Have you ever walked down the street listening to music and noticed that every step you take syncs perfectly with the beat of the song playing? When Pony by Ginuwine hits your ears do you suddenly switch to a sexy saunter as you pass by strangers, flashing them a suave smile?
Then, when shuffle guides you to a song featured in your ‘get a bigger booty’ playlist, do you find yourself overtaking fellow heel-toers at lightening speed, your boots sounding like the first place horse at a derby as they strike the pavement in double time?
We’re constantly consciously or subconsciously changing our own beat to match that of our environment – including the beat of the people around us.
Almost six months ago, a chance crossing of paths lead to a series of important lessons and a much needed wakeup call to get me back on track to connecting with my own beat again.
One Friday night, I was out for dinner with a girlfriend. Every restaurant we tried to get a seat at was fully booked with reservations (no – the life lesson is not that you should make a reservation on the weekend, although please note this as well).
As we went from resto to resto, we kept running into the same duo also trying to find somewhere to dine. At our final resting place (and my personal favorite spot), jokes of who was stalking who were exchanged, new friendships were born, and dinner plans were set for the following week.
My new soon-to-be ‘teacher’ and friend hosted a group of us for dinner the following week as planned and as the evening progressed, we all migrated to his setup of Conga drums in the living room.
As an instrument and musical talent that I’ve always admired, I was thrilled when he offered to give me drum lessons if I was interested. Our first lesson happened two weeks after our initial dinner.
We sat down and he said to me, “I’ve actually never taught anyone how to play, so we’re going to see how this goes.” As an incredibly talented musician, I knew he wouldn’t have a problem teaching… but my learning abilities (more so patience) would be the issue if there was one.
We started with the three basic ‘hits’, the open, the muff[led], and the bass. Things were going very well and I felt like I would be playing the top hits in no time, until he joined in on his own drum.
This completely threw me off. I started focusing on what his hands were doing, how my beats matched, or in this case, no longer matched his beats and suddenly my hands became like limp fish.
I had no true beat, no true sound, just truly awful noise.
He laughed as he sensed my obvious frustration, pointed at my drum and said the words that changed my outlook on things from that point forward…
“Look,” he said “this is your drum, think of it as your world. When you have your own beat and you’re focusing on that, everything sounds great, everything is great and harmonious.
The moment you started focusing on what I was doing on my drum [in my world], you fell out of sync with your own beat. That means that not only did your beat no longer sound good, but our beats didn’t jive together either. You threw off the whole song because you were too focused on what someone else was doing.”
If you’re having difficulty making this connection, then please allow me to elaborate… I realized that that the times when I feel most out of sync with myself, or my own “beat,” are when I am too focused on what other people are doing. What other people are saying. How their worlds compare to my own.
What I didn’t realize was that by doing this, I lost my beat. Without a solid beat, no one wanted to match their beat to mine.
As soon as I stopped comparing my beat to the beat of others, I found more people that wanted to join in.
All of a sudden I had a “band” full of drums – while we all had our unique sounds and sometimes we would fall out of sync, or someone would throw in a solo and show up the rest of us, we still kept on drumming with our respective beats and supported their solo until it was time for ours.
The lesson here is not to take up drumming. I’m simply asking you to take note of when you feel that you’ve lost your beat.
In these times, take a long hard look at who you’re looking at and why. Reevaluate, refocus, and keep on drumming to your own rhythm, others will join in and fill the gaps as they see fit.