Versatility as Hindrance
It's been quiet around here.
After falling into a natural rhythm of monthly posts for the first year of this blog, my last entry was more than six months ago. It wasn't a planned hiatus, but it's not exactly surprising, either. When I started writing here, I was working full-time, doing some limited volunteering at church, and, thanks to pandemic life, not much else. As the pace of life has slowly accelerated, some other activities have come back. Public performances have resumed, vacations and work trips have been scheduled and taken, and new job and church responsibilities have arrived. More activities, errands, and family time have crept onto the calendar. Most significantly, I added teaching back to my schedule during the spring semester.
These are all good things, and I'm blessed to be able to do them! I graduated from college with a music degree on the cusp of a recession and leveraged my versatility into more than a decade of successful freelance work. If I hadn't been willing to adapt and open to learning new skills, I would not have been able to make a living. But it can be difficult to set something down once you've picked it up, and each of us has a finite amount of energy and attention every day. Eventually, there is a choice: let something go or get worse at everything.
When I reflect on the spring of 2020, it's hard for me to wrap my mind around everything I was trying to manage:
- Devoting myself to prayer and Bible study
- Fulfilling my responsibilities as a husband, son, brother, and friend
- Working a full-time job with significant overtime
- Completing the final credits of my master's degree and writing my capstone paper
- Teaching part-time an hour from home
- Volunteering at church
- Performing regularly and maintaining my musical skills
Needless to say, it was impossible to do all of these things well. In hindsight, it's clear that I was doing all of them quite poorly. Having so many plates in the air is pointless without sufficient time and attention to devote to them. It was a recipe for guaranteed burnout and stagnation.
If one good thing has come out of the pandemic for me, it's that it forced me to stay home, slow down, and take stock. This brought significant changes in my career, family life, and schedule. For the first time in many years, I have actual margin in my life these days, and I simply refuse to go back. And so, when life got busy in other areas, I had to take a break from writing. No regrets. Fortunately, I've recently made some other adjustments to recover some time, and I hope to resume my semi-regular posting schedule. But I'll share one other recent example of this principle in action:
I never really wanted to play the electric guitar. But a point came about 10 years ago when most of our electric players were moving on from the church where I was working, and I wanted to continue playing guitar-driven music. I bought the gear I needed to start playing and got functional enough to get through the simple worship songs we were using. And then I just sort of stayed there. I bought and sold a ton of equipment and spent a lot of time playing, but I never really improved. Even worse, all the energy I devoted to electric guitar took away from my primary instruments (drums and bass), and my playing suffered as a result. I could play more instruments but none of them as well. All in all, it became very frustrating.
Earlier this year, I sold my electric equipment and refocused my energy and time on fewer instruments. I had to let go of something to be better at other things, and it has been a refreshing change. Saying "yes" to the most important things always requires saying "no" to something else. This is a hard lesson to learn, but I'm trying to take it to heart, staying focused on the essentials and letting go of the rest. Are there adjustments you can make to focus on what's most important?