Dare to be Average / Music / Practical Patchwork

We Don’t Burn Incense We Burn Calories: How Hard Work Still Pays Off

Wood Allen Quote

Let’s thank Amy Jane for an inspirational reminder of this Woody Allen quote.

I used to take a yoga class with a phenomenal instructor. Frank was almost 80 years old and he could twist himself up like a rubber band and had the heart and lung stamina of a twenty five year old man in really good shape. While Frank was on his platform racing through “flying monkeys,” I’d be lying useless on the floor with my heart pounding so fast that it might just pop out of my chest. I was 20 something and his health and stamina was far better than mine.

Days with Frank remind me of what it takes to make things happen: work, commitment, stamina.

What I may have had over on Frank was my youth and untainted health, but what Frank had over me was commitment and daily work. He taught yoga everyday, and was in a helluva lot better shape than I was. Even at 80 years old (having survived more ailments than my budding mind could imagine) he could out jump me, out run me, and do an actual handstand longer than my flighty 20-something-brain could hold the thought of a handstand. It’s 20 years later and what I still remember about Frank was him SHOUTING at our yoga class:

“We don’t burn incense, we burn calories!”

You might be a very peaceful hippy who’s thinking , well that’s not a very meditative moment for yoga class. I’d disagree. What most of us are crummy at is training and disciplining our mind. That’s what meditation is for: mind training. The myth of meditation, and sometimes yoga, perpetuates this bogus philosophy that we be quiet and gentle. Not exactly true. Sure we don’t want to actually hurt ourselves, but our minds are so much like unruly dogs (a later post will elaborate on this) that our attempt at sitting still is like an undisciplined dog tugging its collar chasing after a cat. Most of us can barely take a moment to say hello to our discomfort let alone sit through pain, or worse yet, hold the profound mental stamina required to work through a 90 minute “power yoga” class with an 80 year old named Frank. It’s not all the meditative quiet that has taught my mind to calm down, it’s learning to confront the discipline of holding my center, not freaking out in tough situations, that has taught my mind to calm down.

This analogy applies to most goals. Commitment to a project or life goal is a good example. Our blog has been down for a couple of weeks– both the editors, myself being one of them, have been focused on other projects and aspects of life.  Many of us can get overwhelmed in the face of option paralysis and just drop the commitment. Sometimes that’s truly necessary if we are unfocused or truly stretched too thin and not taking care of ourselves. In other cases, we drop it out of fear or malaise from the frustration of the long haul, those days where things aren’t sexy and just grind. Those are the days when we need some inspiration, like Woody Allen’s mom gave him.

Today I was enjoying an inspiring conversation with one of our writers about blogging and she reminded me of a fabulous quote by Woody Allen:

“80% of success is showing up.”

We were reviewing a bunch of successful people and what we found about them is that they just keep on continuing with what they’re doing — they show up. And, they don’t show up in their own private cave. Showing up doesn’t exactly mean we make our music alone in our garage day after day while we fantasize of having a fan base; no, showing up to create a fan base is a different matter than making the music. It depends on what your final goal is, but whatever the final vision is, that’s what you have to show up for. Using the music with a fan base analogy, the two things to show up for are: making music and working on creating a fan base (nowadays there are a TON of options for that). We can break down our goals in this simple way and then, just show up for the commitment and completion process.

While tracking down Woody’s quote, I found an excellent interview with him that’s pretty inspiring.  He talks about how his mother encouraged his commitment, stamina and discipline, rather than talent:

“I think that the biggest life lesson I learned as a boy that has helped me and is still with me is that you really have to discipline yourself to do the work.  If you want to accomplish something you can’t spend a lot of time hemming and hawing, putting it off, making excuses for yourself, and figuring ways.  You have to actually do it.  I have to go home every single day, no matter where I am in a world, no matter what I’m doing, and putting 30 to 45 minutes of practice on my clarinet because I want to play.  I have to do it. When I want to write, you get up in the morning, go in and close the door and write.  You can’t string paper clips, and get your pad ready, and turn your phone off, and get this, get coffee made.  You have to do the stuff.  Everything in life turns out to be a distraction from the real thing you want to do.”  - Woody Allen

Read the rest of the interview with Woody Allen and his inspirations on writing here 

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