, you run.

Now, in my mind, I figured I would be better than some and worse than some. I work out consistently and I bounce around on stage for a living, so I figured I wouldn’t necessarily be up in front, but I wouldn’t be last place, either. There had to be someone who ate too much chocolate for Santa’s last visit that would have to bow out before the thing was done…

Little did I know that someone would be me.

Here was the crew:

  1. Tony Gross (mayor and fabulous human being). Tony runs double marathons. Yup.
  2. Me. In my cheap sweatpants and old tennis shoes. Drank the night before. Ate right before I went to the run. Uh-huh.
  3. A gentleman named Cody who served our country in Afghanistan and looks like he eats bricks and bench presses cars.
  4. An assistant DA who said he hit the treadmill 1,700 miles in 2018 (I’m not making this up).

I kept up for a couple of miles and then fell behind on a good-sized hill. Everyone was talking to one another calmly while I was quietly gasping for breath and renewed hope. I knew I had a few miles left back to the car and didn’t want them to have to slow for me. I bowed out. You shouldn’t hold anyone else back, especially when you are not prepared. I HATED turning back ’cause I’m competitive and really thought my willpower would overcome my COMPLETE AND UTTER LACK OF TRAINING.

The lesson for me was not just that you have to train at anything you want to exceed in, but that I have to learn to take things bit by bit—not overnight. Enjoy the process—don’t expect to take on the whole mountain at once. It’s about not overwhelming yourself and being willing to win some little victories before going into all-out war.

Easier said than done.

When I go to bed at night, I’m a pro at making a list and conning myself that tomorrow I’m gonna write a several songs, call a ton of people, write a couple of these blog posts, work out like crazy etc., etc., all the while not considering that there are only 24 hours in a day. Even if I could get everything done, I seldom factor in the little fires that arise for all of us. I’m also not factoring in that sometimes my mood is just absolute low-energy total crap, and I might not feel like doing anything at all. I think the key to what you end up with in life has a lot to do with pushing through that low-energy feeling and moving forward, no matter what. And one of the things that helps me push through is taking a break and working on something small and manageable that lets my mind go somewhere else for a few minutes. Here are some things I have been using to break the circuit…

  • Just strumming on a guitar—NOT LEARNING ANYTHING NEW, NOT WRITING, just listening to the sound of the guitar as it’s played, letting it guide me and not trying to control what is coming out of it. This is how I play live, and yet I forget to just flow with it when I’m back home.
  • Learning to type properly. (Can’t imagine how much time and busted delete keys I would have saved learning this younger.)
  • Reading something fun (not about the end of the world) and not incessantly checking the news.
  • Playing hearts on the phone for a minute (in preparation for battle with my family, who play cards at the holidays like assassins).
  • Being quiet for a few minutes (I’m horrible at meditating but taking a walk helps—insert joke about running here).
  • Playing with the dogs (which, oddly, includes screaming obscenities at them in total joy).

If I’m not actively thinking so hard, I will come across a new chord on the guitar or a new way of looking at it (there is always another secret in the guitar—always). Sometimes the best way to see a problem is to not look at it at all and let your mind work its own magic. It’s also relaxing to try to get better at something that doesn’t have you asking the big questions every second. I’m constantly worried about all kinds of light-hearted little issues like income inequality, climate change, technology, AI, democracy, a changing music business, etc. My mind gets to spinning at a high rpm in several directions at once, which can be wonderful for working on lyrics or blog posts but horrible for staying on one task at a time, and even worse for sleeping at night. If I don’t give my mind something peaceful to do at some point during the day, it tends to wander the alleys and come up with new friends that all share the same last name—worry. I keep a chart of my time and my goals, and staying on a clear, well-lit path tends to help. When I get into projects that won’t get me where I want to go, I get restless—but you can’t be ON all the time, and you can’t be in the deep end of the pool every second. As Erin O’ Neill in the band says to me on the road, “Take it eaaaaasy, man … take it eaaaaasy.” 🙂

Failing at that run was good for me. I have committed to running again after God knows how many years. I went a couple of miles this morning, and it felt great to finish. It was a little victory, but it made the rest of the day better. Here’s to getting a little better, bit by bit. Here’s to the little victories. Let me know things that chill you out, too. I wish you the best in all of it. See ya next Wednesday, sports fans.


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