Find Your Key in Life

While visiting family in NY this past week, I was able to go watch my dad play the saxophone at Lucy’s, a local bar. My dad is an incredibly talented saxophone player, and I do not just say this because he is my father. Anyone who has seen him play can attest to this. He’s been playing for pretty much his entire life, and rarely will you ever see him read music. That night he was participating in a “jam session,” where he brings his saxophone and just gets on stage with a group of other musicians, playing along to various songs. He does this a few times a week. The next morning we went for a walk, and as we talked about the idea of jamming, he made an interesting point.

Dad: “Musicians just call out the key, and you just get up there and play. You don’t even know what the song is. But you just play whatever you feel. Improvise. Don’t read too far into it. They call out the key, and then we jam.”

Me: “What happens if you mess up?”

Dad: “Nothing. You just keep jamming. You go with it. Because if you don’t go with it, you’ll lose it, and the chords will just pass you right by.”

I realized that we don’t have to know how to play an instrument in order to apply the concept of “jamming” to our own lives.

Moving from NY to Charlotte was one of the biggest decisions of my life, and it was something I wrestled with for a long time before leaving. I could have come up with forty different reasons why I shouldn’t have done it. But then I figured out that I had nothing to lose. I could always come back if I didn’t like it, or if I failed, or if it didn’t work out. It would have still been a lesson and a learning experience. I had no idea what I’d do here, where I would live, or who I would meet. I realized that, in the grand scheme of things, it’s not even that big a deal. People pick up and leave all the time, moving to different countries and remote parts of the world. In the end, they experience amazing and often life-changing situations. They meet wonderful people. They expand their reach and grow internally in ways they never dreamed of. And guess what? Their families still love them just the same when they come home for the holidays. Sometimes those bonds even strengthen, since the time you do have becomes more meaningful. Relocating a few states away was really a small move. But jumping in without knowing all the answers or having everything figured out was one of the best things I could have ever done.

Leap and the net will appear

It’s so easy to stay put and not make a move in life (literally or figuratively) because you are scared or uncertain. You can always find at least ten reasons as to why you should not do something. No one is ever certain. In fact, those who go with their gut and take risks tend to be the most successful people. In life there will never be a definite answer on a tough decision. There will never be a solid “right time” to have kids. Your finances will never be “in order” enough for you to go start that one thing you’ve been putting off. You’ll always have “too much to do” to excuse you from taking that trip or enrolling in that class or calling that special someone you lost touch with. So forget about having all of the little details in place – because you never will. Just find your “key” and start jamming. Sure you may mess up or stumble a bit, but so what? As long as you’re in the right vicinity, you’ll quickly get back on track. If my dad refused to get out there until he knew all of the songs, he’d be in his basement practicing so much that he’d probably never make it on stage.

The keys always change

It’s important to acknowledge that the keys always change. Three years ago for me, the key was moving to Charlotte. A short time later, another key was writing, and starting this blog. I was never really sure where it would go, but I just found the key and started jamming. Now, there are other keys that are on the map, waiting for me to use my gut to find them and start playing. Every time, it’s tough and scary. But it’s always worth it.

The trick to jamming in life and going with your gut is to quiet down all of that other chatter in your head and pay attention. Allow yourself to feel what is going on without worrying about what you didn’t do today, or what you have to do tomorrow, or what someone else may think. Not living up to your full potential and failing to follow through on things for yourself doesn’t help anyone around you. Ironically instead, regret, resentment, guilt, and anxiety creep in, and none of those things are healthy for you or anyone else in your life. Many people are afraid that doing what is right for them would make them selfish, when ironically, the opposite occurs. It allows you to be happy and healthy, so you can now be the best version of YOU to all of those around you. Change is hard, and as with any transition, there will be some waves and rough waters. Expect this. Just hang on and ride it out until you reach smooth sailing. Remember, if change were easy, everyone would do it.

While watching my dad that night, I looked around and realized that there were many more people in the audience than there are on stage. (Of course, this is always the case at any concert you attend.) Part of this is obviously due to sheer talent that comes out of life gifts, and much practice and dedication from the musicians. But another part is because many people are too scared to get up there in the first place. So, what are you waiting for? Call out your key, and just start jamming.

Have you found your key? What is it?

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Good Article. I too, think the “key” is to just jump in and try things out and if you make a mistake use it to grow and get better at whatever you do.

“Many people are afraid that doing what is right for them would make them selfish, when ironically, the opposite occurs.”

Very inspiring…totally agree with this!

‘@jeffshjarback Thanks Jeff! That is an excellent point you made about just jumping in and trying things. Mistakes are huge learning experiences, and true failure only happens when we don’t allow ourselves to fail.

‘@kmjm2000 Thank you!

Ali – thanks so much for sharing this. So many people can let lessons like the one your dad put out there slip by without regard. You, however, are able to weave a story out of your experience for us all to share and learn from. Very few can put their everyday happenings on a stage like you do here; Keep up the great work and keep jamming with the Key you’re in; I will definitely be here to listen! 🙂

‘@heygaston Thank you Gaston! And feel free to share any personal advice you have on “finding your key” here! 🙂

This is a wonderful post Ali. I had no idea your father played sax! In that picture it almost seems as though he IS the music, effortless when one is in sync with the moment, doing what one loves to do simply for its own sake. Beautiful. I played clarinet for many years, and a little bit of tenor sax and I was NEVER able to play improv in the jazz band basically because I was too afraid. My fear became an obstacle in a strange circular kind of way because to begin with I kept putting off memorizing the keys. It’s almost as if we purposely (though unconsciously) create our own obstacles so that we can use them as an excuse for inaction, simply out of fear. I am so glad you posted this blog, I really enjoyed and appreciated you and your father’s personal story, as well as the wisdom and positivity of the message as a whole. Kudos to you!

By the way, the “key”, I feel, is ATTENTION. If you know What IS, you will know what Should BE. 😉

‘@rshin Thank you Rula! That is a great point, about us creating our own obstacles and excuses. It’s definitely natural we would do this out of fear and/or uncertainty. The important part, like you say, is to be able to acknowledge it, and give ourselves a break (and a hug) since we are only human, and learn from it. Great comment. I’m glad you enjoyed the story! I’ll have to let him know that you play for the next time he is in town, maybe you two can jam together 😉

‘@Ali Mac Sure, I would love to jam with your Dad next time he comes into town. Does he know twinkle twinkle little star? I can totally ROCK that one! 😉

And you are right, we need to take it easy on ourselves.

‘@rshin Haha! I think he can swing that one 😉

[…] mishaps, the truth is that there are always wise gems of wisdom to be found within them; little life lessons that stick with you as the years go on, until their logic permeates your rationale and becomes […]

[…] mishaps, the truth is that there are always wise gems of wisdom to be found within them; little life lessons that stick with you as the years go on, until their logic permeates your rationale and becomes […]

[…] mishaps, the truth is that there are always wise gems of wisdom to be found within them; little life lessons that stick with you as the years go on, until their logic permeates your rationale and becomes […]

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