Can You Hear the Music?

Navajo-Medicine-ManCan you hear the music?   This following story was recently shared by Wilford W. Andersen at a church conference and thought it was a powerful metaphor for so many of us living our lives but not hearing the music.

Mr. Andersen stated in part, “Years ago I listened to a radio interview of a young doctor who worked in a hospital in the Navajo Nation. He told of an experience he had one night when an old Native American man with long braided hair came into the emergency room. The young doctor took his clipboard, approached the man, and said, “How can I help you?” The old man looked straight ahead and said nothing. The doctor, feeling somewhat impatient, tried again. “I cannot help you if you don’t speak to me,” he said. “Tell me why you have come to the hospital.”

The old man then looked at him and said, “Do you dance?” As the young doctor pondered the strange question, it occurred to him that perhaps his patient was a tribal medicine man who, according to ancient tribal customs, sought to heal the sick through song and dance rather than through prescribing medication.

“No,” said the doctor, “I don’t dance. Do you dance?” The old man nodded yes. Then the doctor asked, “Could you teach me to dance?” The old man’s response has for many years caused me much reflection. “I can teach you to dance,” he said, “but you have to hear the music.”

After contemplating this story and the old man’s insightful response it occurred to me that many people know how to dance but are not hearing the music.  Have you ever pulled up next to someone in the adjoining car who is rocking out and dancing but you can’t hear the music so it looks awkward and foolish to everyone but the individual who is dancing to the music.

I spent 35 years in a profession that I learned the dance but never heard the music. I believe a lot of people, in fact most people like me, work in professions in which they learned  and some even do well i.e. learned the dance.  For example, I achieved VP and Plant Manager of a fortune five hundred company which most would consider very successful.  Too many people, like me, are in careers that their parents choose, society holds prestigious, and/or one they stumbled onto or just found to be convenient.  Unfortunately, like me, most them can not hear the music.

What is the music?  It is melody in our heart.  It is our passion and love.  However only we can hear the music of our heart and it yearns for us to both hear and dance to our own music.  Our music is the God-given talents and strengths that we have been given.

I found two really simple but powerful proven ways to gain some insight into your talents and character strengths.  The first is by found in the book “Strengths Finder 2.0” by Tom Roth.  The book contains an on-line assessment which upon completion will give you your top five talents which when utilized on a daily basis becomes your strengths.   Having this knowledge then allows to do what you do best every day which energizes and fulfills your life’s purpose. The really cool thing is you don’t have to read the book before taking the assessment.  In fact, I recommend taking the assessment then reading about your top five talents/strengths.  There are thirty-five talents/strengths however the top five are the best indications of what energizes you and allows you the hear the music.

The second is a character strengths survey which is free.  Character strengths are the personality characteristics that make you authentic, unique and feel engaged. Go to and the insightful results will tell you the character strengths in which you are most comfortable in utilizing on a daily basis.

If you are interested in self-discovery and putting yourself on a path of being able to hear the music then take the time to do both.  You are worth the investment and for such a small price in regards to money and time you can begin to dance to your hearts music.  Taking the “Strengths Finder”  assessment put me on a path that changed my life.  I have since taken the character strengths assessment and it gave me even more insight into my personality and how I could benefit even further by using my character strengths on a daily basis.  The two compliment each other wonderfully.

As I was, and unfortunately most people still are, in professions that does not align with the music in their hearts.  Thus they are dancing and if not outwardly, at a minimum inwardly, they feel awkward and foolish because they are essentially dancing without hearing the music. I know because I did not hear the music until I walked away from a six figure position and followed my passion.  We cannot help but be awkward and somewhat foolish in our dance until we hear the music.  However you might not need to change professions but until you are in a working environment which allows you to utilize your strengths/talents on a daily basis then you will never really hear the music.

The music is found in your passion.  Then and only then will our dance and our music by in sync.  The irony is when we are following our passion utilizing our strengths we will not only dance but we will always hear the music which is beautiful to all that have the opportunity to see and hear it. Gather the courage to be able to hear the music and both you and the world will benefit from and celebrate your dance. Though it took some time for me to have the courage to walk a way from what the “world” considers successful I am now hearing the music and my life’s dance could not be better or more fulfilling.

The Years Teach You!

Gary 60th - 009The years teach you what the days, week, and months don’t know.” Not sure where I heard this statement but as the years go by I am beginning to truly understand it’s meaning. As the new year begins I am reminded that we have an opportunity to learn something everyday. When we don’t take advantage of these small but important moments, time has a way of teaching us the lessons that we may have missed along the way. My oldest child Rene will be 40 this next year. I learned a lot over this span of time but missed a few lessons as well. Taking a moment to reflect on some of those lost moments as well as committing to ensuring fewer lessons are missed going forward. A life time of learning is there for the taking if we will be still and “listen.”

Black vs. White? or Just a Life Lesson?

Black vs. White? or Just a Life Lesson?

Black vs. White? or Just a Life Lesson?

The game was soon out of reach for the visiting team. They were losing by more than 30 points early into the second quarter. The relatively new referee working hard to stay focused on the lack luster game called a foul late in the second quarter as the shooter went up for a shot. It was not so obvious to the untrained eye but there was really no foul. Having scored only 4 points, the referee wanted to give the losing team a break by allowing them a chance to score from the free throw line.

The coach at the other end of the court immediately called the referee over to dispute the call. I know what you’re thinking – the coach ahead was so competitive he didn’t want the other team to get away with anything. That might be the expected scenario but today was the exception (at least from the ref’s perspective). It was not the coach of the team ahead by 30 points but rather the coach of the losing team that pulled the referee over to discuss the call.

He told the referee, “That was a terrible call. You and I both know that was a horrible shot. There was no foul and I know what you’re doing. These boys don’t need a break. They need to learn how to play basketball. I don’t want this team to be treated like victims. They need to be held to a higher standard so they can become the kind of basketball players and ultimately the individuals I know they can become. They can’t do that when you bail them out with a call like that.”

Now the referee could have defended his call and denied taking such action. But he knew the coach had caught him. He also realized the lesson the coach was trying to teach his kids and quite unexpectedly teaching him so he just respond “OK Coach, It won’t happen again.” The referee walked away realizing there is more going on in this basketball game than just basketball.

Incidentally, the coach was an African-American (Black) and the referee was Caucasian (White). This was a great reminder that not all Blacks play the victim and not all Whites are prejudice. Most of the time life is about learning lessons from each other if we care enough to listen.

The referee by the way was my son who shared this compelling story with me. When I sent him a draft for his review he said he hadn’t even thought of this being a “Black vs. White” issue. Neither should we being thinking Black vs. White on so many of the challenges we are now facing. Lets us continue rather to learn from each other “Life’s Lessons.”