Being laid back isn’t as easy as it looks.

April 24, 2013

Yesterday I met with some young entrepreneurs from France. They were nothing like the coneheads. They seemed more kind and soft and human than most young entrepreneurs I see around the Bay Area today. They were excited about their adventure; wanting to connect people and see the car sharing they organized as secondary. It seemed it was still an adventure to them and not a way to seem grown up or important or get wealthy as soon as possible. I took them to my favourite place in Potrero Hill which also happens to be French. But we had burgers. The best ones in San Francisco. The most interesting thing to me about their car sharing business is that people can choose to not charge someone for a ride. What does it mean when we don't charge each other? When do people need to value their work and time by asking for more and when do people discover there's something precious and new they can't get by charging and measuring every thing they do?

Dave Goebel and I worked on a play together recently. He was in the band. I really wanted a drumming lesson from the moment we started hanging out.

I gave him tickets to my show to swop for some. He gave me one yesterday. Maybe my 4th. A year ago in my second lesson with my friend Gregor (who used to be the drummer for the Bourbon Tabernacle Choir back when we were youngsters in Toronto) I got a chance to feel the space between notes. It was a revelation. I felt it all throughout my body. A kind of emptiness and profound relaxation. I was all of a sudden so very there and also at a distance from the drums and the rhythms I could feel just ahead of the time for them in my body. Nothing else was there, just the feeling of myself and space and the groove. I was completely hooked. It was a thrill similar to getting into the flow onstage. But so primal, and you didn't even need a room of people to get there!

The words from the wonderful songwriter and I'm proud to say friend Allee Willis rang true. I shared them with Dave yesterday and he said he liked it as a way to look at the thing. I knew it was true because I felt it. To explain it to you with words will take a lot of space. I'll have to slow it down. Give it to your head. And the beauty of drumming is that it goes through your body all at once. Dave is so relaxed sitting at a kit. Half the value of a lesson from him isn't what he's saying. It's being in his presence while he does the things well. I got to see what his body looked like while he drummed, how he held the sticks. I got to feel how he felt: how little he seemed to be doing. How he didn't tighten up in anticipation of hitting a drum or making a mistake. How little energy he wasted. I had a new appreciation of the value of being "laid back." That it's not as easy as it looks. And that it's an easy thing to look down at when all you value comes through the filter of analysis.

We got up to trying something where the right leg is doing a pattern the right arm is not. A simple rock beat with a little bass drum lead in. My tendency like, the common one I think, is to match my right arm to my right leg. I needed to separate them. The advice Dave shared was something his teacher told him

  • slow down
  • simplify
  • separate

These things have all worked in every sport I've learned and every emotional skill too. Here Dave showed me it meant cutting the beat in half or taking away what one limb was doing. And doing this did not make it harder to have the rush of the all at once feeling of the drumming. I did have a couple of moments in which the separation happened. Very exciting! I was floating there, very light, completely unworried about what I was doing. Not thinking about it. Then I could watch my right leg move. I could choose to put it somewhere I'd like. Just like a piece of furniture.

Dave is awesome and if you're an adult in the Bay Area who wants drumming lessons: you can get in touch with him on Fandalism (disclosure: they sponsored my last show and they are awesome, and worth checking out too).