Sunday, September 28, 2008

Practice, practice, practice...(are we there yet?)

Excerpt from today's "Our Daily Bread", with emphasis added.

Leonardo da Vinci spent 10 years drawing ears, elbows, hands, and other parts of the body in many different aspects. Then one day he set aside the exercises and painted what he saw. Likewise, athletes and musicians never become great without regular practice.

Practice and training is VERY, VERY different from the actual performance, or actual thing. One thing we must realise is that for a very good or even exceptional performance to be materialised, there has to be thorough and intense preparation and training involved.

Likewise, to become excellent at something, one needs to devote and be willing to sacrifice long hours in training. There are no shortcuts - an initial burst of enthusiasm to pursue something is, bluntly put, not good enough. What's necessary and crucial is actually steadfast and faithful practice - despite emotion, circumstances or others.

There are many times when I see some musician perform or do a cover on Youtube and I'm so amazed and inspired by it, I grab my guitar and search for the tabs and try it. Then reality hits - it is not as easy as it appears to be.

Yes, practice, practice,'s the long-term consistency that counts.

Friday, September 26, 2008


Mark 12:30 - Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

I was pondering on this verse while showering and God pointed out the word, "all" to me. Seems to strike out in this verse.

I asked Him, "What if it's an acronym?"

He says, "ALL - Absolutely Limit-Less"

Wow..."No wonder You are God."

Monday, September 22, 2008

Live life like there's no tomorrow

Do things as if you won't be able to do them again tomorrow. Not to invoke a sense of doom-and-gloom, but to really bring of the essence of the importance of seizing opportunities in life.

Yesterday I watched "The Bucket List" starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. In short it's about these 2 men who have been diagnosed with cancer and eventually they found out how much time they have left to live.

Freeman comes up with some items in his "Bucket List' - things to do before one dies. Nicholson happens to see it, adds some items into it of his own, then off they go to accomplish them.

A couple of takeaways from this show. That at the end of the day - end can mean the conclusion of life, a season, an opportunity, a period, etc - things/issues like what others think of you or what you think of yourself doesn't matter at all. Afterall, these 2 men are "dead" anyway.

Receiving Christ into my life and dying to myself has once again reminded me that my life is there for me to live it, God is there to help me on, despite what happens or what others do along the way.

That movie really enlarged my perspective of life once again. Bringing death, or even the light of eternity into the picture, being frustrated or uptight with trivial and insignificant things seem to be totally a waste after all.

The soundtrack of this movie is entitled, "Say" by John Mayer. (Roy introduced the song to me, which in turn led me to the movie)...

Take all of your wasted honor
Every little past frustration
Take all your so called problems
Better put 'em in quotations

Say what you need to say (x7)
Say what you need to saaaay...

Walking like a one man army
Fighting with the shadows in your head
Living out the same old moment
Knowing you'd be better off instead

If you could only
Say what you need to say (x7)
Say what you need to saaay...

Have no fear for giving in
Have no fear for giving over
You better know that in the end
It's better to say too much
Than never to say what you need to say again

Even if your hands are shaking
And your faith is broken
Even as the eyes are closing
Do it with a heart wide open... wide...

At the end of the day, what's most important? Fear, pride? Your opinion/approval and theirs? God's plans and purposes intended for you?


I'm really encouraged by my Dad's friend's (who's into guitars and who also helped me get some of mine) heart in his playing.

While we were in a guitar shop and trying out electrics, he took one of the guitars, played his blues and sung along to it.

To me, he had his heart in it. Even if you can definitely find another person who can play or sing better than him - it doesn't matter - he held NOTHING back. He gave his ALL.

Colossians 3:23 - Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Work like you don't need the money.
Love like you've never been hurt.
Dance like no-one's watching.
Sing like no-one's listening.
Live like there's no tomorrow.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Dying Cat And A Nylon String Guitar

"Music isn't just learning notes and playing them, you learn notes to play to the music of your soul" - Katie Greenwood.

Why are you learning music anyway? Is it to pick up chicks? Is it to fulfill a void in your mundane life? Is it an indescribable calling?

I always wanted to learn the drums. I don't know why, maybe it's the aggressive nature of the things. You sit there and bash the crap out of them.

As fate would have it I shared a house with Dave, a guitar player, so I decided to learn the guitar as I had my very own teacher living in the next room. Or so I thought.

I went out and bought a nylon string classical guitar for $70. I didn't have a clue what I was doing but that never stopped me before.

So I went back home with my new guitar in its cardboard box. And with anything new, you want to play with it straight away, as soon as you get it home.

I also bought one of those guitar case chord dictionaries. You know the ones, they have a thousand chords in them and they are designed to confuse rather than actually help you.

So I waited for Dave to get home from work and as soon as he was in the door I was at him. "I bought this new guitar and I was wondering if you could show me how to play it" I said.

He just laughed at me but eventually agreed to show me which chords to learn first. He told me to learn the open chords A, D, E, G, and C. So I did. I spent every spare moment learning these chords.

Dave wouldn't show me any songs to play so I was forced to make up my own songs. This forced me to really explore every one of these chords as I thought at the time that I had to include them all in every song I wrote.

The songs I wrote were pretty strange to say the least. We were into punk music at that time so just imagine what a dying cat like vocals set to a nylon string out of tune guitar played as fast as a speeding train sounds like and you get the picture.

It sounded good to me at the time and I was very proud of my new found ability. It took about three months to get the hang of changing between the chords, and being able to write a song. (if you could call it that).

I didn't know it at the time but I had the one thing that was needed that would ensure I would become a good guitar player. That one thing was sheer bloody determination. And the more people told me how bad I sounded the more determined I became to improve.

So it doesn't matter how good or bad you are at the moment just play the music of your soul - even if it sounds like a cat being tortured. You will improve as long as you keep trying.

Here's a mental exercise for you. Fast forward your mind to 4 years from now. How good a guitar player will you be? The time will pass regardless of what you do. Are you going to keep at it? or are you going to give up? It's up to you. You will be four years older, but will you be four years wiser?

See ya next time

John Stockwell

Later this evening, after work, I'm going to head towards my childhood friend's place to jam.

I suddenly feel like David (me) going up to Goliath (him) not to fight but to spar and train up my skills.

His fingers run across the fretboard faster than my feet run on solid ground.

I'm feeling a little uncertain about this, but in order to improve my skills, I'll have to seek those who are more proficient and let them kick me beyond my current abilities.

The last time we jammed (and talked) was like the past Chinese New Year. It's been quite a while. I still remember not knowing a single thing about scales and soloing when we were at another friend's place with our guitars.

Hope that with all the training and practicing I've done so far, we'll be able to at least get going with some things.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

when I am weak, then I am strong

2 Cor 12:10 - That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

I've come to a realisation that it doesn't matter how many times you fall in life, but what matters is whether you decided to pick yourself up and move on, or to just remain and sulk in that fallen position.

There are times of 'mountain-tops' - spiritual highs, immense conviction, the I'm-ready-to-do-all-things-for-God kind of drive, etc. Yet, there are also moments of cowardice, lack of confidence, dampened self-esteem, discouragement, disapointment, etc.

But genuine failure is when we choose to remain fallen, choose to NOT improve, choose to NOT move on, regardless of the number of times we experience setback or obstacles.

There are also times when we've experienced breakthrough, ventured on new ground beyond past comfort zones. Now we're in a new land and establishing our foothold. Looking further, the blizzards are harsher, the trails are more perilous and the slope gradients less forgiving. And sometimes, I think to myself, "Can I stay here just a little longer?"

Because it's warm? It's familiar? It's relatively getting more comfortable?

Worse still if the returning scouts bring back unfavourable and discouraging reports. "We've just glanced at the fangs of those mountain wolves." "I guess we should step back a little".

Then we retreat? Go back downhill? Get anxious of our circumstances?

But wait...hold on...take a moment to examine why in the first place we're here.

It doesn't matter if we slip and trip here and there, but as long as we set our hearts on our purposes and goals we planned out and press on in getting there, we WILL make it. And it's not really what we get along the way that matters, it's what we become that's crucial.


In my pursue of musical passion, I've discovered that it be more worthy of a man with little musical competence but with unstoppable drive to improve (for himself and others), than one with god-like skills and a complacent mindset.

Inevitable are moments when I just ask myself what in the world am I getting myself into, when I could actually spend the time doing other stuff?

These are times when I need to review what I'm living for, here's my list of priorities:

1. Wholehearted, personal devotion to God (not involving ministry)
2. Family
3. Studies/Career; cell group; music
4. Misc ministry-related stuff; friends


Last note.

I'm really encouraged, revived and refreshed whenever I read about the encounter and purposes God had for Gideon.

Judges 6:12 - When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, "The LORD is with you, mighty warrior."

By human standards and by his background, Gideon is a nobody. His clan is the weakest in his tribe and he's the least in his household.

But God sees it differently. God chooses to address him not for what he is now, but for what He intends for him to become.

God chooses to address me NOT for what I am now, but for what He intends for me to BECOME.


Sunday, September 14, 2008

What 'Other People' think

Here's an e-newsletter which I found interesting and encouraging. Just bear with some of the language used.

What 'Other People' Think.

"Use the talents you possess, for the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except the best" - Henry Van Dyke.

Good one, Henry. Are you afraid of sounding bad? Scared that someone might criticize your lack of talent? Worried what 'other people' will say about you?

If so, you are a loser, pure and simple, give yourself a slap around the head and, as my mother would say to me when I did something stupid, 'wake up to yourself!'

Who are these 'other people' anyway? And why is it that people live their lives caring about what 'other people' think. Can you imagine being a bird sitting up a tree and not singing because you thought the sparrow in the next tree would laugh, or tell the 'other birds' how bad a chirper you were.

It doesn't matter how good or bad you are as long as your are 'having a go'. You can only improve with time. Time is going to pass anyway, no matter how you choose to use it. You can sit there and do nothing or you can improve your talents. Who cares if you sound bad at the moment. Every guitar player at one time or another sounded like shit. In a years time you will be one year older, that's for sure. But will you be a better musician?

And as for those 'other people', tell them to go to hell.

See ya next time

John Stockwell

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

before I die I want to...

Before I die I want to...

I was really amazed and intrigued by this photo archive site containing polaroid snapshots of people with their "Before I die I want to..." lines.

Make me think about what will I say when that question is posted before me (and that I'm given a handful of seconds to answer):

For now it will be this: Before I die I want to be an exceptional musician who positively influences the lives I come across.

After you have come up with that statement, take a step back and discern it carefully - does it really outline the purpose and dreams for your life? And if you really do get there or somewhere near there, are you deeply satisfied?

Sometimes I wonder why wait till the notion of death/end of the line before thinking about such things, when you can do/work on them now? Perhaps it's the sense of urgency invoked. Therefore, it will be tremendously helpful if one can find passion, drive and motivation to work intentionally and diligently towards those dreams and ambition, without having to wait till the dire hour.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

the few best things vs the many other good things

Finished reading 70% of John C. Maxwell's "Your Road Map for Success" and I am very convicted and passionate about developing my potential to see my dreams and ambition fulfilled and to help others along the way.

Other than being an obedient and loving child and servant of God, if you ask me what I really, really, really want to do, it just boils down to 2 things: (and these are subject to God's will)

1. being an exceptional Blues guitarist
2. being an RSAF Apache pilot

I have to hang on for the 2nd one because the recruitment officer advised me (during my previous interview) to finish up my undergraduate studies before applying and committing to them. So when I finish up my last paper, I'm gonna apply again...and as usual, it is for real.

Honestly, I'm so passionate about no. 1 that I'm willing to forsake and forgo TV time, movies, gaming time, shopping and chocolates (to save up for an electric guitar). All these things being let go gives me the much needed time and resources to focus on what I'm passionate about.

In life, you can either be a "Jack of all trades, master of none" or you can be a "Jack of few trades, master of one". With determination and tenacity, we can do virtually anything, but we cannot do everything.

I think in so many aspects of our lives (work, school, ministry, relationships), we ought to define and discover that which matters most and focus on them, without being ignorant of the peripherals. If we don't, we may find ourselves easily bogged down with the countless good things (ie. things which we can do, but doesn't really achieve our purpose) and be frequently stressed out and sometimes frustrated.

If we don't define and strive towards where we want to go or see ourselves at, we will drift and be swept around by the things around us.

Being focused on music has indeed opened up more avenues of interaction amongst peers and friends (fellow musicians), but sometimes it seems to leave others out of conversations (ie. they think we're speaking Greek).

Enough of mediocrity...


Last night I happened to scroll back to some of my older posts of 2006 and am reminded that I've officially started learning that 6-string instrument about 2 years ago. From the posts, I've discovered that I have progressed and improved in skill because I firmly decided and made it a point to work on things beyond my skill (step out of my comfort zone) - which eventually led to today's playing standard.

(I'm going into the technical details here...pardon me...)

Last time I had to work of chords like C, F, B7. Now, I'm working on:

- the pentatonic minor scale, and breaking out of the box pattern
- left hand muting (using fingers)
- left hand partial barring (ie. not all 6 strings; using the 'paw' of my finger)
- alternate/economy picking techniques
- sourcing for a Fender American standard stratocaster and building up funds to get it

===== birthday is around de don't really need no actually need funds in order to get de electric geetar...hahaaa...