The American Country and Western Artist Garth Brooks has a saying he learnt from his dad:
‘For every curse there is a blessing and for every blessing there is a curse’.
I first heard it in his documentary ‘this road I am on’ which is available to stream on Netflix and it has fascinated me ever since.
Garth references the quote to illustrate the pressures of abundance and fame on an Artist who still values the simple things in life and craves family time. He appreciates that his saying is far reaching and to that I agree.
When I ponder his point, it is hard to imagine an example where it is not true. For example, even the joy of becoming a parent is met with the anguish of uncertainty when you realise you cannot control the world and protect your children forever!
Last month I tried an experiment. I deactivated my Facebook account for a week!
I had realised that I had gone a little too far with the promotion of my Karate work and I was consumed by likes, feedback and shares. It wasn’t healthy, worse still it was compromising me as a husband and a father.
In October 2019 I left my full-time job and committed to less conventional life. A life where I have dedicated my time to myself, my family, and my passion for Karate.
But….. ‘for every blessing there is a curse’.
One of my intentions when I left work was to become more ‘present in the moment’ and less distracted by monthly targets and business pressures that were of little of no consequence to my family.
To some extent I think it worked. I am a better listener and I get to make kids lunches. I even navigate the school run a few days a week. But……
Despite intentionally repurposing my Social-Media to purely promote my teaching and training. I realised I had gone a little too far!
During lockdown I recognised that karate teaching in the ‘traditional sense’ (at least for me) was largely ephemeral. i.e. It happened in the moment, it was fleeting or transitory.
Therefore, my classes whether good bad or indifferent were only of value or relevant to the students who were there and had trained or watched. Even then I realised that point of view, perspective or distorted memory could compromise the experience.
So, in a in attempt to challenge the fleeting experience I had committed to recording and photographing my work to ‘capture’ a moment and showcase the event. The goal was to convert the transitory exchange of experience to a captured moment, lesson, joke, or insight.
It is great fun, but a curse is that it is truly addictive!
As I have mentioned before, my Wife Karyn is very good at letting me know when I lose sight of what is truly important. Thankfully she was on hand once again to highlight the fact that my distraction of reviewing and publishing my work was compromising my presence with our family.
(She wasn’t suggesting I stop the promotion. But she was clear that I should manage when I chose to undertake this work.)
I had lost my way and would sit editing videos while the kids tried to talk to me or asked me to play. Even worse, if a troll commented or shared my work it played on my mind, and I failed to listen to anyone who was talking to me.
My Blessing was now my curse!
When Karyn illustrated this to me it was clear that I needed to create some time to think and appraise. So, I heeded some Self-Defence advice and created distance.
I deactivated my Facebook account.
Initially it was a little uncomfortable. I was aware of the ‘twitch’ or urge to check, swipe and scroll. I wondered what was going on in the world, I wondered if my friends and family were missing me, I felt a little lost. It was horrible!
I realised just how habitual my use of Social Media had become.
It owned me!
As the week progressed, I felt less uncomfortable. I felt increasingly free of the habit. I felt better and once again more present in the moment. In-fact I was pretty sure that I would not reactivate my account.
Then a strange thing happened!
My wife and I had been invited to an evening away at a Spa in Liphook with a group of our closest friends. Thankfully like most men I can shower and be ready in about twenty-minutes, so I met the other husbands in the sports bar while our wives did hair and make-up.
While in the bar some of the guys started telling me how much they enjoyed my karate videos. Especially the ones of me teaching the kids. I had no idea these guys even watched them! One of my friends who is a personal trainer even said he really looked forward to seeing them every week.
I was a little stunned and explained that I was having a break from social media as I had lost my way a little and was ill-prepared for negative feedback or the abuse of Trolls.
My friends told me they felt that was a shame and that in some way I was letting the haters win! I knew they were right.
But if I were to manage the blessing, I needed a strategy for the curse!
Now, I am not completely deluded that everyone will think my work is valuable or of interest, but I did realise that I had been ill-prepared for negative feedback or a perceived lack of respect.
I had let negativity get to me and that is not helpful!
It is times like this that I really miss my Dad. He was my ‘go-to’ source of advice when I didn’t know how to deal with a situation or a person. Somehow, he always seemed to know what to say! Not having him here to bounce off has been tough for me, but I am learning and trying to find new ways to approach problems with new mentors to support my growth.
Ironically, I found my advice from my dad on Facebook of all places!
I reactivated my account encouraged by the feedback from my friends but with the initial intention to only publish my work when not with or around my family. In scrolling through some memories, I stumbled across one of my Dads favourite quotes and as I read it I heard him saying it to me;
‘You act as if I value your opinion!’
Boom…… there it is!
The blessing of his advice appeared on the media that had proven my curse!
Now as I type this, I realise this advice should have been obvious. He had shared the saying with me on many occasions and it had always been relevant. This saying is like a hard reset when used as a counterpoint to a jibe, insult, comment, or opinion.
Do I really care what YOU think? …… Whoever YOU may be!
So here I am, once again navigating the online world trying my best to address the ephemeral nature of my work and capture it in ways that hopefully extends its reach and value.
This time although I will undoubtably lose my way a little I feel better prepared for I have a baseline strategy.
I accept that for every blessing there is a curse. To enjoy the positive, I must expect some negative.
Opinions and dislikes are only relevant if I attach value to the person who shares them!
Conversely this made me think about the comments and likes I distribute. I wonder if the receivers value my opinion or whether my comments need to be made at all?
When we give a like or feedback are we subconsciously seeking reassurance or approval. Do we need to know if those people value OUR opinion?
For every blessing there is a curse!