The Thursday Thesis – 22/11/2018
Left, right...left, right...left, right...
You don’t even think about it – you just think “I’ll go over there” and magic happens: the teetering stack of bones, tendons, muscles and fat just goes – seemingly effortlessly.
In essence, a walking human is a collection of four perfectly synchronised pendulums, both supporting and supported by a gristle-bound scaffold of calcification: bones.
But here’s a funny thing: if I had a pound for every one of my guitar students who’ve told me that they have no sense of rhythm, I’d have a ton more dosh in my pocket.
Some of those guys (and it is mostly the guys) are serious about their condition, and some of them make a joke out of it. But it’s still there, hogging their mindspace and stinking-up their thinking – despite the evidence to suggest that they are so obviously, so screamingly phenomenal at rhythm.
Way too many of us are convinced that we have no sense of rhythm, and – as a consequence – we lose our inborn capacity to sing, dance, play the guitar, piano, drums: this is malware for your mind.
If you had a virus in your computer, you’d fire up the toughest, most kick-arse, anti-virus software you could lay hands on and annihilate the virus.
If you were ill and couldn’t sing or dance – wouldn’t you seek medical help to restore what you’d lost?
In the same way that a person who doesn’t read has no advantage over someone who cannot read:
if you don’t dance, sing or make music you are no different to someone who can’t do those things.
Here’s the thing, though: every child sings, every child dances, every child will pick up a drum, pluck a string or pound a piano key.
So why are we born with music and rhythm, but grow up to believe we have none of that good stuff in us?
We’re born rhythmic because – as far we know – humans evolved as a pack animal; something like wild dogs or hyenas.
Ancient Homo Sapiens used their natural endurance and unique ability to cool-off as they ran, chasing prey animals to the point of collapse before moving in for the kill.
It’s called persistence hunting, and it is still used in isolated places where “civilisation” hasn’t choked the practice out.
Pack animals have to communicate with one another whilst on the move, and in the absence of language or in noisy environments sound may not be an option. Thus humans became masters of non-verbal communication and rhythm as our ancestors bounced along in perfect synchronisation with one another so they could maintain eye contact and pick up on one another’s body language.
Look at that group of joggers next time they come pounding past your window – they’ll all be in step with one another. Nobody is keeping them in time: they just instinctively fall into step together.
Ever see a couple who are out of step with one another?
What might that tell you about the state of their communications or relationship?
So don’t ever tell me that you have no sense of rhythm, because you, me, and everybody else...
Well, we are all just rhythm monkeys.
It’s our ancient inheritance, our birthright, and it’s what we do when we think there’s nobody watching. We dance when we are alone, when are inhibitions are lowered by alcohol or narcotics, or we are in a socially sanctioned place where dancing is acceptable – clubs and dance classes for instance.
When was the last time you saw someone dance in the street or in their workplace?
It’s been a while...
We all have rhythm, we all have natural – effortless timing – until someone tells us how hard it is and that we shouldn’t try, just in case we make a mess of it and look stupid.
Isn’t it time we let our rhythm monkeys out of their cages?
So shut up and dance, Monkey-face!
© Neil Cowmeadow 2017
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The Thursday Thesis – 15/11/2018
You know the bass-line I mean, don’t you?
It’s the most-sampled bass line in music: three short pulses of a deep note, a pause, then a walk up a scale to three short notes at a higher pitch, then a funky turnaround before the whole business repeats itself.
Try this: Bom, Bom, Bom – baba ba baba ba ba baba bom, bom, bom - badaba baba ba bap baaah... ba-boppa bum...
You might know it from The Sugarhill Gang’s Rappers’ Delight, but me – I know it from the source: Chic’s Good Times.
It’s my favourite bass guitar line, and there’s so much about it to love. So when I was in search of musical insight, it seemed only natural to go to the source of my favourite bass-line and ask for wisdom.
The only problem is that Bernard Edwards – Chic’s bass guitarist and the man who wrote that bass-line - died in 1996.
Strangely, earlier this year I spent ten minutes being Bernard Edwards, using a process known as Deep Trance Identification, all under the supervision of NLP’s co-creator Dr Richard Bandler and best-selling author and media personality Paul McKenna at a training event in London.
The idea of DTI is that a person – the subject - enters a state of trance and inhabits the body of a target person from whom the subjects wishes to elicit knowledge, insight or understanding.
The hypnotist acts as an interviewer, asking the questions and posing the problems upon which the subject wants the target’s viewpoint and wisdom.
One of the key ideas that make this such an effective technique is that the subject is addressing their own questions from the point of view of the target person, and draws upon the resources of the target person, experiencing it all from the perspective of the target person.
As a trained hypnotist I’m used to seeing unusual things happen – it’s part of the process. But I hadn’t touched DTI in over ten years, and I’d pretty much forgotten about it.
So, my questions for Bernard Edwards were these:
What’s the most important thing in music, in your opinion?
What makes the difference between a good bass-line and a great bass-line, in your opinion?
What’s the one thing you have learned during your career and your life which has made the greatest difference to you?
Armed with my questions, Jason (my training partner for the morning) guided me into deep trance and into a seat beside Bernard, from where my consciousness drifted across into Bernard’s body, my mind reaching into his fingertips as my posture shifted to sit like he sat.
Once I was comfortably installed, Jason started with the questions:
“So Bernard, What’s the most important thing in music, in your opinion?”
“Rhythm. You know, rhythm is everything in music – it’s the difference between music and noise. Hit it on The One and let the music tell itself to you. Trust the music, because it already knows what it wants to be, and you and I are just the faucet on that flow: our mission is to remain open to it.”
Some of it I already knew, so it was kind-of expected. But what I didn’t expect was to be speaking with a Queens, New York accent – just like Bernard Edwards did.
Jason made notes and thanked Bernard. I listened closely, knowing that I would remember everything, because hypnosis is mostly heightened awareness, rather than the zombie-like state often portrayed in films and telly.
“Bernard, in your opinion, what makes the difference between a good bass-line and a great bass-line?”
“Shhh! That does – it’s the spaces between the notes, the little air-gaps where the music catches its breath and the listener can’t help but lean in to the song, just trying to catch the first whiff of the next phrase. That’s what makes the difference: the spaces between the notes.”
Right on: Mozart is reputed to have said it, and I say it all the time. We instinctively know that silence is the other half of the music, because – without silence and the discontinuities it creates – music is...well, rubbish.
And again, that voice; I sound like an African-American from Queens.
“And finally, Bernard - What’s the one thing you have learned during your career and your life which has made the greatest difference to you?”
“Hmmm... You know, I think that the most important thing of all is to give all that you have and trust in the power. Empty yourself and more will be given unto you.”
This I did not expect – delivered in someone else’s voice, out of my own mouth – there’s a pointer to deep faith and something beyond the self. When we broke for lunch I was still marvelling at the DTI experience and what I felt I had been told – I’m anti-religious, so Bernard’s last piece of advice rattled me a bit, as did the biblical form of words “more will be given unto you”.
Maybe it was Jung’s collective unconscious, maybe it’s The Force of the Jedi, or maybe it’s just god, with a little g or a big G?
But it’s interesting to ask yourself who you would like to become, for just long enough to have them answer your questions.
So – over to you – who would you like to be, and what would you ask them?
The Thursday Thesis – 8/11/2018
When the tough cop Dirty Harry suggests that the freshly shot bank robber should ask himself “...do I feel lucky?” you might think Harry is just taking the piss: after all, the dude is lying in a pool of his own guts and blood while Harry - the bouffant-haired cop - stands over him toting a .44 Magnum.
By definition, it ain’t the felon’s lucky day.
But what is luck, anyway?
I’d describe good luck as an innate tendency to attract positive situations, circumstances, people and things into one’s life.
Bad luck has the opposite effect.
So what about you – do you feel lucky?
Ask yourself if you are lucky, neither lucky or unlucky, or plain old unlucky. There’s no right or wrong answer, but your answer is important because you’re going to need a baseline of how lucky, or otherwise, you are right now.
You’ll need that baseline because – from today – you’ll know how to be lucky, every day of your life.
How would you like to be lucky every single day of your life?
Suppose I told you that there is a way to be lucky – how suspicious would you be?
Would your bullshit radar start bleeping, 8 to the bar?
Don’t take my word for it, have a gander at the work of Professor Richard Wiseman, an English psychologist, who set up a study of more than a thousand people, that lasted 10 years.
According to The Prof, luck isn’t anything unusual or supernatural; neither is it a gift – it’s a mindset and a behaviour.
So, chuck out your lucky rabbit’s foot, your four-leaf clover and your lucky horseshoe, and check yourself in to the School of Luck.
Wiseman’s study divided its subjects into three groups:
Then the fun started...
Across a variety of tests, the Lucky People consistently spotted opportunities which were only spotted half of the time by the Control Group, and which were spotted rarely by the Unlucky People.
After much testing and thinking, Wiseman concluded that Luck was really the combination of four key factors:
1: He thinks that Lucky People create and notice opportunities. They are optimistic and curious, open to possibility, and see opportunities everywhere.
Furthermore, Lucky People tend to be sociable, outgoing, helpful and likeable. They are attractive to other people, and their helpfulness generates reciprocation from others. That’s why Lucky People always seem to know the right people – they simply know more people and those people know them in a positive way.
Unlucky People were more pessimistic and less sociable, helpful and less likeable.
It seems common sense that you’re not likely to meet the person of your dreams or have that life changing idea if your are uninterested, holed-up in your room for days on end, and don’t experience much in the way of real human contact with a number of people. Maybe this is why stroppy teenagers who live online think that they are unlucky and life is unfair?
2: According to Wiseman, Lucky People make lucky decisions by trusting their intuition and instincts: They trust themselves and their decisions much more than Unlucky People do. Consequently they are much more likely to make any decision and take action on that decision, which naturally increases the likelihood of a positive outcome.
This conclusion of the study is just another way of saying “make a bloody decision and get to work” and “trust your gut” – two very old ideas that still hold true.
3: Wiseman’s study concluded that Lucky People create self-fulfilling prophecies: they know what they want and make plans to achieve it, based on their idea of what should happen.
This is no surprise to anyone familiar with the vast body of research on the effect of goal planning because Wiseman’s idea of the self-fulfilling prophecy is really the common sense idea that a person with a plan will achieve far more than a person who has no plan at all.
4: Finally, Lucky People are resilient and turn “unlucky” events into “lucky” outcomes: which is another way of saying that Lucky People are determined, resourceful and are able to see the positive potential in any situation.
Again, none of this is news: the annals of history are full of the stories of people who experienced unfortunate events but who were able to transform that event into the springboard to greatness, fame and fortune.
So, all in all, the science seems only to re-state a few unfashionable old ideas that our forefathers knew:
I’m not sure if we really needed a ten-year academic study to verify that Luck is really nothing more than a placeholder word for these qualities and processes, but Professor Wiseman has sold a mountain of books based on his research – the lucky bastard!
For a fuller read of Wiseman's findings, get the book here:
The Thursday Thesis – 1/11/2018
Last episode you read about the difference between zero and one - the biggest difference you can imagine: the difference between nothing and something.
You may recall that going from zero to one is absolute, but going from 1 to any other number is just a difference of quantity.
I know that going from zero to one takes balls of steel, whilst going from 1 to 2 to 3 is easier, because you’ve done it before and it will be easier next time.
But following someone else’s pathway to success is altogether less scary.
Ever hear of Conrad, Gordon and Bean?
They’re not a law firm, they’re the crew of Apollo 12, and you’ve never heard of them.
You probably remember the name Neil Armstrong, but who was that other bloke in the Apollo 11 Lunar Module...Buzz something or other...Lightyear?...no...it’s gone...
If you believe that NASA managed to put a man on the moon nearly 50 years ago – something they can’t do today because they have ”...lost the technology” - think of the difference between the first mission (Apollo 11) and the second mission (Apollo 12).
Apollo 11 proved the concept, Apollo 12 merely reiterated it.
Another great first was the Four-Minute Mile and Roger Bannister: once RB proved it was possible, how many more sub 4-minute miles were there that year?
Well, just one actually – John Landy.
“John who?” I hear you ask...
Since Bannister’s breakthrough, hundreds of other runners have clocked a mile in less than four minutes. It’s a great achievement, but they all followed Bannister’s lead.
And that’s my point: whatever you want to do, just have a look around and see if anybody else has already done it. If somebody has already done what you plan to do – get rich, lose weight, write a book – whatever it is, you have a precedent.
Success, as they say, leaves clues.
One of the smartest things you can do is look at someone who is already successful in your area of ambition – a role model or mentor – and once you have found, get busy digging. Find out how they managed to become successful, find out what they did, how they thought, what their beliefs were.
Then steal their best ideas to help you get what you want by taking consistent action that moves you in the direction of your desired outcomes.
There is an abundance of wonders in the world, opportunities are everywhere and there is plenty to go around. The pathways to success criss-cross the world, they are the biographies, books, teachings and wisdom of people who have achieved their own version of success.
Hidden in plain sight, in the multitude of bookshops and libraries, online archives, podcasts and teachings are the pathways to your own success – there, right under your nose.
You don’t have to be the first to be successful.
In fact, there may be a reason why nobody has done it before.
But if you can find anyone who is crushing it in your field, watch and learn; read and understand, listen and assimilate.
Success leaves clues.
© Neil Cowmeadow 2018
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The Thursday Thesis is a fun way to share ideas and experiences from life as a Guitar Teacher, Certified NLP Practitioner and Life-Coach, Retailer, Composer, Player, Technician, Accountant, Scientist and Writer... and as the father of a wonderful son.
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