Bang On Stuff

from Lucy & The Waterfox by David Robinson

from Lucy & The Waterfox by David Robinson

John said, “The real challenge is how to help people across the ‘I can’t’ line.” What a great phrase! I imagined myself drawing a line in the sand while my imaginary inner-voice shouted, “Don’t step over this line!”

“Everyone has an “I can’t” line.” John added, “The challenge is never the external stuff. It’s the stuff in our heads that stop us.” Too true!

John is a terrific drummer and extraordinary teacher. He told me that many people come to the drums from the place of, “I can’t” and his job is to hold their hand as they cross the threshold. “Of course they can,” he said, “they just need to know it.”

“How do you do it?” I asked. “How do you help them know it?”

“I have them bang on stuff and I bang on stuff with them.” He smiled.

In other words, gets them to experiment and play. When experimenting, there is no line between can or can’t. It’s a unified space called, “Let’s see!” In play, there is no need for achievement or expertise; there is only play. Bang on stuff and see what happens: it is a great definition for artistry. It is beginner’s mind.

In Austin Kleon’s latest book, Show Your Work, he suggests that we be intentional amateurs. He writes, “Amateurs are not afraid to make mistakes or look ridiculous in public. They’re in love, so they don’t hesitate to do work that others think of as silly or just plain stupid.”

If you desire to step across the “I can’t” line, embrace your inner amateur. Work for the love of your work and not the need to impress or “do it right.” Bang on stuff. Make messes. As Skip says, “Put a stake in the ground and then test it.” Pull on the chain. Walk through the door. Ask questions. Try a new technique. Invent a new technique.

In a bizarre and beautiful chapter in my life I was given a full ride scholarship for a masters degree in costuming. I’d never touched a sewing machine and was a danger to myself and others when trying to cut things with adult scissors. “Why not!” I said to myself and I went for a year. After turning in my first assignment in costume construction, the professor hugged my muslin mess to her breast and laughed, saying, “In the history of garments there have only been 7 possibilities (shirt, pants, skirt, etc.) and you have just created the 8th!” I didn’t know what I could or could not do so I did anything. It was fun. I had no “I can’t line.

John reminded me that the world’s first drum was (and is) a heart. “Everyone’s a drummer,” he said. “The day you can’t drum is the day you are dead.”

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Move Beyond Belief

717. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

Judy (She-Whom-I Revere) liked my post about geese and sent this addition to me: the collective pronouns for geese are: ‘blizzard’, ‘chevron’, ‘knot’, ‘plump’ and ‘string’ of geese. I agree with Judy, I think I like ‘blizzard’ the best. Someday in idle party chat I would like to say, “Recently, I was caught in a blizzard of geese!” I would have been confused by the pronoun ‘blizzard’ as it applies to geese had I not seen them en masse the other day. My experience opened my eyes to wonder.

Words have the capacity to both imprison us and to set us free. Words are used in an attempt to describe the indescribable as the poems of Rumi attempt to do, or they can box us in, cage us in a dedication of limitation. Daily in my coaching practice I hear some variation of “I can’t.”

Can and Can’t are two very powerful words because both have deep roots in imagination. One reaches while the other rejects. One steps toward the unknown while the other resists movement. Take a look around your home or your city. Everything you see or touch, turn-on or plug-in began with an imagining and an action all wrapped in the big arms of “I can….” The important thing to note about both Can and Can’t is that they have a counterintuitive association with belief. Can’t is firmly vested in it’s belief. Can’t leads with belief. The lack of belief in possibility is a firm belief in impossibility. Can has no need for belief. Can moves without belief. Can leads with exploration and discovery; belief, for Can, comes second, after the doing is done.

The same rule applies to almost all powerful words: those that imprison us are planted firmly in belief; they are arguments for limitation. Those words that liberate our imaginations are vested in possibility and exploration; for words like “can,” “imagine,” and “discovery,” belief is not necessary. Belief follows; belief comes second after experience and wonder.