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Follow Your Drum

Photo by Matthijs Smit on Unsplash

Don’t let it grieve you, don’t let it peeve you
If the guy in front of you marches off and he leaves you
Don’t get blue, kid, you ain’t stupid
You’re just marchin’ to the rhythm of a different drum, son
-John D Loudermilk, Follow your Drum

Just as we all have a unique path, we all have a unique pulse: a native rhythm and cadence within which we do our best work.

Productivity is like playing an instrument: you can’t just play hard. You also have to play on beat.

If you’re playing the right tune to the wrong rhythm, the sounds you generate will be indistinguishable from noise. Good music isn’t just about the correct notes. It’s about having an intuitive sense for when you should take a pause, when you should slow down, when you should speed up, and so on.

This is what Duke Ellington was getting at when he wrote, “It don’t mean a thing. If it ain’t got that swing.”

You can be headed in the right direction, but still feel off if your stride is dictated by someone else’s tempo.

You’ll always be in the weeds as long as you’re orientating your creative process around someone else’s speed.

Don’t just stay in your lane. Stay in your groove.

Don’t just follow your dreams. Follow your drum.

The only way to win this race is to take the time to dictate your own pace.

Today Isn’t a Bad Day for Change

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Today I’m supposed to tell you that the dates on a calendar don’t matter.

I’m supposed to tell you that if you were really serious about change, you’d already be doing the things you know you should be doing and you wouldn’t be waiting on the permission of a new year.

I’m supposed to tell you that I’m too cool or too consistently productive to need new year resolutions.

I’m supposed to remind you that most resolutions fail.

I’m not going to do any of those things.

If you can find an excuse for smiling again, hoping again, and believing in yourself again, why not?

Now is as good of a time as any other day you could choose.

Happy new year and happy any other day you want to use as inspiration for celebrating the grander possibilities of life.

And if you’re one of those people who just can’t get over the fact that most resolutions will fail, you should read James Walpole’s excellent post on why it’s quite rational to CELEBRATE THE FLEETING GOODNESS OF DOOMED NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS.

I’m Taking My Time With This One

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I’m looking forward to the new year, but I’m also not rushing the current year out the door.

The greatest rewards belong to those who can eagerly anticipate the future while also learning how to make peace with the present moment.

It’s great to get excited about the big finish. It’s even better if you can make your way there with a playful spirit.

As Alan Watts observed, “If the point of a song was to finish it, the best musicians would be the ones who played the fastest.”

Enjoy the song. It’ll be over soon enough.


T.K. Coleman


“Yes, but…”

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There is a “Yes, but…” that could be added to any sentence you write.

Here’s an example:

You may write something like “Work hard, do your best, and things will work out.”

Well, to that we can easily add “Yes, but…I have a friend who worked hard, did his best, and really ended up in a bad spot. Things still haven’t worked out for him.”

Your sentence about working hard still has value, but so does the observation about the guy who ended up in a bad spot.

Send me a sentence and I can send you a “Yes, but…” rebuttal in half the amount of time it took you to write your sentence.

There’s always room for one more bit of nuance. You can end your essay or your story with a single sentence, but you can never end the possibility of someone seeing it in a different way. The end of a sentence can never reach the end of human understanding.

If you ever choose to write something, it’s quite likely that someone will greet you with a “Yes, but…” followed by their own point of view.

No matter how much you tiptoe your way through it, someone out there is going to do it.

The anticipation of this can feel paralyzing at times.

Yes, but…write the sentence anyway.

The biggest mistake you could make as a writer would be the one where you refuse to start a conversation merely because you’re afraid your words won’t be the ones to end the conversation.

The Power of Starting with Kindness

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Here are two fundamentally different approaches to seeking someone else’s cooperation:

Option #1: “I would like to achieve X. Can you help me?”

Option #2: “Here’s a list of all the bad things I will do to you if you don’t help me achieve X.”

Option #1 will almost always give you the advantage if you’re trying to motivate people to cooperate with you and it’s usually less stressful for everyone involved. When people don’t feel antagonized or attacked, they’re usually more creative and clear-headed in their ability to help you get what you want.

Option #2 will almost always cost you more time, energy, trust, and social capital. Even if you get what you want, you’ll likely end up with a headache and an enemy at the end of the process. It’s a very difficult strategy to sustain. The more you do it, the less you can get away with doing it.

Some people prefer to lead with option #1. When they need things, they begin with a polite request and they go from there.

Some people prefer to lead with option #2. Rather than risk having their request rejected, they begin with threats in an effort to let the other party know they mean business.

Option #2 is actually a powerful and legitimate technique, but it’s a terrible place to start.

When you start with being mean, it’s very hard to go back to kindness.

If you want to be effective, being kind is usually the best place to begin. If you eventually need to get mean, you’ll still have the opportunity to get mean.

There’s no expiration date on your ability to be mean. Kindness, on the other hand, is time-sensitive.

And that’s one of the greatest advantages of starting with kindness. It’s the only option that doesn’t eliminate your other options.

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