Saturday, July 16, 2011

My Own Worst Enemy

As I've mentioned before, learning is like a spiral.  I keep encountering the same issues over and over again, but I usually get to approach them from a slightly new perspective.  This week, it was the idea of asking for what I want (which seems to have been on my mind about a year ago as well).  The challenge hasn't been in knowing what I want or how to articulate it.  Rather, I have this sense that people who are bold about stating what they want are jerks, to put it mildly.

Actually, that's not entirely true.  I respect people who state what they want clearly, and I appreciate knowing what matters to someone.  The option is to play guessing games, and that often winds up just being an exercise in frustration.  So really, my belief about stating what I want is that people are going to think that I am a jerk.  So, it's more about vulnerability and opening myself up to other people's judgment.  And if I'm honest about it, this means I often fear that other people will be a threat to getting what I want rather than a boon.  When I think about it intellectually, this is a silly fear, but it's still a fear.

So, even though I appreciate it when people are clear about what they want, the prospect of clearly expressing what I want has been intimidating.  The way I often perceive it, stating what I want puts me at other people's mercy.  Other people can determine whether I deserve what I want or not, and they get to decide whether they are going to help or hinder.  Of course, the irrational fear is that people are more likely to choose to hinder me than help me.  So, when I state what I want, I have to be strong about it.  Defiant even.  No wonder I'm afraid of coming across like a jerk.

But I don't want to come across as being a jerk, so I just keep my mouth shut about what I actually want and complain under my breath about not getting it.  When I really think about it, there are other options.  Stating what I want doesn't place any responsibility on someone else to make sure I get it.  Creating what I want is still up to me, and being clear about it can make all sorts of decisions easier.  Other people can play a part in that creation, but the responsibility for making what I want important is mine and mine alone.  While a few people have chosen to put obstacles in my path from time to time, others have been invaluable.  And although I don't know this, I suspect that the people who chose to make a situation more difficult than it could have been probably would have done so whether or not they knew what I wanted.

The best way for me to get what I want is to ask for it and trust in my ability to create it.  In personal relationships, this looks like what some people would call defining the relationship, being willing to say what I want clearly and being willing to listen to what the other person wants.  With the music I compose, it means creating without second guessing my vision for a piece, and diligently building relationships with performers so that the music can be heard.  Being honest with myself about what I really want in any given situation might mean setting the bar fairly high.  Personally, I would rather reap the benefits of dedication to a high standard than spend time complaining about not getting what I want.


  1. Hi Randy. I've just come across this and found it really valuable. I can look back over some projects, using this perspective, and see how I've either helped or hindered them with my attitude.

    Loving your bible writing, but if you ever get an insight like this, don't keep it to yourself. Please.

  2. So nice to see your comment, James. I have a feeling that I'll come back to this blog at some point -- I'm still learning and growing, after all. The Divine Self is about personal lessons too, in its own way, but it just seemed like it was a different creature altogether than what Composing My Life had become.

    In any case, I'm touched that what I've written keeps being meaningful for people.