“If nobody throw all their rules at you, you might make a song with no introduction” – Bill Withers.Tweet
I’ve been ruminating on this quote today, in light of Bill’s sad passing at age 81.
Another significant light has gone out of our world – to rejoin the cosmos of higher intelligence. But even here on Earth, Bill knew what the fuck he was talking about. One of the most gifted soul songwriters of all time, Bill’s music is beautiful, often haunting, and as deep as the blues can be.
After meditating on this quote, here’s what I think Bill was on about – and it’s a significant and fundamental principle for personal evolution.
If Nobody Throws All Their Rules At You…
In order to become our best selves, we must have a wide variety of personal experiences, struggles, battles and victories; in the depths of which we decide meaning.
Every time we turn experience into choice, into decision, into meaning, we are creating our character, attitude and creating the conditions for how we are going to show up the next time something like this happens.
We need to have many, many different experiences and make deliberate decisions about what they mean to us, in order to build a strong personal belief system.
It is through struggle and deliberate meaning-making that we find our personal power.
If we have nothing to overcome – no struggle, no suffering, no rules, no influence from parents, role models and authority figures – we lose the opportunity to make choices. There’s simply not enough counter-points, differences of opinions and options to pick from. This is the reality for many who are only fed a very narrow corridor of values, “facts”, beliefs and opinion.
We need to hear (and practice) a variety of view points in order to truly make deep connections to what we believe is right for us.
The more rules we are given, the more opportunity we have to decide what those mean and how they fit our own model of reality. This helps us create richer, deeper, more unique perspectives.
We’ll keep some rules because they resonate. Others we’ll discard. This is important. We are meaning-making machines, and deciding what meaning we assign to events and experiences is critical to becoming Who we are meant to become.
Simply ingesting other people’s rules (including cultural dogma, religious belief, “the way we’ve always done it” etc) without self-editing against our own beliefs and guidance system leads to dissatisfaction, apathy and the obliteration of personal power.
We can live by the rules of others, or we can decide to curate our own rules – picking and choosing from the richness of human experience.
How? Read more. Do more. Push deeper into discomfort and find yourself there. Listen deeply. Fact check. Ask questions. Apply and test over blind acceptance.
Don’t be a sheep – following the flock off the edge of a cliff. Because “that’s just what sheep do.”
Become capable of listening to opinions, checking them against your own model and deciding whether or not they serve you and your higher purpose. By vetting first, testing and then selecting, integration into your view of the world becomes more valuable, and levels-up your comprehension and understanding.
This speaks to Vision and Values.
Know where you are going – this is your guidance system. Without a strong Vision, backed by a personally powerful Value system, you’re likely to fall for anything, as you don’t stand for something.
A Song With No Introduction…
Is a life story exempt of personal expression.
Your song, your personal power, lies in your ability to say, “I chose this.” “I fucked up.” “I made this mistake.” “I felt this pain.” “Yet, I overcame.” “I stacked these wins.” “I became stronger, better, more bad-ass because of…” “And, here’s what I learned.”
This is your song – with a fucking epic introduction.
A song with no introduction is boring. It means nothing to no-one. Just as a life lived against everyone else’s vision for your life is a wasted experience.
Write your song. Choose your experience. Make your own goddamn rules.
Then, when you introduce yourself you better believe mfers be paying attention.