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I like music. When I was about 13 years old, I remember being in school when a million hip youngsters (it seemed) turned up carrying the same album, a blue sleeve upon which was a picture of heavy waves striking a sandy beach under a blue sky, in which was positioned a twisted tubular bell. At the time, it was either Tubular Bells or Yes’ ‘Close to the Edge’ that was the accessory of fashionable choice. In 1978, my brother bought Tubular Bells and after a covert listen (‘Don’t touch my records!’) I invested in Mike Oldfield’s album Incantations. I now have a copy of everything he’s ever done.

What I learned from listening to Oldfield’s music in particular, and which became evident in other records (of course) was that music relies on an interplay – the melody, it’s harmony, the rhythm, percussion. Music is incomplete without every element, and what I find truly magical in some music is that even the silent space between notes creates its own ‘sound’. I often hear music within music that careful listening tells me isn’t actually there. Or I will hear something through headphones for the first time (as opposed to house speakers) and I will hear a whole different tune hidden in the song.

Another thing I often notice is how, if you take the music away from some really famous singers – they sound bloody awful. As if, were you to stand them on a stage and ask them to go acapella they’d get the Big Red Buzzer off Cowell and Co by their second line. (Imagine Van Morrison or Bob Dylan on The X Factor, today.)

In effect, it is the synergy between all the parts that create the symphonic beauty that music can be.

Reading First Things First, Stephen Covey reminds us that, like my take on music, being good at ‘one bit’ can be satisfying and rewarding but being a master of all the bits is better.

We all have four human endowments – they are:

  • Self-awareness – the ability (not utilised buy many) to realise who we are and that we can improve on that;
  • Creative imagination – the ability to see what we want;
  • Independent will – the ability to pursue what we have seen we want; and
  • Conscience – the ability to see that what we want is – or is not – what we should seek.

If you have one bit, you may be

  • Self-aware – but with no idea what to do with that knowledge.
  • Creatively imaginative – but have no discipline to bring into reality what your brilliant mind saw.
  • Independent and productive – but while your trains run on time the way you made that happen destroys other people.
  • Conscience – you’re a saint, but people walk all over you to get their things done.

If you have all the bits, you know that you are capable of imagining a better way, know what to do in order to create it, have the discipline and energy to create it, and can do so with the assistance of others who you bring along with you to mutual benefit.

What does that mean in time management terms?

Having this knowledge means that you can focus your efforts on achieving things within your capabilities, or those of your team. It means not wasting time and effort on things outside your Circle of Influence. It means acknowledging your weaknesses and either manging them or making them irrelevant. It means knowing your strengths and maximising their effect. It also means spending less time on faddy PR programmes that make you seem all fluffy and nice but have little or no effect on what you are for.

(That last one was just me. Maybe. But then again, maybe I’m partly right.)

Now tie all this to your neediness. Can you address your needs to live, love, learn and leave a legacy better by focusing your efforts on knowing who you are, what you can do about it, and how? And all in a conscience-controlled way?

This is where you know that to live long, you need to be aware of your appetites and willingness to exercise, find systems that suit your situation that can help you do that, and then fully implement them. This was where you decided, once, what you wanted to be ‘when you grow up’ and now realise you aren’t there – yet – and you strart to work in that direction. This is where your conscience tells you whether you’re treating loved ones properly, and you rekindle that loving relationship. And this is where you realise that what you want to contribute needs some deep, foundational work on your part if it’s to get done.

It’s weird, isn’t it? That’s how music works. Every separate part designed to complement the other parts so that the whole is magnificent.

But while living that was it isn’t common practice, it could be. Start now.

Compose yourself. 😊