Archive for November, 2019

Letting Go to Let Something Better In


The Easiest and the Hardest Step in Breaking Out of Old Patterns

It’s one of the most frightening passages life confronts us with. What we’ve been doing doesn’t work anymore. We’ve come to a fork in the road. One fork leads to the known. The other one leads to the unknown.

I had spent my entire career working in a family business. My father and my uncle built the business. They passed away, leaving the next generation in charge. My father and uncle expected me and my two cousins to continue where they left off. In theory, my cousins and I had the education and the experience to handle the transition seamlessly. Except we didn’t share a vision for the future, and I frankly couldn’t stand one of my cousins. By the way, I wasn’t alone in my antipathy towards him.

After several futile attempts to carry on as expected, I saw the handwriting on the wall. I did not foresee the business flourishing with the three of us at the helm. I decided to sell my share of the business to my cousins. It was one of the hardest decisions I ever had to make.

Up until this fork in the road, my life had been structured from the outside in. I had done what I was expected to do. Now, it was up to me to structure my life from the inside out.

I have found this wise old saying to be very true. “When one door closes, another opens.”  To express it another way, letting go of one thing leaves room for another. The scary part of navigating this passage is enduring the empty space left behind in the wake of releasing the known. We are normally left with only a tiny kernel of an idea. A faint voice whispers insistently to our heart and mind.  It can be an annoying voice because it offers no concrete plan of action. We must have the courage to take the first step.

I had always dreamed of writing fiction. From a solid background in marketing communications, I began writing short stories in my forties. While still employed in the family business, I took online courses in screenwriting at UCLA. I learned the basics of character development, drama and conflict, and plotting. After selling my share of the business, I now had the time and the freedom to initiate the final stage of the process: writing novels.

For starters, it became a very lonely process. I was accustomed to interfacing with all kinds of people in business. Now, except for a few friends, wife, daughter, and mother-in-law, I was completely alone. Doubts and fears constantly assaulted me. I figured real novelists enjoyed their solitude. I kept thinking, real novelists are self- sufficient artists. They can take or leave people. All they need are their cats or dogs. Maybe this is true. Maybe not. I haven’t had the chance to sit down with a real novelist to have this conversation. All I know is I’ve managed to write three good screenplays and three good novels since taking the fork in the road that leads to the unknown.

There are certainly ups and downs mucking about in the unknown. I have to say, though, that it’s more interesting and rewarding than steady doses of the known. It’s actually fun to travel back and forth between the worlds of the unknown and the known. (I just have to be careful not to spend too much time stuck in the known).

Let’s take writing this article to illustrate my point. When I began, I only had a vague idea of what it would be about. I did, however, have the definite intention of writing something that would be of interest and benefit to you and me. So, what is my point? Okay, here it is: have the courage to adventure into the unknown and trust the skills you know, deep down, that you have. Nobody gets rich, creates anything meaningful, or finds a deeper source of happiness following the crowd.

David Gittlin has written three feature length screenplays, produced two short films, and published three novels. Before quitting his day job, he spent more than thirty years as a marketing director building expertise in advertising, copy writing, corporate communications, collateral sales materials, website content/design and online marketing.

 

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Chart Your Course to a Better Life


Fantasy green road to magic bright fairy tale forest.

The Enchanted Forest of Childhood

There was a wooded lot two houses down from my home in the neighborhood where I grew up. We called it “the woods.” At times, the lot became an enchanted forest.  This was especially true when I invited a friend to play in the woods with me.  One of my friends shared my enthusiasm for vintage horror films.  We transformed into monsters and created our own scripts using the enchanted forest as our stage.

One afternoon, I remember playing Frankenstein to my friend’s Wolf Man.  I can still clearly remember scenes from this “play” forty years later. When our time together had almost expired, an invisible alarm clock sounded inside me. We had to return to my house. My friend’s mother would be calling any minute to arrange a pickup. I stood at the border of the woods, one foot in the wilds and the other on the neatly mowed grass of an adjacent home. This is the thought that ran through my head:

Next year we’ll be in seventh grade and we won’t be able to do this anymore.

Another alarm clock had sounded, only the chimes of this one struck an infinitely more somber note.  The chimes said the time had arrived to put this chapter of my life behind me.  I was not in the least bit happy at the news.

The  Paradox of Growing Up

Growing up is often associated with pain, and I am certainly no stranger to this experience.  Growing up is scary.  We have to separate from the umbilicus of parents, stand on our own two feet, compete for a niche in society, establish loving relationships, become parents, and face death at the end of our journey.  Truth be told, I’ve never really wanted to grow up. To this day I am not a big fan of “putting away childish things.” But it seems growing up is something a human being cannot avoid if he or she desires to lead a constructive, creative life.

Here’s a trick I’ve learned that makes the medicine of growing up a lot easier to take—ladle in generous doses of daily joy.

You may be thinking (or laughing to yourself and at me): How do I do that with the uncomfortable pressures and time crunch of work and family responsibilities?  Relax.  We’ll get to the answer, but first, we need a little more background.

I get stuck creatively and psychologically if I’m not experiencing joy on some kind of a regular basis.

The Power of Joy

Bergsteiger auf einem Gipfel im Gebirge bei Nebel

Obviously, joy is a precious and elusive commodity.  It takes effort and a multi-faceted strategy to experience it.  Joy is the elixir of life in my universe.  It is the oil that allows this machine called me to run smoothly.  When I’m feeling joy, I’m more creative.  My work reaches a higher level.  I am more motivated.  I want to expand my heart and mind. I want to do what it takes to reach my goals.  I am more equipped to help others.  When I’m feeling joy, work becomes play.  I’m back in the enchanted forest with my sixth grade friend.  Resistance evaporates in the presence of joy.

Where does this joy come from?  It comes from within me.  It comes from within you.  The only way to find the joy that does not depend on something outside of ourselves is to establish daily practices that uncover this innate joy.  Since we are all unique individuals, we have to find the way to tap into this joy, or source, that we resonate with, that works for us.  The only generalization we can make is: JOY IS WITHIN YOU, waiting to be discovered, if you haven’t discovered it already.

The Path

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I’ve had to go out of the mainstream to find my joy.  It hasn’t been easy, because I’m a very conventional person.  Yet, something inside me kept pushing me to find an undefinable something more.  I was always attracted by the idea of finding God within me, but the Eastern inspired approach of dissolving the ego never remotely interested me.  And it is obviously impractical and inappropriate for survival and success in our Western culture.  I would add that it’s also a mentally unhealthy approach.

Thankfully, I’ve found that any ego destructive approach is totally unnecessary.  Through my research and personal experience, I’ve learned that consciousness has evolved beyond the concept of ego dissolution.  There’s nothing wrong with a healthy ego.  We need one in our Western civilization to survive and enjoy our lives.  I’ve found a path that honors both the individual self and the universal self.  It’s a path of embodied consciousness.  It embraces both transcendent and every-day awareness.

You Are More Than You Think You Are

The foundation of my practice is meditation.  It is my gateway to a reservoir of inner peace, joy, and love.

What do you want?  Don’t settle for less than you deserve.  Anything is possible.  Peace is possible.  Love is possible.  Joy is possible.  Find it.  It is waiting for you in the depths of your heart.

David Gittlin has written three feature length screenplays, produced two short films, and published three novels. Before quitting his day job, he spent more than thirty years as a marketing director building expertise in advertising, copy writing, corporate communications, collateral sales materials, website content/design and online marketing.

 

 

 

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Words From Afar Are Not Enough


Business team

Why One-On-One “You Specific” Mentoring Is Essential for Your Fulfillment and Success

I enjoy reading words of inspiration as much as you probably do.  I believe in the power of positive thinking.  I love practicing the art of creative visualization as much as the next guy or gal.  It’s all wonderful and good, but it takes more than arms-length words and solitary mental constructs to effect positive change and consistent success in any endeavor.  I’m a golf enthusiast, so I’ll use an example from the ranks of professional golf to make a few points.

Jason Day, a professional golfer from Australia, walked a crooked path to success.  Jason, unlike his super-successful contemporary, Jordan Spieth, did not have a strong connection with his parents while growing up. He had a troubled youth before meeting Colin Swatton at Kooralbyn, a golf-centric boarding school in southeast Queensland.  Jason’s mother had to borrow money to send her son to Kooralbyn in a desperate attempt to do something about his delinquent behavior after his father died of stomach cancer when Jason was 12.

Colin Swatton was a golf instructor at Kooralbyn when he first met the head-strong, rebellious Day. Swatton’s non-confrontational style won Jason over. When Swatton moved on to teach at Hills International College, Day followed him. From there, Swatton became Day’s golf coach, mentor, close friend, and full-time professional caddie.  In Jason Day, Swatton saw a diamond in the rough.  He gave his protégé the advice and encouragement needed to overcome the inner demons and soaring outer obstacles blocking Day’s path.  Swatton filled in the holes in Jason’s psyche and the gaps in his emotional development.  Jason Day possessed rare talent, but, by his own admission, he never would have become the man he is today without a whisperer like Colin Swatton in his life.  Despite the challenge of a bulging disc in his lower back, Jason is now one of the top-ranked golfers in the world.  He is a devoted father and husband, and he has earned the admiration and affection of his peers.

Enough of the super heroes of the world.  Let’s talk about you and me.  After I’ve read a self-help book, the inspiration and advice usually fade within forty-eight hours.  Formulaic self-help exercises quickly become dry practices that yield little or lasting benefits.  I picked up a self-help book by a famous author recently.  Two things became immediately clear: (1) the author had a lot of nice things to say, and (2) his precepts were so far over my head that I couldn’t practice them if I tried for a million years.

So, what does it take to move forward, achieve, and grow?

To amplify what I said earlier, it takes a special personal relationship.  It is a relationship that always accepts and honors who you are and where you are.  It can be a parental, mentoring, teaching, romantic, or friend-to-friend relationship.  In the case of the first three, the relationship begins with the child or student receiving more at first.  I’ve learned that, over time, the best of these relationships blossom into mutuality where both parties reap significant rewards. There’s an energy and information exchange in these relationships; call it love, call it caring and concern, call it chemistry. Whatever it is, it’s a radiant, magic elixir.  It produces extraordinary human beings, some famous and others who live and work quietly outside of the limelight.

David Gittlin has written three feature length screenplays, produced two short films, and published three novels. Before quitting his day job, he spent more than thirty years as a marketing director building expertise in advertising, copy writing, corporate communications, collateral sales materials, website content/design and online marketing.

 

 

 

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A Tribute to Kate Wolf


KATE WOLF AND NINA GERBER

Kate Wolf with her talented accompanist Nina Gerber

Who is Kate Wolf? If you’re like most people, you probably have no idea. I’m a huge folk music fan, and I’d never heard of Kate until last year, but I’m happy to have discovered her. Better late than never.  Her music pierces my heart, and the simple beauty of her voice, melodies, and guitar-playing transport me to transcendent realms.

There’s a story that a fan at a live concert once complimented Kate on her earrings.  Without hesitation, she removed the earrings and handed them to the fan.  I believe the beauty of Kate’s music emanated from the beautiful being that she surely was.

Kate Wolf came to prominence during a ten year period from 1975 to 1985.  Tragically, Leukemia brought Kate’s life and singer/songwriting career to a premature end at the age of forty-four.  Despite her foreshortened life span, Kate managed, in her gentle way, to become a major influence on the folk scene with songs like, “Give Yourself to Love,” “Across the Great Divide,” “Green Eyes,” “September Song,” and many more.  In all, she produced seven albums including a “live” in-concert album recorded at a music festival in Mendocino, California.

The appeal of Wolf’s music is the same today as it was when she released her first album on her Owl Records label more than 30 years ago. Her music is plainspoken with powerful natural imagery woven into poignant portrayals of the longings, joys, and sorrows of the heart that transcend romantic stereotypes.

Singing in a plain, pure voice, Wolf never indulged in vocal ornamentation for the sake of effect, and she avoided saccharine sentimentality with her natural sweetness.

As an acoustic guitar-based folk artist, she distinguished herself from such forebears as Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and James Taylor, and from her more self-consciously naturalist and mystical contemporaries in “women’s music.”

Now, when cynicism and irony seem to be second nature to pop music, Wolf’s directness rings truer than ever.

“Kate was unique,” says Berkeley-based guitarist Nina Gerber, who was inspired to become a professional musician after seeing Wolf perform in a pizza parlor in Sevastopol, a small town north of San Francisco.  Gerber became Wolf’s key accompanist from 1978 to 1986. Gerber produced the memorial album, Treasures Left Behind, and she has helped organize and produce all four Kate Wolf Memorial Music Festivals.

“She had her own style,” Gerber says. “There was nobody to compare her to. Nowadays, you listen to somebody and they either sound like Shawn [Colvin] or Nanci [Griffith] or Emmylou [Harris] or whomever.

“Kate really took on the environment she was in, so when she wrote about it, it wasn’t contrived. She didn’t go out of her way to try to be flowery and poetic. She pretty much said things the way they were.”

Yet, while Wolf’s songs seem inimitably personal when she sings them, they lend themselves surprisingly well to interpretation.  As a prime example, Nanci Griffith, an unpretentious young woman who once described her music as “rockabilly” and eventually gained an international audience, lends a soul-searing depth and beauty to her interpretations of wolf’s songs.

When Wolf sang of a woman who “rises like the dolphin,” or an “owl calling softly as the night was falling,” it felt true. She brought the listener into her unpretentious realm while prodding him or her to see the natural world anew — always with love as the bottom line.

Wolf, born Kathryn Louise Allen in San Francisco on January 27, 1942, cultivated her approach after moving to Sonoma County in the early 1970’s. She sang songs like “Across The Great Divide,” “Safe At Anchor,” “The Wind Blows Wild,” “Poet’s Heart” and “Give Yourself To Love” in a pure voice, as unaffected, comforting and honest as you want to hear from your lover in the middle of the night. At the height of her popularity, Kate appeared at The Austin City Limits Music Festival and Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion.

“I live for a sense of a feeling of purposefulness in this world, you know, that I could stop my life at any point and feel that my life has been worthwhile; that the people I’ve loved and my children have all reached a point where their lives are now going to come to fruit. And as far as something I live by, it’s to try to be as alive as possible and feel free to make my mistakes and try to be as honest as I can with myself.”

Kate Wolf, 1942 to 1986

 

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