Captain’s Log: How To (Re)Create the Dream In the New World, Part 2

A “Symphony of Your Life” Blog with Mark Hardcastle

Seth heading west from the Pyrenees on his 500-mile pilgrimage, beginning with the end in mind.

A few days ago in Part 1 we thought together about how we’re feeling during this transition out of the year-that-was (I feel like I’m in Hogwarts referring to things that “must not be named”. It’s a Harry Potter reference – see Question 6 below.). #United Airlines is leading us into a world that isn’t back to “normal.” Rather, they are suggesting we work back into “new.” If that feels a bit unsettling, you’re not alone. Still, it’s a path I suggest we should want to travel intentionally. How do we create that intention, then the path? Part 1 was an introduction to the idea of getting clarity around that question. Today we’ll get to the nuts-and-bolts.

In that spirit, here are 6 questions I’ve found to be powerful in getting clarity around how we can create lives we want to live.

First, the list:

  1. What do I want to do?
  2. What do I want to be?
  3. What do I want to have?
  4. What do I want to give?
  5. How do I want to spend my time?
  6. With whom do I want to spend my time?

Now let’s sit with each of these questions and digest them one-by-one. Don’t forget – we’re operating in a world in which we simply can’t fail, so we’re free to imagine absolutely anything!

Question 1: What do I want to do? This is your bucket list – all the boxes you want to check off before you “kick the bucket.” These wishes begin with verbs: see, hike, stand, walk, swim, etc., as in see the grand canyon, hike the Appalachian Trail or the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, swim with dolphins or great white sharks, or stand under the Eiffel Tower at night. Let your imagination run wild. What do you want to do before you’re finished?

Question 2: What do I want to be? This will become your legacy. So in another way you’re asking how you want to be remembered. I would love to be remembered as an author, a speaker, a music teacher to young members of the Colorado Children’s Chorale, and the best father any four children could want to have. How about you?

Question 3: What do I want to have? Again, money is no object, so write down all the nice things that have caught your eye over the years but you thought you’d never be able to have. I’d like to have a grand piano in my living room, for example. And a really cool car symbolizing my financial success. And since broke people can’t give… see question 4 for additional perspective. How about $1 million to live on, and $1 million to give away?

Question 4: What do I want to give? This is your chance to think about the impact you want to have on the world. I have some friends who want to use their wealth to plant elementary schools in 3rd world countries. Others who want to be able to commission great musical works for children’s choirs closer to home. Would you like to create an endowment for your favorite non-profit, perhaps?

Question 5: How do I want to spend my time? This is how you will build an intentional life. It’s similar to question 1, but different. Here we’re talking about your daily activities. If we don’t give thought to this our lives will slip away. Whatever we do will be by accident rather than by intention. Would you like to spend a part of each day meditating? Writing? Reading? Exercising? Teaching? Building a business? This dovetails with some of your answers to the first 4 questions.

And finally, question 6: With whom do I want to spend my time? I’ve heard it said that 95% of a person’s happiness in life comes from being partnered with the right person. And 95% of a person’s misery in life comes from being partnered with the wrong person. Our relationships are incredibly important to our sense of well-being.

I’ve also heard it said that we are a composite of the 5 people we spend the most time with. Who are your building blocks? Are you spending time with people who enrich your life, who encourage you to be the best, happiest, most productive human you can be?

Or are you giving your energy to other people – those who drain away your life force with negativity and toxic perspectives? Think of the “dementors” from the Harry Potter books. (If you haven’t read Harry Potter I recommend the series. But since you don’t know about dementors, you can call these people “energy vampires” because they suck away your energy and give nothing in return.) This question gives you permission to release all those people from your life.

Good answers to these six questions will provide a framework of clarity you can use to flesh out your dream. And because what we focus on expands, they will also generate thinking around how to bring all these “wants” into concrete reality.

Which leads to a 7th – bonus – question: Will what I’m about to do take me closer to, or further from, my life’s purpose? If we keep this final question perking as we walk through life, we’ll see results we might never have imagined otherwise.

And… the answers to all of these questions will change over time. As we achieve successes around the questions we’ve answered before, new dreams will occur to us. And, by the very act of living, our perspectives will change. Over time our children grow up, work lives evolve, and our world changes around us. Feel free, indeed expect, to ask these questions again as you progress through the stages of life, or more often as necessary, to know where you are and how you want to live at your present stage.

And, if you’d like, go out and get your own T-shirt that reminds you to “Dream Big!” As your life becomes large, you might want to buy a bunch of them and give them to those around you who need your help in imagining great lives of their own.

But hang on a sec… We now have a way to get clarity, but it seems like something’s still missing. Oh, yeah – clarity is only Step 1. We haven’t yet covered Steps 2 and 3. Not to worry! Step 2 is on deck with Step 3 in the hole. We’ll see them on Thursday in Part 3.

Thanks for reading!

Captain Mark

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Link to Mark’s book, The Symphony of Your Life    

The Symphony of Your Life    

The Symphony of Your Life on YouTube

Mark graduated from the USAF Academy in 1982. After nine years as a pilot on active duty, he left the military to join a commercial airline. In addition to flying B-737s around the country, Hardcastle spends time in the Rocky Mountains and serves on the artistic staff of the Colorado Children’s Chorale. He lives in Centennial, Colorado, with his wife and four children. Need some help figuring out why you’re on this planet? Want to talk about discovering your mission and purpose? Contact Mark today at 720.840.8361 to schedule a free personal consultation. He can also deliver an inspirational keynote or workshop for your organization! email: mark@symphonyofyourlife.com for information.

 

Captain’s Log: Practicing What We Preach

A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle

March, 2021

Every so often I find myself in front of a room wearing my corduroy blazer with leather elbow patches rather than my uniform jacket with four stripes. On some of those occasions my conversation with my audience revolves around their need and ability to be kind to themselves. Shortly thereafter something inevitably happens to challenge me, and I have to ask myself whether or not I really believe what I tell the audience. Am I willing to do that for myself? Today I invite you to join me in that self-reflection. Do you need to be more kind to yourself? Are you even able?

Back in the summer of 2017, when I was a brand-new captain, I had a bad night. I remember it well. I also remember my visit with my Chief Pilot asking him about what I might have done better. Some things just stick in your memory.

It was significant enough that I wrote the following essay. No idea why I never published it. I imagine I may have set it aside, fully intending to come back and finish it, got distracted by other writing projects, and just forgot about it. But now, after more than 3 years as a captain with over 900 flights (and way more than 100,000 passengers!) under my belt I can think of a few things I would likely do differently given the opportunity. I’m glad that I chose to “#stayintheprocess.”

And I feel compassion for the guy who wrote this.

These years later, in my opinion there’s still good stuff in it. I hope it might still inspire you, and that you’ll enjoy it. Here you go!

August, 2017

Two weeks ago I was the hero. This weekend I was the goat. Another dark and stormy night in Newark, and I failed my passengers. A series of unfortunate events that started with a line of thunder storms shutting down the airport for several hours ended badly for us. As the airport re-opened for arrivals, the company needed my gate, so I had to push off knowing I’d sit on the tarmac for at least an hour before I could take off. New as I was, with two hours still on my duty clock, I thought all would be well.

It wasn’t. As time passed without movement toward the runway, if I’d known then what I know now, I shoulda, coulda, woulda bugged my operations controller in Newark, my dispatcher in Chicago, the air traffic controllers with whom I was already in radio contact, for a different flight plan, different departure route, or higher departure priority as my duty day relentlessly decayed. Sadly, I didn’t know then what I know now.

We canceled.

But could I have really affected the outcome? What if I’d acted, become airborne, then had to divert? What if I’d asked all the right questions and all the answers had been no? Same outcome. But I’m second-guessing myself because I didn’t think in time to even try. And here I am beating myself up about unknown outcomes.

Do you do that?

Here’s the thing: Conor McGregor says, “We win or we learn.” A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of “winning.” This weekend I had the opportunity to “learn.” I’m new to the plane, the pace, the environment, the weather, duty time constraints. It’s a very real learning curve. I feel guilty that my passengers had to pay for my learning. And the reality is that stuff happens with frequency in the domestic operation. And it has happened on my flights: this was not my first cancellation. But it was the first one where I felt like I could have done better.

On the other hand, am I beating myself up too hard? Another reality is that in the short time I’ve been a captain I’ve carried more than five thousand passengers to the places they’ve needed to go. So I’ve decided to give myself grace and space to learn from this. To get better at what I do. To pick up the ability to see sooner so I’m not bitten by these same issues again. So I can get my passengers where they want to go despite the weather, the company, the FAA.

It’s been a challenge to learn the new airplane, the new environment, the new pace. There have been moments where I’ve asked myself, “what was I thinking leaving my very comfortable B-777? After 15 years I could make that baby sing!” Do I want to go back? Or do I want to stay in the process and get good at this new thing?

This, I have decided, is where I need to be for this season. So it’s the latter course for me. I will stay in the process and work to become the captain that my passengers need me to be. And give myself permission to learn. Sooner, rather than later, I expect to be just as good as I was on the 777.

Have you been “the goat” recently? Are you beating yourself up too hard? Can you maybe give yourself grace to learn from what went wrong rather than falling into the trap of second-guessing? The inspirational speaker in me says of course you can. I hope my story helps you know that.

#YouCanYouJustNeedToKnowYouCan      #StayInTheProcess

Thanks for reading!

Captain Mark

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Mark graduated from the USAF Academy in 1982. After nine years as a pilot on active duty, he left the military to join a commercial airline. In addition to flying B-737s around the country, Hardcastle spends time in the Rocky Mountains and serves on the artistic staff of the Colorado Children’s Chorale. He lives in Centennial, Colorado, with his wife and four children. Need some help figuring out why you’re on this planet? Want to talk about discovering your mission and purpose? Contact Mark today to schedule a free personal consultation. He can also deliver an inspirational keynote or workshop for your organization! email: mark@symphonyofyourlife.com. 720.840.8361

How Big Is A Railroad Tie Part 3

A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle

Koko Crater Trail

Here’s Part 2…

I watched as his powerful shoulders, muscles rippling with development over a lifetime of compensating for incapable legs, hauled his crippled body around the spiral staircase. To the first landing. Stop. Breathe. Then to the second landing. Breathe. And he was there. At the artillery observer’s post. Looking out over the Pacific Ocean to the south.

Just in time to see a mother whale and her calf breach off in the distance.

What was the difference between that elderly gentleman from Seattle and all those people with fully functional legs who turned back from their climb on the side of the Koko Crater trail yesterday? What was going through each of their minds?

Clearly the man on crutches understood the simplicity of the situation. All he needed to do was climb one stair. And then another. And another until he was at the top. Simple, though for him, not easy. But do-able.

What did the Koko Crater climbers understand? That it was too hot to climb one railroad tie? That they were too thirsty? Was the railroad tie simply too big for them to be able to step up onto it?

Or were they looking at the wrong thing? Were they seeing the enormity of climbing over 1,000 railroad ties in the heat of the Hawaiian sun when all they had to see was the single 6-inch step at the base of their stride?

What was the real challenge? The totality of the climb? Or the single railroad tie? What did they really have to do?

How about you? What is your challenge today? Today you are facing a very steep climb up some mountainside. What are you looking at? Are you feeling intimidated by the totality of your climb? Or can you focus on the single railroad tie at your feet?

I encourage you to look for the individual stairs on your climb. And have the courage to know that even though they may be many, you have the strength to climb them all, if you’ll simply climb them one at a time.

The Symphony of Your Life

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Link to Mark’s book, The Symphony of Your Life

The Symphony of Your Life

The Symphony’s YouTube Channel

Mark graduated from the USAF Academy in 1982. After nine years as a pilot on active duty, he left the military to join a commercial airline. In addition to flying B-777s around the world, Hardcastle spends time in the Rocky Mountains and serves on the artistic staff of the Colorado Children’s Chorale. He lives in Centennial, Colorado, with his wife and four children. Contact Mark today to schedule a keynote or workshop for your organization! email: mark@symphonyofyourlife.com. 720.840.8361

How Big Is A Railroad Tie? Part 2

A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle

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Here’s Part 1 in case you missed it…

Did any of them have to climb to the top to reap those rewards?

Well, no, actually. All of those people really had to do was climb one railroad tie. Not all of them. Just one.

There’s another famous hike on Oahu. I’ve mentioned Diamond Head, that great guardian of Waikiki Beach. It, too, served as a military lookout in WWII. Today, it offers another challenging hike up a hillside, through a tunnel, up a long, steep stairway to a reward of tremendous views.

On another layover a few weeks ago I was ¾ of an hour into that hike when I noticed the crowd ahead of me starting to pile up, apparently impeded by someone who was having some sort of difficulty. As I got closer I saw that there was indeed an elderly gentleman stopped at the side of the trail breathing hard. When I reached him I saw his crutches leaning against the rail.

This, I learned, was a fellow from Seattle, who’d never been to Hawaii, and was seeing as much as he could see. He had heard of the Diamond Head lookout hike and wanted to make it to the top. But because of his infirmity, what had taken me only forty-five minutes had already taken him a couple of hours, and he was feeling the strain. He wasn’t sure he wanted to go on from this point.

In the course of our brief conversation I asked him if he knew what was before him on the trail to the lookout. He listed the 74 stairs to the first tunnel, then the 99 additional stairs to the second tunnel. But he didn’t know about the two flights of spiral stairs to the very top. My question was simply this: are you able to climb stairs? He quickly and decisively averred that as long as he had something to hold on to, he could climb anything. I smiled and quietly congratulated him for how far he had come. And reminded him of how close he was to the end. And reassured him that from this point on there would be railings for him to hold on to. And told him I’d be waiting for him at the top.

With that I turned and climbed the 74 stairs and walked through the first tunnel. But I didn’t go up the next 99 stairs. Instead I waited. About 10 minutes later here came the man with the crutches. And for the first time I saw the massive effort it took for him to walk. He had the distinctive gait of someone who had been stricken with polio as a child, weight forward on his arms, supported by crutches, twisting to fling one leg forward, shifting his weight onto that leg, advancing the crutches, twisting to fling the other leg forward. Pace. By pace. By pace. One. Shift. Step. Shift. At. Shift. A. Shift. Time.

He exited the tunnel, looked to his right, and saw the 99 stairs to the top. He moved over into the shade and leaned against the wall to gather his strength. Five minutes later he began.

I watched as he placed his crutches on the first stair. Then one leg up. Weight forward. Second leg onto the step. Crutches onto the next step. Balance. Pause. Gasp for breath. Mission accomplished. Victory.

Another step. Mission accomplished. Another victory.

Then one more step. Then one more. Ninety-nine times. Ninety-nine separate tasks. Ninety-nine separate small victories. Then he was there. Through the second tunnel. I watched as his powerful shoulders, muscles rippling with development over a lifetime of compensating for incapable legs, hauled his crippled body around the spiral staircase. To the first landing. Stop. Breathe. Then to the second landing. Breathe. And he was there. At the artillery observer’s post. Looking out over the Pacific Ocean to the south.

Just in time to see a mother whale and her calf breach off in the distance.

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Part 3…

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Link to Mark’s book, The Symphony of Your Life

http://www.symphonyofyourlife.com

Mark graduated from the USAF Academy in 1982. After nine years as a pilot on active duty, he left the military to join a commercial airline. In addition to flying B-777s around the world, Hardcastle spends time in the Rocky Mountains and serves on the artistic staff of the Colorado Children’s Chorale. He lives in Centennial, Colorado, with his wife and four children. Contact Mark today to schedule a keynote or workshop for your organization!

How Big Is A Railroad Tie? Part 1

A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle

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Today I’m in Houston, in the middle of a 6-day trip for United Airlines. It’s my second layover. The first was in Honolulu. Not bad duty, especially when there’s snow on the ground in my hometown of Centennial, CO.

I’ve had the great good “fortune” (in quotes for those who are familiar with my book) to enjoy many layovers in Hawaii over the years. As is the case with any layover city, once you’ve seen all the well-known attractions in Honolulu, you start to wander a bit farther afield. Which is how I found myself climbing the Koko Crater trail yesterday.

Koko Head is a volcanic mountain on the southeast corner of Oahu. There are a number of popular and interesting formations there. Hanauma Bay, known for its snorkeling, and the Koko Crater, a cinder cone that stands sentinel over this part of the island, are two of them. Koko Head’s strategic location provided a great radar site for the US military from 1942 until its decommissioning in 1966. There are still remnants of the site’s concrete and steel foundations at the top of the mountain. But that’s not the attraction.

Today people go to Koko Crater for the climb. It’s a fantastic cardio workout. And the view from the top of the mountain is spectacular. Diamond Head and Waikiki are in the distance. Hanauma Bay and Hawaii Kai are nearby.  IMG_20140123_110806

When it was an active radar site, the main base was at the foot of the crater. The operational facility at the top was accessed by a rail tram that ran directly to the top, climbing some 1,200 feet along the way. All that remains of the tramway today is the track.

Back in the day, the track’s users didn’t mind the grade. Passengers and supplies were winched up by machinery easily capable of taking passengers in a straight line – no switchbacks required.

Which brings us to yesterday. There I was in the company of a couple hundred of my closest friends climbing those railway ties. There are over 1,000 of them. IMG_20140126_092723

The climb starts gently enough. The first half is deceptively easy with a relatively shallow grade. But just after the 500th tie, the track crosses a ravine. It was constructed for rail cars – not humans, so exposure below the ties wasn’t a concern. But as one hikes across the ravine, one needs to tread carefully.

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There’s nothing between those 64 ties except the rails themselves, and a misstep looks as though it could be disastrous. This is challenge number one. And it is the end of the day for many. Those who simply cannot stomach the idea of exposure to a fall through the ties turn back here.

Then comes challenge number two. Here the trail bends upward and becomes much steeper.

IMG_20140126_091947And the crowd really begins to thin at this point. Climbers who didn’t understand what they were undertaking have a reality check and many turn back. Those who are not ready physically or psychologically, or who are not properly dressed, or who didn’t bring enough water, or who are too old or infirm to climb a steep grade stop here or shortly after. They give up. They know they can’t climb another 500 railroad ties up this massive incline. From here on, the number of climbers heading down to the parking lot is greater than the number going to the top.

None of these people get to enjoy the feeling of meeting this challenge. They don’t feel the endorphin rush that accompanies the last step as they reach the top of the mountain. They won’t know the “wow” factor of the view out over the endless Pacific Ocean in all directions from the rim of the crater.

All because they couldn’t climb to the top.

Really? Did any of them have to climb to the top to reap those rewards?

Well, no, actually. All any of those people really had to do was climb one railroad tie. Not all of them. Just one.

In part 2 we’ll talk about how I saw this reality applied in dramatic fashion on another hike on Oahu. More importantly, we’ll start to think about how this applies to challenges you are facing today.

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#symphonyofyourlife #wheeloffortune

http://www.symphonyofyourlife.com

Link to Mark’s Book: They Symphony of Your Life

Mark Hardcastle graduated from the USAF Academy in 1982. After nine years as a pilot on active duty, he left the military to join a commercial airline. In addition to flying B-777s around the world, Hardcastle spends time in the Rocky Mountains and serves on the artistic staff of the Colorado Children’s Chorale. He lives in Centennial, Colorado, with his wife and four children. Contact Mark today to schedule a keynote or workshop for your organization! Email mark@symphonyofyourlife.com or call 720.840.8361

You Can. You Just Need To Know You Can, Part 3

A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle

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Here’s Part 2

I was one of those who kept running that day. Ironically, I feel like I was one of those who failed. Why would I say that?

My buddy Jeff, running right beside me, was one of those who dropped out.

Of course I failed.

Would I have been able to go another full mile? That’s something I’ll never know with certainty. What I do know is that I had enough to go another 3 or 4 steps. And hopefully another 3 or 4 beyond that. On another day, in another time or place I’d have reached out to Jeff and helped him along for those first few steps, then the next, until hopefully he got his second wind and would be able to keep going on his own. But that day I didn’t.

Why not? Two reasons. First, I was so consumed with my own burning lungs that I wasn’t looking around for anyone who might be losing steam. Second, Jeff didn’t tell me. Had either of those realities not been true I’d have reached out and grabbed him and pulled him along.

By continuing to run I got what the Jumpmasters wanted me to get that day. By watching Jeff drop out I got something else.

When Fortune starts doling out her challenges we need to think more deeply.

Are your lungs burning today? Of course they are. You’re running hard, living life, doing what you were put here to do.

If your resources are stretched, reach out. Do you have mentors a phone call away? Partners in your networking group who are more experienced? Advisers who’ve been where you are? Call them. They’ll help you keep going until you get your second wind and can go again on your own.

If, on the other hand, these are the good times for you and you’re hitting on all cylinders, take a look around. There’s somebody in your sphere who’s challenged and can use your wisdom. You have the ability to make a difference in a colleague’s life. Make it. Look up. Reach out. Bring him or her along.

In all cases mental strength rules. It’s always mind over matter. You can keep going as long as you need to. You just need to know you can. The real question, as is the case so often in life, is “how?”. Can you go it alone? Should you? Can you help somebody else? Will you?

I know you can. I hope you will.

The Symphony of Your Life

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Link to Mark’s Book: They Symphony of Your Life

http://www.symphonyofyourlife.com

Mark Hardcastle graduated from the USAF Academy in 1982. After nine years as a pilot on active duty, he left the military to join a commercial airline. In addition to flying B-777s around the world, Hardcastle spends time in the Rocky Mountains and serves on the artistic staff of the Colorado Children’s Chorale. He lives in Centennial, Colorado, with his wife and four children. Contact Mark today to schedule a keynote or workshop for your organization! Email mark@symphonyofyourlife.com or call 720.840.8361

You Can – You Just Need To Know You Can, Part 2

A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle

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Here’s Part 1 in case you missed it…

As we walked back to join our friends who’d given up only a few yards short of the end, the instructors said nothing, allowing the lesson to become self-evident: It’s always mind over matter.

Mind over matter…”  Sounds impressive. We’ve all heard it over and over again since we were small. But what does it look like? What does “mind over matter” actually mean?

In this particular case, it meant that most of the platoon continued to run. So what was the difference between us and those who dropped out? Were we in better physical shape? I don’t think so. Other dynamics were at work. Several of us were young bucks from service academies, driven to show our mettle. Others were older service members—enlisted and officers—who had waited years to take this training course and were hell-bent not to blow their chance. The one commonality among all of us was this: a simple, undeniable determination not to be defeated.

Here’s the bottom line: If you believe you can keep going as long as you need to, you’re probably right. If you believe you can’t go on, you’re probably right about that, too.

Situations like this are classically self-fulfilling. We conclude that we can continue toward our goal, or that we can’t. How we come to that conclusion is critical. We can convince ourselves either way! Which means that our success is up to us. It’s all about what we believe. In other words, it’s always mind over matter!

What are you believing today? Are you good enough to do what you need to do? Do you have the resources within you to go as long as you need to go?

But what if you get tired? Not just tired… What if you get ‘I can’t go another step much less another mile’ tired. Then what?

I was one of those who kept running that day. Ironically, I feel like I was one of those who failed. In Part 3 (coming soon!) I’ll tell you why…

The Symphony of Your Life

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Link to Mark’s book: The Symphony of Your Life

http://www.symphonyofyourlife.com

Mark Hardcastle graduated from the USAF Academy in 1982. After nine years as a pilot on active duty, he left the military to join a commercial airline. In addition to flying B-777s around the world, Hardcastle spends time in the Rocky Mountains and serves on the artistic staff of the Colorado Children’s Chorale. He lives in Centennial, Colorado, with his wife and four children. Contact Mark today to schedule a keynote or workshop for your organization! Email mark@symphonyofyourlife.com or call 720.840.8361

I Had A Paintbox – Redux, Part 3

A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle

303 ReMinders

In case you missed it, here’s Part 2…

Video: What I Told the Kids That Night

I enjoyed their ideas and the insights they came up with to explain why they thought that Randall had placed the notes the way he did around those words. But I left my own thoughts out of it for the time being.

At the concert in November I took a moment after we finished The Pasture to tell the audience about our interaction with Randall Stroope. I told them how fun it was to watch, and how gratified I was that they had come well prepared with intelligent questions for the composer. And this was when I finally shared my thoughts about Tali Shurek’s The Paint Box. I chose this moment because it was my last with the 303 Choir for the foreseeable future, and I wanted them to understand not only what choral music can convey, but what I hoped they were learning from us on this night, in this setting, through this musical experience. Here’s what I told them.

“My grandmother was a painter. And I can imagine a situation where (had I been a little smarter!) I might have sat down with her and asked, ‘Grandma, How did you decide to live your life? What caused you to make the decisions that you made?’”

“And I think in her wisdom she might have said, ‘Son, you know I’m a painter. And I have this paint box. And I had the opportunity to choose the colors that went into that paint box – the colors that I wanted to use to paint my life. There were certain colors that I rejected. I didn’t want to have anything to do with colors that represented discord and pain and hardship. I chose colors to put into my paint box that would allow me to paint beautiful paintings and create a beautiful life.’”

“That idea is what I hope you guys will take with you – the idea that you have the opportunity now to put the colors into your paint box that you are going to use to paint the painting of your life. And I hope that you will do as the song says. That you will use that opportunity to create something beautiful. Let’s make beautiful things with that paint box, shall we?”

With that I turned back to the choir, gave the accompanist the downbeat, and we were into the music.

So what really happened that night? At least, what do I hope happened?

Here was a group of young people whose entire lives lay before them. Middle schoolers. High schoolers. Only starting to have inklings of who they are as unique individuals. I wanted to have an influence on who they will become. I don’t care what they become. I care that they become their truest, most perfect selves, whatever that might look like. So I planted a seed – the idea that they are the captains of their own souls. They will be the ultimate arbiters of what their life-paintings look like when they finally put their brushes away.

And here’s a thought. You are older than them. In fact, if you’re like me you’re approaching the end of middle-age. What does this idea have to do with you?

How about this? Just like those singers, your entire life, however long it may be, is before you. The reality is that some of those kids will have more time to create paintings than others. Some of us adults will have relatively more time to work on our canvases as well. There is no difference. Those of us with more time in our past have just that – a history. We cannot change it. We have no control over it. It will enrich our memories forever.

What we can change is tomorrow. What will your tomorrow look like? What colors do you need for your paint box? Will you reject colors that represent wounds, orphaned children, the face of the dead, burning sands? Will you choose colors warm, cool and bright? Colors that evoke joy and life? Buds and bloom? Clear bright skies? Dreams and rest?

Are you today living the life you were meant to live? Do you already have the paints you need? Then paint! If you are not today doing the things you were put on this earth to do, take out a new, clean canvas. Go get your paints. And paint the masterpiece of your life.

The Symphony of Your Life

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Link to Mark’s book, The Symphony of Your Life

http://www.symphonyofyourlife.com

Mark graduated from the USAF Academy in 1982. After nine years as a pilot on active duty, he left the military to join a commercial airline. In addition to flying B-777s around the world, Hardcastle spends time in the Rocky Mountains and serves on the artistic staff of the Colorado Children’s Chorale. He lives in Centennial, Colorado, with his wife and four children. Contact Mark today to schedule a keynote or workshop for your organization!

Email mark@symphonyofyourlife.com or call 720.840.8361

 

I Had A Paintbox – Redux, Part 2

A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle

303 Local Artist            Stroope and Lauridsen

Here’s Part 1 in case you missed it…

Ya gotta love the internet! We found a date when Randall would be in his home office and we’d be in rehearsal. It was all set.

On the appointed evening, we gathered in Travis’s basement and ate pizza while he set up the Skype connection. Before we knew it, Randall came on the screen, sitting at his desk in Stillwater, devoting his full attention to these 25 eager young people in Arvada, Colorado. Now what?

I had a list of questions prepared in case the conversation dragged, but it wasn’t needed. Right out of the chute one of the kids asked, “Why do you write music the way you do?” Not bad.

Randall didn’t miss a beat. He explained that it’s always about enhancing the text. The text always dictates how the music is written. Every aspect of the music – notes, rhythm, meter, harmonies – should be about bringing out the message that the poet is trying to convey. The music should always bring the words to life.

Next question: “What inspired you to compose The Pasture?”

“I wanted the music to convey the reality that Frost wasn’t talking literally about cleaning out a pasture spring. He was talking about building a relationship. So I built the notes around that idea.”

And so it went. Randall graciously gave us a huge chunk of his time. The kids asked several more questions. Then we sang “The Pasture” for him through the magic of the internet, us in Arvada, him over in Stillwater. Then it was over and he was gone. And the kids will never forget the night that they “met” a famous composer and actually got to speak with, and then sing for, him.

That was in late September. Our concert was scheduled for early November. So we had several weeks to introduce concepts of traditional choral music that were new to members of the 303 Choir. We would have been remiss had we not frequently referred back to their time with Randall, whose music they were now learning in earnest. As part of that process, sometime in mid-October I asked the singers what they thought Randall might have been thinking when he set the notes around the text in The Paint Box. I enjoyed their ideas and the insights they came up with to explain why they thought that Randall had placed the notes the way he did around those words. But I left my own thoughts out of it for the time being.

In Part 3 I’ll share what I learned from this experience, and what I hope the kids took away…

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Link to Mark’s book, The Symphony of Your Life

http://www.symphonyofyourlife.com

Mark graduated from the USAF Academy in 1982. After nine years as a pilot on active duty, he left the military to join a commercial airline. In addition to flying B-777s around the world, Hardcastle spends time in the Rocky Mountains and serves on the artistic staff of the Colorado Children’s Chorale. He lives in Centennial, Colorado, with his wife and four children. Contact Mark today to schedule a keynote or workshop for your organization!
Email mark@symphonyofyourlife.com  or call 720.840.8361

I Had A Paint Box – Redux, Part 1

A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle

 

This is a re-imagined version of a blog post from a few years ago. Hope you like it! – M

I Had A Paint Box

February 5th, 2014
The Paint-Box

I had a paint-box
Each color glowing with delight;
I had a paint-box with colors
Warm and cool and bright.
I had no red for wounds and blood,
I had no black for an orphaned child,
I had no white for the face of the dead.
I had no yellow for the burning sands.
I had orange for joy and life,
I had green for buds and blooms,
I had blue for clear bright skies.
I had pink for dreams and rest.
I sat down and painted
Peace

– Tali Shurek, Age 13, Beersheba

Several weeks ago I had the privilege of conducting the 303 Choir from Arvada. They’re a non-auditioned group of young people who spend the majority of their time together learning music in the style of their culture, that is rap and hip-hop. All with a tie to the Denver area. Hence, the name.

This is their third season since the group was founded by my friend and colleague from the Colorado Children’s Chorale, Maestro Travis Branam. And this year Travis decided that it was time for them to be exposed to a set of more traditional pieces of choral music. But how to tie traditional choral music to the 303?

This is how I came to be part of the 303 Choir.

Years ago I lived in Omaha where I sang with the Nebraska Choral Arts Society, conducted by #RandallStroope. Randall’s family and mine became friends through that and other musical organizations in Omaha. As our friendship developed I came to understand that Randall had spent quite a bit of time in the Denver area. In fact, he ultimately earned his Master’s Degree from C.U. in Boulder.

As way led on to way, I moved to Colorado. Now more than two decades later I work with the Colorado Children’s Chorale. Travis had organized 303 Choir as an affiliate of CCC, so I was well aware of how they were thriving. It was fun to hear Travis talk about their growth and his vision for expanding their musical world. He had brought them to the point where they needed some choral repertoire with a 303 connection. And Randall had become an internationally known composer.

Was there an opportunity here?

It was Travis’s idea to look into the Stroope connection. We started digging, hoping we might find three of his compositions that would be suitable to this choir. They would need to be accessible to singers who, though entirely enthusiastic, hadn’t had much formal training. And sure enough, that’s what we found. We decided to program Randall’s settings of Robert Frost’s “The Pasture,” Tali Shurek’s “The Paint Box,” and “The Inscription Of Hope,” from the walls of a cellar in Cologne, Germany, circa WWII.

Now, here’s something really cool about 303 Choir. Travis makes it a point to connect the choir with the artists whose music they are singing. He sets up regular workshops and invites in the performers. And they come. And the kids learn.

So how to get Randall together with the choir? He’s a full-time professor living in Oklahoma, and he travels almost weekly to musical events all over the country. Having him attend rehearsals was a low-probability outcome. So we went for the next best thing. Skype. Ya gotta love the internet! We found a date when Randall would be in his home office and we’d be in rehearsal. It was all set.

On the appointed evening, we gathered in Travis’s basement and ate pizza while he set up the Skype connection…

In Part 2 I’ll tell you about what happened when Randall came on the screen. Thanks for reading so far.

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Link to Mark’s book: The Symphony of Your Life

http://www.symphonyofyourlife.com

Mark graduated from the USAF Academy in 1982. After nine years as a pilot on active duty, he left the military to join a commercial airline. In addition to flying B-777s around the world, Hardcastle spends time in the Rocky Mountains and serves on the artistic staff of the Colorado Children’s Chorale. He lives in Centennial, Colorado, with his wife and four children. Contact Mark today to schedule a keynote or workshop for your organization!