Friday, May 29, 2015

I Can See For Miles

I recently acquired a massive box set by Miles Davis compiling his entire Columbia Records output. It includes 53 albums of music and over 70 discs. The albums spanned the majority of his recordings from the mid 50’s into the mid 80’s. It has taken me nearly 3 weeks of daily listening to get through the entire collection.

Now, I like jazz but I am a casual fan at best. Many times when I listen to jazz I have difficulty understanding exactly what I’m hearing. Not to mention, I honestly can’t differentiate one album or artist from another. Jazz is simply something I’ve gained an appreciation for that ultimately serves as great background music for me.
To undertake the task of hearing this whole collection took significant effort. Seeing as how I like to try and find a way to relate things in life to health and wellness, I wanted to expound on what I’ve heard and my interpretation of how this relates to you.

Please note, I know many people don’t care for this genre of music. It’s not my intention to make you a fan. I am a rock fan, first and foremost. However, this experiment (if you will) definitely broadened my horizons.

The shortest version of what I’ve listened to over the last 3 weeks might go something like this: The earliest recordings in this series document a musician with considerable talent. My belief is, when most people think about jazz music they are generally thinking of music that sounds like this era. However, Miles was not content to stick with any particular sound. Over the span of years and recordings, you can hear a distinct change. Many times, you could hear the growth in the live recordings. As jazz musicians are wont to do, there would be a change in the formation of any particular group. Imagine if Mick Jagger changed the line-up of the Rolling Stones every few years because he wanted to tackle a new musical direction. It would be a vastly different band!

As a listener, what starts as somewhat easy listening begins to evolve. By the late 60’s, the music starts to take a different approach: more funk, more experimentation, more changing of the musicians. What was once good background music becomes more challenging to the ear and requires more attention. Like so much music from the late 60’s and early 70’s, the drugs and the political climate of the nation were shaping what was happening in music. Miles was the first to say that if people wanted to hear his old style that he was no longer content in playing it. He had moved on. Throughout the rest of the collection, he continues to change his musical partners, styles and influence. Miles passed away in 1991 and left a legacy of music that is matched by very few (in any genre).

So, after listening to all of this. It got me thinking about the path some people take with their fitness plan. Let’s see if I can tie this all together!
1. Start with what you know.
In fitness, it helps to not over-complicate things. Start with exercises you’re comfortable with and changes that you know you can stick with. Allow yourself to acclimate to patterns and dietary habits. Like Miles did early in his career, it helps to settle into one “style” first before doing a complete overhaul.

2. Know when to change.
It’s rare (if not impossible) when you can stick with the exact same diet and exercise plan but still see positive results. Be honest with yourself about your goals and the progress you’re making. Know when to embark on a new direction in your fitness so you can continue to grow.

3. New playground, new playmates.
Miles was not afraid of treading new ground. Not only that, but he was unapologetic when people expected the same things from him or retreads when he was ready to explore other paths. Not everyone will understand your burning motivation for change. It may require a new support system or simply trying things you’ve never tried before in efforts to get the best results. While it’s counterproductive to hop from idea to idea without putting your all into the one you’re on now, it’s good to know when you’ve accomplished all you can where you’re at.

4. Blow Your Own Mind.
In the 70’s, Davis’ output was just that: mindblowing. That’s not a good or bad thing. The albums he put out in the 70’s were long, often frustrating pieces of music. I can imagine many might challenge that what he did was even jazz at all. If you want to really see change in your fitness, be willing to challenge yourself. More importantly, be ready to push yourself in some way that you never have before. For some people, it’s training for their first 5K. For others, it might be bench-pressing their body weight. Over the last several months, I’ve been steadily building towards lifting 3x my body weight on a particular lift. I’ll be writing more about that in a future newsletter. If you can’t push yourself past self-imposed boundaries, you’re setting yourself up for greater disappointments. I can tell you there is nothing quite like doing something you NEVER thought you could actually do.

5. Focus on the long-term.
If you were a fan of Miles’ music in the 50’s, you may not have been prepared for the changes his sound would take over the next 3 decades. Music fans can be somewhat fickle in that regard. As someone who puts value on being able to exercise and eat well, short-term goals can sometimes lead to drastic and counterproductive behaviors. If you’ve ever tried a fad diet or supplement, you’re already well-aware. Focus on the behaviors that set you up for longevity with your health. Is what you’re doing now building the foundation for where you want your body to be and how you want to feel 30 years from now?
I’ve been using my love of music to inspire the last few newsletters. Sometimes in the actual ramblings and sometimes in the title of the newsletter. The title for this newsletter was inspired by The Who song of the same name and of course a LOT of Miles Davis inspiration. If there’s something you’d like me to write about in future newsletters, feel free to respond back. I’d love to give you the insight.

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