The Professional Guest: Comfortable & Familiar

“Comfortable and familiar won’t lead you to your dreams.”
—Matt Keller, “The Key to Everything.”

I’ve been reading an excellent book lately that my friend, Cheri sent to me, titled “The Key to Everything” by Matt Keller. In his book, he talks about the keys to success: how charm, charisma, wealth, power, talent, looks, smarts, guts, hard work have stood as the surest indicators of success. Not anymore. There’s a lesser-celebrated characteristic that has risen to the top of the list—teachability.

He talks about “desire”— the first desire that is paramount to teachability is a desire to become better. I haven’t even gotten past page 2 in his book and I’m journaling, recording all the nuggets to be found in these pages. Maybe it’s because I find myself here.

imagesLast year, I realized that I had grown comfortable—too comfortable—with the “comfortable and familiar” in my own life. Approaching sixty years old, having worked all my life, raised a son, acquired a home and then proceeding to furnish it, I thoroughly enjoyed that part of my life journey. The most fun was heading out to consignment stores and thrift shops to find that “piece” that would be perfect in “that corner” of my house. And of course, nothing was more fun than attending a performance my son was in, taking pictures of him with his friends, and celebrating all that was “him.” Still, I felt myself becoming a jellyfish…hostage to the couch and television just to get past the last 12 hour marathon of doing life. I joined a gym with a personal trainer in an attempt to make a change in my life. After an hour with him (or her) each day, lifting a 20 pound weight ball and slamming it to the ground, I went home and could barely crawl up the steps to my bedroom.

With the economy tanking, housing prices dropping, work slumping, I realized it had all become unsustainable. At least not sustainable all by myself. What’s worse, I had gained 25 pounds from feeling trapped in a home and a climate that was non-conducive to activity. In Minnesota, only the bravest of the brave venture outside to jog or run when it is below zero degrees. I personally think they are stupid. There is absolutely nothing pleasurable about running outside with frost gathering on the mustache I’ve worked so hard to get rid of.

Overweight, bored, alone since my son moved away, I had lost all my joie-de-vivre. Sometimes, I would get so wound up in an attempt to “feel” again that I would lay all night on my bed with the headphones on, listening to music…Led Zeppelin, Yes, Rush, Tom Petty… Never got much sleep but my spirit soared all night long.

It felt like I had lost “vision” for my life.

When I was younger, I traveled the world, went on missions trips, fed the poor and hungry, engaged in community activities. I even learned to run sound for live bands and traveled with a musical youth group performing live events from city to city. Then, I worked with graphic design agencies to not only design and create visual ads for their clients, but to create and produce dealer shows, hire models, and—for me, the most fun part—run the lighting and music for the live shows. We had laser lights shining over a moonless lake night, techno music cued as boat after boat cruised in, lit up by spotlights. There is nothing like the adrenaline rush of knowing you have to hit the lights or music cues at precisely the right second during a live event so that it runs smoothly, the actors play their parts, and the audience is pleased. EQ has to be right for the environment: Bump the mid-range, pull back on the high-range, increase the intelligence so no one sounds like a 1950s lounge singer. Feedback from the mic or sound system is your worst nightmare. Worse yet, you forget to follow the wiring from the mic to the ground wiring, back to the amp and FX machines, and something doesn’t work….did you remember to turn on the amp?

Unknown-1My musical friend, Bruce gave me a good tip. He said, “Okay, you’ve got the mic’s up, cords plugged in, FX turned on, equalizer on and tuned to the room, all the court is in waiting for the King. The amp is the King. The last thing you do is turn on the amp.  He’s waiting to make his court appearance after all the other players are in place.”  Turn on the amp. Ta-Da! Long Live the King!



And after that, the first and most important person to leave the court is always The King. Turn off the amp! Then you can turn off all the other court members and the play is over, actors leave the stage, and the audience turns to leave with happy memories of having been entertained.

I’m pretty sure there’s a segue to life here but I haven’t got time to think about it now.

Back to “desire” and “teachability.” The reason why I bailed on my home, friends, accoutrements and everything I had known in Minneapolis was precisely because I have the desire to be teachable. I knew I was becoming stodgy and comfortable and that was not okay with me. I needed to “shake it up.”

Was it easy? Absolutely not. Was it comfortable? Ghastly. Moving from a normal temp of -20 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit to a place that could boil eggs on the sidewalk was the most uncomfortable I have been since my two months in Hong Kong in the 70s.

But here I am… in a new place…with unfamiliar birds to learn about, unfamiliar plants to observe, unfamiliar driving habits to adapt to, more sunshine than I’ve seen in 40 years, and how do I feel about it?

I am teachable.

I will learn what I need to here.

And I have the desire to learn.

Not only that, but I am also here to teach others what I have learned. This is the Life Journey we are all on. Not everybody is at the same train stop at the same time. So you listen to people, listen to their stories, share your own story, and we all eventually arrive at the same destination, which is peace with God. Wise people listen to wise people.

Which is why I keep a posse of people I respect and admire in my phone contacts at all times. I need their input, their encouragement, their life lessons, their laughter to keep me going. I need people and I have my own select group of peeps that keep me going. They rotate in an out, depending on where they are in life, or how much of me they can take, but I always have my peeps.

“In the multitude of counselors, there is wisdom (safety).” —Proverbs 11:14

UnknownMy friend, Joyce told me to go to Trader Joe’s and buy their  “Nutty Bits” concoction, because she said that’s what it’s like to read my blogs. You get a little bit of chocolate, some nuts, some caramel in the center, more nuts on the outside.


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