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What I Learned From Maynard James Keenan

So, who is that guy? The intense guy with the mullhawk? That’s Maynard James Keenan, vocalist for Tool. And also A Perfect Circle. And also Puscifer. And owner of Caduceus Cellars and Merkin Vineyards. A purple belt in Brazilan Jiu-Jitsu. The list goes on and on and on (and on).

I spent my weekend reading his biography, A Perfect Union of Contrary Things, and would wholeheartedly recommend it, whether you’re a fan of his music and/or his wine and/or his philosophies or not. It was, for me, a great reminder of many things that I’ve learned and consider to be important. But at the same time, it was a reminder of how easy it is to let the things we learn and value be lost in the shuffle of daily life.

I wear many hats and juggle many responsibilities. I have a day job, my coaching practice, my family, my community work. That may seem like a lot, but look at all the hats that you wear in a day and I’m sure you’ll find just as many, if not more. Sometimes, that can get overwhelming. Sometimes, it’s easy to turn our back on all that and lose ourselves in the television, the Internet, our devices, or other things that don’t add real value to our lives. That’s understandable – everyone needs a rest. But too much rest results in inertia. It takes away our momentum.

The amazing thing about Maynard is that he is able to keep his momentum, to not burn out. His biography, in many ways, leaves the impression that he is just getting started. And he keeps adding to his eclectic list of talents and accomplishments. While I don’t know Maynard personally, reading the biography gave me some ideas as to how he is somehow able to pull this off.

  • Do your self work. Seek to understand why you react in certain ways, why certain things make you happy or angry or sad. Know yourself, and from there, you can build a solid foundation upon which you make your decisions.

  • Challenge yourself. Throughout the book, Maynard repeats the saying “it should be a challenge, not a chore”. If your challenge becomes a chore, it probably isn’t aligned with what your passion and direction is. But if it’s a challenge and you love learning more, digging deeper, and pushing yourself, it’s a sign that it’s a path you may wish to pursue.

  • Take the long view. Maynard pushed himself to his physical and mental limits going through military academy. Why? So he could afford to go to art school. Years of training and sacrifice, not as a means unto itself, but to get to a greater goal.

  • At the same time, focus on now. Even though military academy was a step on a greater journey, Maynard focused all of his attention on succeeding at it.

  • Read. Reading allows us to gain different perspectives and learn, and see a greater part of the world, and gain greater insight on who we are.

  • Put together the greater puzzle. You have many talents, abilities and interests. How do all those parts fit together?

  • Be open to connection. One of the special things about Maynard’s journey is that the universe seems to send him whatever he needs, whenever he needs it. This is largely due to his ability to connect with others, and listen to their goals and dreams, while he shares his own and attempts to find common ground. He works to maintain a diverse and expansive social network, and thus, always has the potential to connect with interested collaborators. Connection also allows us to lean on one another, to support one another, to recharge our batteries.

  • Do it on your own terms. This is a tough one. Many of us are set in our lives, patterns and routines, which we keep to be able to put food on the table and roofs over our heads. When our routines become conscious choices, we start to be able to see how they can bend and flex to accommodate the pursuit of our dreams and passions. Push the envelope; watch it bend.

  • See the humour in things. Life is often absurd and hilarious. Remember to laugh and find the joys that life brings.

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