As we continue on our journey of building and strengthening our character, I wanted to address the topic of intention. Intention simply refers to the course of action that an individual decides or proposes to follow.
Several months ago, I had a very ‘out of the ordinary’ experience in that I was chaperoning a group of middle school musicians (one being my son) to Chicago to visit a world-renown, music school and conduct a band practice with a very famous music teacher…and eat a ton of deep dish Chicago pizza. The chaperones were allowed to sit in the back of the room and observe the instruction. The last time I met a music instructor was in my third grade band class when I attempted to play the trumpet, so I was very interested to see how things may have changed over the years. The music teacher gave some great music lessons and buried in his instruction were some valuable life lessons.
As one would expect, the group of young jazz musicians made a few mistakes throughout the day and the teacher provided some encouraging words to keep them on track. However, when it appeared that the kids were drifting a bit and became a little careless in their practice, the teacher shut things down and gave what amounted to an amazing half-time locker room speech that would have made Vince Lombardi proud.
He spoke about the importance of intention when hitting a note. Just going through the motions would result in many off key notes being played. If they are not going to strike a note with intention, they might as well not even hit it. In addition, he did acknowledge that they will still make mistakes in playing. Sometimes they would play an off key at the start or they may wander in the middle of the selection, but “you live with your finish,” so be intentional about finishing strong. Always focus on a strong finish as you will have no more notes to play at the end. His rallying cry worked and the still tired and hungry jazz band ended up sounding like a group of professionals.
Beyond playing effectively in a middle school jazz band, I think there are two takeaways from the instructor’s pep-talk that are insightful for us to consider on our journey to build and strengthen our character.
#1: We must live with intention
Our homes, our businesses, and our world continue to grow in complexity, intensity, and uncertainty. We can’t afford to just “wing it” and go through the motions. If we think we can build a solid 30-40 year career in a job just by showing up, we are living in a fantasy. We need to be intentional about how we add value today and what additional skills we may need to acquire in order to stay ahead of being commoditized in a global economy where someone will always be able to do our job faster and cheaper. Regardless of industry, we all are only a few years away from being “outsourced” or “downsized” unless we become intentional about staying ahead on additional training, skill development, job experiences, etc.
In our homes, we are all facing the reality that as our world gets more connected with things like the internet and social media, we run the risk of enabling those tools to get us disconnected within our own families if we just “wing it.” Just look at the average family driving in a car or sitting at a restaurant. Just about everyone has their own screen in front of them connecting with the rest of the world only picking up their heads to announce their order to the waiter. There are six of us in our family, we all have smart phones, and we all battle this reality pretty regularly. If we move forward without intentionally getting involved in the lives of those closest to us, we run a greater risk than just a temporary shutdown of internet service.
#2: We should focus on moving forward in order to finish strong
We all have a story or two about our past. Some may be good and some may be bad. Our past should not define us; it is just what got us started. Often, we unfortunately spend a great deal of energy “grinding” over our past. It is our responsibility to learn from it and focus on moving forward to finish strong. We are each responsible for writing the rest of our story with an intention on finishing strong. It does not matter whether we are 30, 60, or 90 years old, we can move forward with the intention of finishing strong as we will never know when our last note will be played.
If we make the choice to live with intention and avoid the seemingly easier path of just “winging it” in the short run, we will continue to build and strengthen our character and our Character Creates Opportunity® for us to finish strong in the areas of our life that matter most.