October 25, 2017
What floats for you?
Odd question, I know, but it’s one that’s been on my mind for a long time, courtesy of Geoff Thompson.
If you don’t know Geoff, he’s an interesting story. A former bouncer, street fighter, and hugely violent man turned pascifist, spiritual teacher, and BAFTA-winning screenwriter.
I highly recommend Geoff’s motivational books and podcast. The podcast has been on hiatus for a while since Geoff’s been focused on some of his screenwriting stuff, but I listen to different episodes over and over again for wisdom or a boost. His piece on the Law of Floatation is a favourite (see below).
Basically, the idea is that everyone has abilities, talents, gifts, whatever that float – or work – naturally for them. For example, the first time I sat down behind a drum kit, I could just play. I didn’t have to think about what to do with my hands and feet. I was no Jojo Mayer (I wasn’t close then and I’m not close now), but the coordination was just there. I could do it.
It was similar with writing. I always had a natural sense of language. I was a good speller. I was articulate, even if I was articulating idiocy. Writing floated for me.
Of course, drumming and writing also have an element of technique. Technique can be developed, and I’m trying to do that in order to reach the next level.
Comedy might naturally float for you. Or teaching. Or math. Or business. Or playing basketball. Or putting events together. Or listening to people. These are things that you’re just good at for whatever reason. I know a few people who are gifted at the maddening Tetris of loading instruments into a van. These gifts can be clues to what you might want to do with your life. Or, if you like, to what you were meant to do with your life.
Geoff Thompson talks about how he was a natural storyteller and speaker. People would gather around to hear his harrowing tales of nights on the door. He has turned that natural ability, along with a deep sense of purpose, into his career as a writer and speaker. It floats for him.
You can also look at what floats for you in terms of success. Drumming has floated for me in amazing ways, as I’ve already said in other posts. Once I put myself out there, the opportunities started coming along. It’s taken courage at times to accept some of those opportunities, but they’ve been there, and they’ve helped me grow as a player and as a person. No doubt other opportunities will come in the future.
It floats for me, even if I don’t always see or understand it.
So if you’re stuck wondering what to do with your life, you might consider looking at what floats for you. What comes naturally? What do people ask you to do for them? What do people tell you you’re good at? What just works when you try it? Those are the things to focus on, rather than the things that don’t work so well for you.
That’s been an important lesson for me over the years. I’ve tried things that haven’t worked. It’s easy to look at things that sink and feel like a failure, especially if you’re prone to punching yourself in the face like I am. Shift your focus back to what floats. Begin to explore those things again, and if there is an opportunity to put yourself out there in those areas, do it. I have a close friend who wanted to try acting, so she screwed up her courage and auditioned for a community theatre production. She was cast, and has now appeared in several productions, in addition to getting into stage management and theatre governance.
Theatre floats for her.
Will she make a living in theatre? Maybe, maybe not. But still, maybe. Either way, think about the experiences she’s had and the people she’s met and the growing she’s done along the way. Experience is currency, and she’s getting rich through acting. She’s also opened a window to a world of possibilities, as I have with drumming. If she hadn’t acted – literally and figuratively – she would never have known if it floats or not.
This post is already longer than I intended it to be. Really, it was meant to set up this clip from Geoff Thompson, speaking about the Law of Floatation and its impact on his life. Have a listen, then look up his podcast on YouTube or iTunes to get a lot of wisdom from a charismatic and inspiring man for whom teaching really floats.
And if you’re reading this, Geoff, many thanks for your work!