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  • Writer's pictureTom Foxley

Start Committing To Living Maximally

Are you playing the music? Or just playing the notes?

Last night was a surreal experience.

I found myself in a humid French town at 10pm. The whole community was out for this event.

Kids ran around the outside of the open air venue, pensioners sat quietly; obviously irritated by the youngsters’ inattention.

At the front of the audience was a stage where every musician for fifty kilometres took their turn in performing.

Teenage rock bands, a full orchestra, the local school, a choir, and naturally with this being France, a trio of accordionists, each stood on stage and delivered their recitals.

Some were incredible. Real musicians that made you FEEL the music. These musicians moved those of us in the crowd.

It felt smooth, and you could tell these were exquisite musicians.

The applause for them was both enthusiastic and sustained.

Others hit all the right notes, but the entire crowd fell flat and became awkward listening to them.

The applause afterwards was a mere formality - “thank you for trying”.

The weird thing is, these musicians performed virtually every note on their sheet music correctly, yet something felt…off.

But how can that be? How can you play all the right notes at all the right times yet underperform?

Because there’s a difference between playing the notes, and playing the music.

One is trying to avoid making mistakes and not be noticed.

The other is a master of their craft, channelling not just the quavers and triplets written on the page, but something within themselves too.

One is trying to cover their vulnerabilities and avoid criticism; to make it through the performance unscathed.. the other is allowing something to be expressed from their truest soul.

One is imitating greatness - repeating what the formula for success they’ve seen elsewhere… the other is publicly displaying their journey to find it within themselves.

And you, the listener, can tell the difference.

Just as you can tell the difference between the politician who is after your votes, and the one who is creating change…the dealmaker who is skimming an extra couple of percent off the top, and the partner who is ensuring the agreement is a win/win/win.

Jimi Hendrix’s guitar playing transposed to sheet music is littered with errors - notes that don’t belong, off beat mishaps, and clunky transitions. Listen to his music though, and every mistake not only belongs, but enriches your experience.

It’s not just the heroin coursing through his veins, it’s Jimi showing who he really is.

Self-consciousness breeds underperformance

The old buildings here in France are littered with masons and craftsmen’s marks - codes used to remember which giant stone blocks and colossal oak beams lived where. Yet the buildings are beautiful and the signature of the craft makes them even more so.

It’s the human touch, and also the absence of self-consciousness that makes these things special.

And an article written by AI, while technically correct, misses the bullseye. Just like the musician reading sheet music, it’s repeating something it has heard before, not expressing something novel and personal.

Where does this all relate to you, dear reader?

Well, are you stumbling along in life trying to avoid mistakes? Repeating someone else’s winning formula, in the hope that the winning lottery numbers are the same as they were three years ago?

In doing so, being technically perfect but your work never resonates. Not only do the recipients not connect, but YOU sense the lack of authentic expression too.

It feels off. It doesn’t come from the heart. You force yourself to be motivated every day. You don’t see the life unveiling that you thought your perfect approach would create.

Everything is “fine” but you aren’t truly fulfilled?

You feel stuck in your career. Stuck in your business. Like you’re losing the part of you that you really are?

To paraphrase Thoreau, you’re living a life of quiet desperation, and fear going to the grave with the song still unsung within you.

Or are you leaning into your edge? Risking the mistakes? But doing something true to you?

Are you just playing the notes, or are you playing the music?

Learn To Play Your Music

This is where the mindset to create success comes into play.

There are three reasons you may just be playing the notes, and not the music.

First, we can talk about stories & beliefs. You may have been taught to play small. You may have learned the story that you should avoid failure at all costs. You may be a perfectionist - a procrastinator masquerading as quality control.

Your stories are one predictor of your actions. So we must change the story if you’re going to change the narrative.

Second, we must consider the character you are developing. It’s quite possible that you’ve just put the reps into developing character skills which do not serve you.

Instead of practising courage, you’ve practised cowardice. Instead of ingraining wisdom into your daily actions, you have practised immediate gratification. If your character is untrained, you will perform far below your potential.

And finally, but just as importantly, your physiology may be working against you rather than for you. When we are on autopilot in life and in a fight/flight state, we seek safety, not expression. This affects the choices we see and the action we take.

The Three Steps to Playing Your Music

Regulate your nervous system. Develop your character. Eliminate your stories.


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