Like a small boat on the ocean • Sending big waves into motion • A single word can make a heart open
I might only have one match, but I can make an explosion
The video embedded above is from The Piano Guys and their mashup of Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song” with the old hymn, Amazing Grace. It’s absolutely beautiful, but the bagpipes at the end are what slay me every time! You can hit play and then listen while you read! The “Piano Guys” said this:
When we first heard Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song” we were inspired by its message. In a world where we too often talk about our differences, we have at least one thing in common. We all struggle. Not in the same way, nor at the same level, but we all want a fighting chance. And we all share in one gift: The will to make the most of our lives. To take what we’ve been given and turn it into something better could be considered the sentient measuring stick of success. But to do so seldom is simple and more often requires we fight. Not against each other. But against the current threatening to drown the ambition in us.
There is tremendous purpose in struggle. It is when the struggle becomes so fierce that we must fight to swim or sink. John Newton, who penned “Amazing Grace,” worked on a slave trader ship and condoned inhuman atrocities. It was when his ship was on the verge of being torn apart in a violent storm when he called out for Grace. When his feet were once again planted on firm soil he determined to change. His covenant was written into these words, “I once was lost, but now I’m found; was blind, but now I see.”
Grace is the defining moment when we face and fight a monster poised to define us or destroy us.
I’m personally a bit obsessed with music, cadence, authenticity (as it relates to music, not when it’s used as the buzz word for personal branding) and melody. Interestingly enough, there is a grace note in music. Grace notes are an ornamental add-on to a note that then gets held longer and more attention. To hear what a grace note sounds like, Kainoa shares a tutorial. The Piano Guys also have this to say about grace and music:
For the Fight Song / Amazing Grace mashup, we chose the Scottish culture to depict the dichotomy between grace and struggle. Who else is tough enough and yet delicate enough to don a kilt in battle? And the Scottish pipe and drum are the ultimate conveyors of melody and cadence. One represents grace, the other the indomitable fight.
Is grace just for religion?
I personally have always associated the word grace with faith. Grace with church pews. Grace with religion. The more I learn about myself, about humanity and struggle, I realize that for me grace isn’t just about religion. I believe it has everything to do with our own internal power and the way that we stretch our muscles, but then also how we choose to then sit in stillness – to allow the rest of the work to be done.
Choosing a word of the year
In years past, I’ve chosen ONE word for each year and let it define and shape my actions, choices and how I show up in the world. Last year, I chose the word Disrupt for 2017 and then broke it down into four main focuses. What a year 2017 was. Disruption was injected into almost EVERY facet of my life: my international community, our family with unemployment and another move, in my own personal relationships, and some scary health issues for our extended family. 2017 felt a bit heavy, a bit intense and was a lot of constant work.
When I started researching words for 2018, I intentionally wanted to sit a bit more with softness, gentleness and a renewed focus on myself and my nucleus of our immediate family. I came up with a long list of words. Some described traits I want to see more of in my life. Other words helped to define a type of lifestyle I want to realize for the future. Then there were some words that just landed powerfully. I wrote them all down and looked at them throughout my days for several weeks. I researched all of the definitions and one by one, crossed most of them out.
Grace was a word that kept reappearing to me in different forms and across many different channels. But it wasn’t quite the right fit. I shared my final three words on Instagram and Nilofer pitched in her thoughts and it got me really thinking!
Nilofer Merchant is the author of what is now one of my all-time favorite books. She released The Power of Onlyness: Make Your Wild Ideas Mighty Enough to Dent The World earlier this year and it is powerful.
Onlyness: your signature concoction of what matters to you, gives you clarity of purpose and enables you to focus on what matters. That is your path forward.
You’ll have to read the book, but here are some of my favorite nuggets:
- Onlyness is driven by horizontal perspective (your ability to connect to those with common interests).
- To crack the code of acceptance and belonging – the most fundamental of human psychological needs – you’ll naturally suppress the qualities that sets you apart.
- Remaining silent means you never have the opportunity to join and support something you believe in.
- To find “your people” you have to both signal your passions and interests, AND seek out theirs.
- The former style of leadership was to hold an idea tightly behind a closed fist. New leadership is that idea on an open palm – which allows others to pick it up as if it were their own. The leader asks the questions, the followers joiners help the whole to arrive at the answer.
- While it is possible to be a rebel without being a leader, you can rarely be a leader who achieves a dent without also being a rebel.
For most of us, we just want to feel heard – that’s what matters. It changes the very quality of our life. It changes whether or not we’re being witnessed in the world, or whether we matter to someone else. MY personal onlyness is a mashup of my journey and my passions. I am the only one who can make a dent in community building the way I am equipped. I am the only one who can bring people together, in ways shaped by the experiences I have had. I am the only one who has learned through cultural, racial and generational rules that now allow me to advocate for a better world. I am the only one who can create a trust bridge (*) in the explicit and very unique way that I can.
* A trust bridge is a person who acts as a connector, advocating for rules and norms, and creating the magnetic bonds that hold otherwise disparate pieces together. A trust bridge enables you to manage people you don’t see and don’t control. Because you have the cultural norms and related systems in place to let people help on another, you can allow others to take on more – to commission them. When someone’s capacity is wisely aligned with what they are commissioned to do, there’s a good chance you can trust them to take responsibility. Trust is an enabler AND a moderator.
An Onlyness Credo, from Nilofer Merchant
We must honor our journey, signal our passions and seek our allies.
We must give ourselves permission to have an original idea, even when no one else is advocating for it.
We’re going to have to honor the onlyness of ALL people we meet along the way – especially when we disagree with them.
We must reframe the questions people pose, and change the conversation to find new ways through.
We must learn how to lean on one another to build trust and scale our ideas.
We must learn how to galvanize those who might not experience what we know to be true by showing them value.
We must engage people to work with us, not by telling them the answers but by pointing toward a new horizon.
Onlyness … with a side note of Grace.
As 2018 barrels down on us, I’m embracing Onlyness as my guide and direction for the coming year. I still feel that grace has a place in my coming year, and when I recall the beauty of a grace note and what it can bring to a piece of music, I have decided to let grace be the add-on to my onlyness.
To again determine a more intense focus on particular areas of my life or businesses, I’ve chosen three additional words. Instead of quarters, I’m segmenting 2018 into three acts, three seasons. I’ll write more about those focuses as each season approaches, but in case you’re curious:
Season °1 // January – April: Hygge (HUE-gah)
- simplicity and graciousness
- identifying and creating rituals
- contentment and enjoyment
Season °2 // May – August: Lagom (LAW-gum)
- perfectly adequate and sufficient
- just about enough and not too much
- “sip your share”
Season °3 // September – December: Sophrosyne (suh-FRAHS-uh-nee)
- excellence of character
- soundness of mind
- moderation and prudence
Onlyness with a Side Note of Grace is my Spotify playlist that I’ll be listening to (and adding to) all year long! I love having music to act as my anthem and these songs really provide meaning. If you have songs I should add, let me know!
Do you choose a word of the year? If you do, tell me in the comments what it is. I’d love to follow along your journey in 2018!