Try the Opposite*

I started listening a podcast of Steve Seskin talking about his song, co-written with Tom Douglas “Grown Men Don’t Cry,” which they wrote for Tim McGraw.  

He and Tom had finished the first two verses. They needed the third.  

The first verse tells about seeing a mom and her child in a tough spot, but not being about to do much about it, or stop to help. 

The second verse talks about a man visiting his fathers grave when it’s too late to make amends and “talking to the wind.”  

Where could the third verse go? 

They explored ideas about what else might make a man cry, more sickness, death, and loss. But they’d already explored all that pretty well. As Steve tells it they spent three days knocking on those doors without any ideas idea they liked answering.  

Then they found the answer: tears of joy–a tender scene between father and child.  

For me the less is it’s easy to get anchored to a point of view or idea. How do you get unstuck? One way is to test out that idea’s opposite.

*Tip of the hat to Tim Ferriss

Saturday Songwriting: Scrape the Sun

The three major chords in a scale are amazing. I feel like I overlook them sometimes. I want to do more than write just another three chord song. But a solid melody and three chords is more than enough to write a great song.  

This week’s musical idea is taking a look at a connection between the three major chords and the scale they come from, which is that those three chords together hold all the notes of the major scale. That means any melody that sticks to a major scale could be harmonize with just those three chords.   

I was blown away the first time I heard that. I still kind of am.  


The Prompt:

Here’s a link to Christopher Bucklow’s Art

The Musical Idea:

Here’s a downloadable pdf of the worksheet above:

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Sixty Percent Productivity

A friend the other day said she heard Gregg McKeown say something like: Expecting people to be productive every minute of the day is unrealistic. You can only assume 60% productivity. 

As a rule, humans are pretty bad at estimating how long project will take. A rule of thumb in construction, as I understand it, is to estimate the amount of time a project will take then multiply by two. That math lines up pretty well with the supposed Gregg McKeown quote.

Which is all to say if you think you’re working at 60% capacity, you may well be  close to working at 100%. But more, we often expect and demand far too much out of ourselves and others. It seems that It’s only when we get really honest with ourselves about what we can do consistently, and plan for that, that we begin to approach what appears to be a superhuman 110%.  

Getting really honest doesn’t mean getting draconian, overbearing, and unkind. It means observing what I do and reporting on it without judgment. Seeing what my strengths are. Seeing where I could probably get more done by not attempting to do anything. And finally, doing what seems to be a kryptonite for me—asking for help when I need it.  

The Bird of Intent

The other day I wrote about starting intentionally (and stopping intentionally as well).

Today, I read this from Seth Godin’s Blog

Standing at my desk this summer, it had just turned 10 am, and I realized that I’d already:

Heard from an old friend, engaged with three team members on two continents, read 28 blogs across the spectrum AND found out about the weather and the news around the world.

Half my life ago, in a similar morning spent in a similar office, not one of those things would have been true.

The incoming (and our ability to create more outgoing) is probably the single biggest shift that computers have created in our work lives. Sometimes, we subscribe or go and fetch the information, and sometimes it comes to us, unbidden and unfiltered. But it’s there and it’s compounding.

One option is to simply cope with the deluge, to be a victim of the firehose.

Another is to make the problem worse by adding more noise and spam to the open networks that we depend on.

A third might be, just for an hour, to turn it off. All of it. To sit alone and create the new thing, the thing worth seeking out, the thing that will cause a positive change.

As I finished reading this, I flashed on the thought “That thing could be a song.” That’s when the magpies in my head started piping up singing; “Songs add to the noise!  Aren’t there enough songs already?” 

They’re right of course. There are too many songs in the world, a daunting desultory deluge of ditties. But one worth seeking out? One that will cause a positive change? That takes intent.   

Likely more than an hour of intent. But much like Anne Lamott’s famously bother had to work his project bird by bird, the hours of my intent have to perch themselves one after another to write a song which worth another’s seeking.

A song which will make a change requires intent.