How I fell into swimming
I learned to swim on my 8th birthday after falling into the pool while playing tag.
Back in 1997, my family lived in the Marine Parade area in Singapore. Our condo had a beautiful, large 10 ft deep pool, which at the time, seemed to be as large as the ocean. With a nice open area right next to the pool, and a BBQ ready to grill all the meats I could possibly dream of, it seemed like the perfect spot for my birthday party. As my friends and I played tag, we got lost in the moment and became increasingly concentrated on the most important thing – not getting caught.
As I ran along the side of the pool (which I now know not to do), I slipped and immediately fell into the deep end. Gasping for air as I began to drown, I quickly found myself guzzling water as if someone had shoved a fire hose in my mouth. Not knowing which direction “up” was, I decided to simply flail my arms in desperation, hoping that would work.
After what felt like an eternity, I popped back up over the surface, now sputtering out water and deeply inhaling as much air as I could get. Still moving my arms, doggy-paddling, I found that I could move in the water!
That was the beginning of how I taught myself to swim and how I got over my fear of water – all purely by accident. Now, of course, I’m more intentional, but I still approach learning new things in the same way.
Furthermore, although drowning was definitely a possibility, there were so many people surrounding me who could have jumped in and saved me.
Why they didn't absolutely confounds me, but it worked out in the end.
Fast forward to 2016.
I invested in myself earlier this year by taking up piano lessons with the primary goal of leading worship music at my church. These hour-long lessons would occur 4x/month at $50/lesson, running me $200/month. Because I was paying for it myself, I took it seriously enough to practice an additional 4 hours/week, bringing my weekly piano practice to 5 hours. My learning began in April and continued until the end of October, for a total period of 30 weeks (7 months).
Total time spent learning piano this year: 5 hours/week * 30 weeks = 150 hours
Total investment - $50/week * 30 weeks = $1500
Throughout this time, I focused/improved on these 3 main things:
At the end of October, I felt like I had learned a ton in some areas, yet practically nothing in others. With no clear date in mind for me to try leading worship, I paused my lessons. Rationalizing, I figured that this break would give me time to prepare for my MBA and spend more time with family.
The Challenge: Stumbling into another pool
Two weeks ago, our Deacon of Music came up to me and asked me if I could lead worship because we were short-staffed. Without hesitation (not completely thinking it through), I replied, “Sure thing! When would I be doing this?”
With a look of relief, he answered “Next week.”
I nodded slowly, contemplating the fact that I had just committed to doing something that I was not mentally prepared for.
“Okay… great, yeah, I got this!”
The timeline for leading music had shrunk from “sometime in the future” to “T minus 7 days.”
The challenge suddenly became very real.
My insecurities about not being a very good piano player flared up. My lack of confidence about my singing capabilities, which were sitting in the depths of my mind, now popped back up to resurface. So, like Rocky, I prepped. Despite the nerves that ebbed and flowed throughout the week, the abrupt deadline led me to not only vigorously practice, but also to clearly organize the structure of the first 30 minutes of service.
Then, something weird happened.
On Saturday night, in the midst of a heavy prayer session asking for guidance, I felt a sense of calm come over me. It’s like God was telling me “You’re probably, definitely going to mess up. But that’s okay.”
After all, at this point, I had scrutinized over every detail and had practiced as much as I possibly could. That little voice in my head reminded me:
Simply follow through on what you've practiced.
The next morning, I showed up acutely aware of what I was good at and what I wasn’t. Throughout our group practice an hour before our service began, I noted each major mistake I made and made a mental note of what I could do better. When the time came to start, I simply did my best and left the rest to God. After all, this was all for Him anyways.
In the end, things worked out! Although my playing and leading wasn’t perfect, it was progress.
Focus on progress, not perfection.
Personal Takeaway: Improve Transitions
With a focus on progress, here's what my first session as a worship leader taught me:
The biggest area that I can improve is in my transitions.
Notably, I’ve identified 3 types of transitions I can make improvements in.
Throw yourself in.
It really reminded me a lot of what I went through in learning how to swim.
I didn't know what I was doing, but I was eager to figure out how to improve. Each mistake gave me a benchmark that I could then recalibrate from. My flailing progressed into doggy-paddling, and my doggy-paddling then progressed into freestyle swimming. All of this growth started with a mistake that nearly cost me my life, yet gave me a new arena of life to play and explore in. What an amazing sentiment that our mistakes propel us forward. It certainly helped me think of playing music in an entirely new different way. Each session now is simply an opportunity to grow.
After all, showing up is just the beginning.
A blog on my continuing journey through life, covering self-development and success strategies, but also personal reflection.