Effortlessness – A Personal Story

Some of the very best things that have happened in my music career have been completely unplanned by me.

In other words, I didn’t struggle or strain to figure out the how of the thing. I didn’t bang on doors and bang on them again, or make a kajillion phone calls. Sometimes I think our lesson in this lifetime is about allowing, and about trusting that things always work out once we intend them — but that they work out in a way that is best for us, not in a way that would be best for someone else. Pushing, struggling, and straining have never worked for me. Showing up, being clear, doing the inner-work, taking action — those have worked.

One of the best examples I can give of something falling into place without my mucky hands getting involved is when I got endorsed by Takamine guitars.

In case you don’t know what a guitar endorsement is: Guitar companies endorse artists – especially famous artists – because it puts the brand name out there. It’s advertising. Watch a concert on MTV. Look at all the music brand names on the stage with the band. Drums, mics, guitars, bass — most likely, if you can see the brand name, it is a product that has been given to the band or the artist so that viewers will think, “I want to be just like that guy!” and rush out to get that product.

Most guitar companies also have lower-level artist endorsement deals for independent artists who aren’t famous. If a performing artist contacts them, they will offer their guitars at a slightly reduced rate, knowing that at least a few people will see their product.

And hey, it works. When I was in college and I saw Mary Chapin Carpenter for the first time, I wanted to play a big jumbo guitar like she had. I ordered a Martin JM-40 – which was their jumbo model. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that the Martin jumbo body wasn’t as big as her guitar. So I was kind of disappointed. But not for long. As it turns out, I saw Emily Saliers (one of the Indigo Girls) playing a Martin JM-40 on stage soon after that, and I was consoled. There was hope for me to be a good guitar player after all!

Years later, I bought a Takamine because I had started touring a lot, and the Takamine guitar is a good road guitar, even in bad sound situations.

At some point, my manager had made an attempt to get an endorsement from Takamine. She had met someone from the company at a music conference where I showcased. Then she spent several months trying to connect with him and get some interest from the company to no avail. All they offered me was the reduced rate endorsement. She and I agreed to drop it, even though I would’ve loved a full endorsement.

That same year, I did a showcase in Los Angeles at this funky little club that smelled like stale beer and smoke. I was the only solo acoustic artist. (And I’m not being self-deprecating when I say that I was also the most “un-cool.” It’s the truth!) I played about five songs to a lukewarm response.

After I performed, a woman came up and introduced herself to me as I was putting my guitar in its case. She said, “Hi, I’m Jenny Yates, and I loved your set.” And I turned around and looked at her and said, “You’re Jenny Yates? Didn’t you write Standing Outside the Fire?” And she said that she had. And I said, “That’s my favorite Garth Brooks song!” And we instantly connected and talked about writing and how much we love Anne Lamott, and what our favorite songs are, etc.

She asked about my Takamine guitar. I told her I was having some issues with the pre-amp, and that I needed to figure something out soon because it was a pretty old pre-amp, and it was sounding pretty awful. We also had lunch the next day and have since done a few co-writing sessions here and there.

Well, the following week, she called the artist rep at Takamine, who she knew well. She told him about me and about our discussion. He then called me and asked me to send him my promo package and CD’s. One week later, he offered me an endorsement and sent me several new guitars to test so I could pick one. And he also sent me a whole new pre-amp for my old Takamine. When I toured with the ballet company last year, he sent me another new guitar because the performance required several quick guitar changes. He and I meet for breakfast at Fido whenever I’m in Nashville. Even though he has been backstage at some of the coolest concerts you can imagine, and he’s working with artists who are selling millions more records than me, he treats me like a rock star. And you know I love that!

All of this has been effortless. It’s been natural and fun. And it makes me want to do good things for Takamine, too. I know of at least three people who have bought their daughters Takamine guitars because of me. (Okay, so I am a rock star after all.) That makes me happy.

Even though not every deal in my career has been this easy, this situation taught me five things about effortlessness.

1 – The mantra of effortlessness is: “In its own perfect time.”

Yes, I intended an endorsement. It’s what I wanted. And it’s almost as if the angels heard it and said, “Okay, okay, we got it. Give us some space and let us figure this one out.”

2 – Gifts can appear out of seemingly bad situations. (P.S.  there ARE no bad situations!)

That showcase I did wasn’t easy. The bulk of the artists there were presenting hard-core masterful pop songs, delivered with polish. I’m a completely different writer. I was out of my element. And yet, there was Jenny. And she connected to what I was doing. Time and time again, this has happened. I never know what big surprise will show up if I show up. Even in the tough situations.

3 – Your needs and your values will be considered in the manifestation of what you want.

The way this deal came to me was perfect, not only because of the serendipity, but also because of the other things I value. I value relationships. And I value authenticity. I like having a relationship with my artist rep because it feels real. Best of all, I didn’t network. I’m not a networker. If I had met Jenny and pushed at her or tried to get her to give me something, it would’ve been a whole different story.

I also value being “taken care of.” I love having an endorsement from a company that takes care of me. My guitar rep calls to check in on me. They pay for repairs. They’re always available for questions. I don’t think that any other endorsement deal would have offered this particular bonus.

4 – A little detachment helps.

When you’re clutching and clinging to your goals, you’re mucking the energy of them. You’re worrying about how it’s going to happen because you don’t believe that it can unless you have figured out the how. The point is that you don’t always know the best way or timing for something to happen for you.

5 – Show up.

You have to participate in the game. You have to show up. Effortlessness isn’t about sitting back and watching tv and hoping something good will happen. You have to participate and act. The myth is that effortlessness implies inaction. It’s not inaction. It’s action with allowing. It’s action with trust.

Comments

  1. says

    effortlessness is the thing I, recovering control freak that I am, seem most often to forget. I’m recalling it often as the new year starts – my own mantra is a visualization of the web of connection that blankets this universe and sending my intentions out along the lines of that web – i guess i should have tried the visualization before (being a visual artist) because it affects my body when i visualize this, and i then know that i’m tuned in. thanks for this great summary of mindfulness.

  2. Dblwyo says

    You have to sail where you can to get to where you want to go.

    My instructor said that years ago as we were dodging downwind of yet another lobster pot off the Keys and getting farther and farther away from the direction back to home, a warm room and some coffee. But it’s true.

    If you’re not a sailor it may not sound as profound but remember we can’t point where we want to because we can’t sail into or close to the wind. Plus currents always push us around. So if you’re at point A and there’s a direct line to point Z you may still spend hours zig-zagging to b,c,d,e,f,g…..,y to get there. But you still need to know where you’re going and you still have to sail every little zigzag as best you can ’cause if you don’t you loose even more ground.

  3. says

    Hi Tammy, Your words remind me of a great book (and I think you’ll love it.) The Architecture of All Abundance by Lenedra Carroll (Jewel’s mom). She has a terrific passage about that web you described. And yes, I think effortlessness is something we ALL forget!

    Hi Dave, Thanks for the metaphor. It works perfectly. The zig zag is SO true.

  4. says

    Several years ago (what, four or five years at least) I hassled you at the Festival for the Eno (in Durham, NC) about not blogging on a regular basis. You seemed surprised and said, “But I just updated it a little while ago!” “No,” I corrected. “It’s been over six months.” You turned to your friend who nodded in agreement.

    I’ve been a fan ever since I first saw you at the Eno and have all of your CDs yadda yadda yadda. I knew that someone with the clarity of insight that you show in your lyrics would have a lot of very positive things to say to an audience eager to hear them. That, to me, is one of the best things blogging can produce — along with the dialogue that can spring from the Comments section after the blog entry.

    This entry of yours just sums up all of my positive thoughts about reading your blog over the past year or so, as you’ve become a very active blogger.

    You’re a wonderful singer, writer and teacher.

    Thanks.

  5. says

    One of the books that has most influenced me is Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow. Part of his description of flow is that when we are fully engaged, we are the least self-conscious. And yet the consequence of those moments of flow are that after we’ve lost ourselves in the task we emerge as something more – more developed, more able. Anxiety and self-consciousness just gets in the way of that state.

    Oh, how did Csikszentmihalyi come up with the term flow to speak about life’s most engaging and satisfying moments? He didn’t. He just used a term that he continually heard his interview subject use when they spoke of such moments. “I was in the flow.” Effortless indeed.

    Thanks again for another great post.

  6. Caren says

    Thanks for this, Christine. When I realized a few years ago that I wanted to combine my energy healing knowledge and drumming, I was very tempted to just pour everything I had into that — doing research, talking with people, self-promotion, etc. I was VERY excited by the possibilities! But in my meditations, something kept nudging at me, until I finally looked at it. My priority right now is connection with my kids. We are radical unschoolers, and it’s my job to not only feed my spirit and find what interests me, but to facilitate their explorations of their yearnings, as well. I knew then that that’s what I needed to stay focused on. Not that I couldn’t move in the direction that I wanted, but my *primary* focus needed to be on them. My priority. In doing that, everything about my healing drumming has just… happened so far. I meet someone, or read the right thing at the right time, someone comes to a circle, then asks me to do another for them… and it’s been effortless. As has unschooling, which is why I do it! lol Thanks for the reminder.

  7. Caren says

    OK, Christine and readers —

    In my job, I get requests for help from people in some desperate situations. I’m happy to give them the information I have, say a little prayer, and let go. Except – sometimes I’m signing an e-mail, and I don’t know how to end it, how to sign off at the end. I’m tempted to say, “best of luck”, but I actually don’t believe in luck. I sometimes want to say, “Blessings to you” but 1) don’t know how my boss would feel about that and 2) don’t know how the recipients would take it. Any ideas? I’ve written “best of luck”, but what I’m thinking as i write it is “may you find the peace you seek; may you know you’re supported by the universe; may the connections you need come easily to you”, so “best of luck” becomes kind of a symbol of all that — but that word, luck, is still there.

    Let me know what y’all think. And Christine, thanks for letting me hijack your readers. Unless you delete this post, then thanks for being clear. : )

  8. ChickiePam says

    Syncronicity is a word that I just love. So many things in my life have happened in very syncronistic fashion. In order for syncornicity to happen, I have found that I must “allow” it to happen. That’s where the effortlessness comes in, I think. My word for last year was “easy”, but it could have been effortlessness or syncronicity or allowing. I have spent many years of my life working hard/fighting to make things happen. I still catch myself starting to make big efforts sometimes, but my goal/intention is that I stay in a place of faith/allowing and am able to just see what unfolds.

    Tammy, thanks for that web of intention. I tend to be fairly visual and often “put my intention out there”. But where is “there”?! Now I have a place!
    In gratitude,
    Pam

  9. says

    Just the message I needed to hear. I had a couple dreams this weekend about leaving and letting go. I have my list of goals for the year and I realized that I was beginning to squeeze the nut. I could physically feel it too. Once I released, things started moving freely again. I feel like I’m in the flow.

    Caren, I would go with “Blessings to you” when you felt it. You never know how you will connect with someone who needed to hear that exact phrase.

    In Spirit,
    Nneka

  10. says

    Hi Christine and everyone else, and Happy New Year!

    Thanks for another great post – a great inspiration (as always, actually!). My word for the year is “trust”: trust that the universe will provide effortlessly and that I don’t have to push and control every little thing to get to where I want to go :)

    And Caren – I usually sign off with “All the best”. I find it leaves it a bit open, encapsulating for me the best of everything (whether that be luck, blessings, love….) and still sounds ok to any boss or other formal professional people. I also don’t like the idea of luck, though – too random! I think your thoughts at the time that you’re sending the mail (“may you find the peace you seek…”) are great, though – what a good energy to attach to the mail! I’m sure it transmits through the ether… :)

    All the best
    Mags ;)

  11. says

    Hey fivecats, I remember that very conversation. I think i was thinking, “Stop pushing me! I’ll write when I write, okay???” :-) Actually, the difference is that blog software makes keeping up with this so easy. I used to have to send everything I wrote off to my web person… and then wait. Anyway, I’m glad you’re liking the blogs. And I’m glad I really like writing them. (It’s kind of like touring without having to go through Hartsfield airport…which is a big plus!) Thanks for the kind words. I’ll try to make it over your way this year! (and you can come up to me after the show and say, “Hey, the last time you posted a blog was two days ago!”)

    Caren, Thanks for the story of focus. You make a good point. As far as signing off… How about “Big Wet Smoochy Kisses” or “May Your Dog Love You as Much as Mine Loves Me”… Do you think your boss would have a hard time with those? My favorite is Many Blessings. And I also like simply “Peace.” I think “Namaste” is nice, but I feel that I should have dreadlocks if I’m writing that.

    ChickiePam, As usual… great insights. I really do get a sense of allowing from you. And you’re life is obvsiously quite wonderful. You should link your name to your website so that people can see your work in the world!

    Nneka, ooooo, “In spirit” is lovely. Thanks for the beautiful insights.

    Hi Mags! Happy new year to you as well… Trust is a good one. It’s contained in all of them!

  12. Laura says

    Thank you for your thoughts on effortlessness Christine. It comes at a time when I have been a bit stuck in attachment, so it is helpful to be reminded of allowing. I am greatful. I am continually amazed that such a thing as a blog site can connect people across the globe in such postitive ways. I’m new to the world of blogging and I have to say I’m glad to be getting my feet wet here.
    blessings…

  13. Dblwyo says

    Caren – interesting question and your life must be more so. Got an e-mail from someone on the Sandbox milblog who’s a critical care nurse who’s gotten just used up treating wounded and thanked me for some minor advice to invest some time in her own recovery. Asked for my name and so forth and other comments.

    That’s a setup for your question – how does one end it ? Regards, Best Wishes ? All The Best gets better but you’re pointing toward well-wishing. Don’t have a good answer but if you’ll let me trial a couple:
    May you find what you’re looking for in the new year
    May you find what’s best for you
    May you find the best in you (in these bad times)

    One could keep playing and testing, which I will, but maybe the sense is clear ?

    May You Sail Where You Can ! ;)

  14. Edith says

    Thanks for posting this, Christine. I really benefitted from it. Yes, sometimes the struggling can reveal a lack of trust.

  15. says

    Hello Laura, Thanks for the thoughts, and the kind words about blogging and connection and learning!

    Thanks Dave. AND I’d like to encourage you to eliminate the phrase “in these bad times.” The written word holds a lot of power. I’m not sure I would use it to set that kind of intent! (Of course, I still like May your Dog Love You As Much As Mine Loves me!)

    Thanks Edith! Happy to hear (or read) that!

  16. Caren says

    Thanks everyone for your thoughtful replies to my query. I forget sometimes that it’s usually the best thing to be authentically me, no matter which arena I’m in – professional or otherwise. I guess if I’m really moved to write “blessings to you”, I can do that, and the consequences will be *exactly* what’s supposed to happen.

    Dave – I loved the image of the sailboat and effortlessness. And going seemingly off-course to get to where we want to be.

    Big Wet Smoochy Kisses,
    Blessings,
    Best to You,
    Later,
    Yours Truly,
    Take Care,
    May Your Dog Love You as Much as Mine Loves Me,
    May Your Cat Pee Only Where You Desire,
    Peace Out,
    Deep Peace and Wild Blessings,
    In Peace,
    In Spirit,
    Onward and Upward,
    With Love,
    Most Sincerely,
    Caren
    (Gassho ~)

  17. Dblwyo says

    CK – good point but…. the thing I was struggling with in the context of Caren’s situation was an encouraging closing for somebody acknowledgedly in a known, bad situation. One you didn’t wanna glissade over and away from but…. Won’t argue my approach was good but then how does one do that ?

    Caren – glad you like the metaphor and appreciat the opp to test it against your world a little. One point that may move it from metaphor to model is that even sailing in mild weather is hard work – you’re having to constantly adjust your body just to sit. When you have to trim, change sails, etc. etc. it’s a mad scramble. When the sea’s heavy and the wind’s up it’s as physical as anything there is and yet there’s the emotional challenge to keep a clear head and the spiritual challenge of staying calm and in the game when it can range from terminally frustrating to very dangerous. Of course all that doesn’t work if you haven’t experienced it but…FWIW.

  18. says

    Hi Christine,
    HHuummmmm….link to my website. Never thought of that and as I’ve read the past few days of posts, I wondered how to do it and then noticed that there is a handy dandy little place for that under “leave a reply”. OMG! They think of everything! (Just a note, my 12 year old daughter actually says “OMG” instead of the actual words.)

    I love the signing off discussion. I am sure that there is no one answer that applies to everyone. I have to say that my favorites from this blog are: May Your Dog Love You as Much as Mine Loves Me, May Your Cat Pee Only Where You Desire. I also like Peace Out.

    I think I just figured something out. I’ve been sitting here looking at FWIW and wondering what the heck that is….so is it “for what it’s worth”?

    Peace, love and joy,
    Pam

  19. says

    This is a great story, but I would like to suggest that what you did was EXACTLY what you should do with networking: build the relationship as it happens.

    Networking isn’t about trying to go and getting something. Working the goals with purpose. Instead, networking is about being available in the moment and trying to help another person in what they need.

    Being available in a lousy setting allows for serendipity. And then all things happen from that.

    Nice going, being available in the moment!

    Scot

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