Why Nobody Can Tell You What’s Right (For You)

Blue Glass Heart PendantLast night, I went to OpenMind at The Grove. Afterwards, I was chatting with a couple of song writers about song writing, and one of them (Dariush Kanani) said something about how the best songs happen when you don’t try to make the song be a certain way, but just allow it to unfold and take shape naturally. Actually, he probably didn’t say that at all, but it doesn’t matter what he said. What matters is what I took from what he said, and that’s what I took from it: the idea that when you try to impose your will and expectations on the world around you or even your own creative process, you can end up closing a lot of doors to some very wonderful places.

At the time, I said, “That’s true! Not just of song writing, but life!”

And that has got me thinking about these little truths we realise about the creative process, or other specific processes (like business practice, entrepreneurship, relationships, teaching, learning, time management, or ANYTHING – you name it!) … It seems to me that any solid truth about any process can be traced back to a principle that can be usefully applied to pretty much any other area in life. And that’s what makes truth so powerful.

For example, take JFK’s famous line, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” This exhortation has resonated with people through the decades, since JFK made it famous. And the principle behind it can be shaped into any number of other similar phrases such as, “Don’t think of what you can get. Think of what you can give.” Or, “Don’t try to sell. Try to serve.” Or, “Seek not to be understood, but to understand.” And so on and so on.

So I’ve been thinking about what all these principles have in common. And to me, at the root of all good principles is love. But that’s not a very helpful idea because the concept of love has been bastardised, warped, manipulated, and loaded with all sorts of crap by the media and ads that aim to hijack the idea for profit. So forget about love and let’s get more practical, more specific.

And to get more specific, I’m going to get more vague.

For me, at the root of all principles that resonate most profoundly, is growth. Stretching.  Getting bigger not smaller. Being open and vulnerable instead of shielding and protecting myself. And for me, this is about checking my heart, to see if I’m grasping things closer to me, or whether I’m opening my hands, stretching them out in offering to others.

Like when I play live, what’s that about? Is that about, “Here I am, this is what I’ve written” in a “me vs others” sort of way? Or is it, “There you are! I’m so pleased you’re here. And I’m happy to freely share what I’ve got” in a “here we all are together” sort of way? If my heart is in the first place, I feel smaller, defiant and defensive. If my heart is in the second place, I feel bigger. I feel free. I’ve been performing music since I was a child. And I could (and probably will some day) write an awful lot about what I’ve learned. But all the lessons I’ve learned about performing are lessons I’ve learned about life in general.

People try to boil down right and wrong into lists of rules, laws and guidelines, but at the end of the day, no list of rules can cover every possible response your heart might have to any given circumstance. And your heart, with ego and fear stripped away, is the best guide for what’s right for you. Only you can find that. With courage. And often with the help of others!

So anyway, there are my thoughts on life, love, and truth right now …

Please leave a comment below … would love to hear what you think or what your experience has been … 🙂




Trusting Your Gut Could Save Your Life

korea ferry disaster 2014-04-16I generally avoid keeping up with news, but from time to time, a story crosses my radar. I reckon friends will tell me about anything really important.

Today, I heard some news and was drawn in despite my general news avoidance.  I read the media reports and watched video footage and wept.

And I’m not writing about it here to depress you. I’m writing about it as a parent whose heart cries for the hundreds of people who lost their children yesterday, as their children did what they were taught to do.

So here’s the scenario:

What do you get when you combine a major disaster (ferry sinking) with hundreds of high school students (passengers) brought up in a culture of obedience to authority figures?


The reports are damning. The consistent report from survivors is that they heard a thud, felt the ferry lurch, then were instructed to stay inside. They put on life vests and obeyed. This photo, showing students in life vests awaiting permission to go outside, was taken by one of the survivors. They waited for a half hour or more. And then it was too late for most of them. 

Almost 300 people  out of the original 459 passengers are still missing, likely dead. And every one of them followed the instructions given by the ferry’s crew and over the PA telling them to stay inside. The ones who didn’t listen and jumped into the sea survived, picked up by rescue helicopters and boats. Just think about that one.

It makes me so angry. My parents emigrated to Canada when I was 5 months old and Canadian culture is now a part of me. But I have plenty of experience of the values prevalent in Korean culture. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s all bad. But when you’re told that it’s far more important to obey your elders than to trust your gut, there is something seriously wrong. Though I’m all for respecting others (whether older or younger) and for working co-operatively with local and larger communities, I can’t feel good about not nurturing the best and most powerful part of being human: that bit inside that makes you able to think for yourself, feel for yourself, trust yourself.

It breaks my heart that those people (children) waited, compliantly, co-operatively on that ferry, and they are now dead.

I’m going to stop writing now because I’m crying again.

If you want to see the BBC article that I got the photo from, it’s here: