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Turn Off The Auto-Pilot, Be Intentional
by Jason Wisdom
I played the bass guitar in a band called Becoming the Archetype for nearly a decade. I performed dozens of songs in concert, on three different continents. I recorded the bass lines on almost every song that appears on our studio albums. You probably knew that. But here is something that you probably didn't know: During all of that time, I never really learned how to play the bass guitar. How is that possible? It is actually really simple. When we wrote songs, we always wrote the guitar parts first. I was busy writing lyrics and vocal parts, so when it came time to add the bass, I would just ask one of the guitar players to show me what to play. I didn't spend any time thinking about notes, intervals, chords, or anything other than the rhythm and which frets to press. Then, one day, I got asked to play with the worship band at church. The structure of each song was infinitely simpler than what I was used to playing. If I could handle technical, progressive metal, then surely I could handle playing G, C, D on a worship song. It should have been a piece of cake. Right? Not if you have no idea where G, C, and D are. I had been playing bass professionally for years, and I had to learn everything from the ground up. Well, not entirely...
You see, the even crazier part is, I took music theory classes in both high school and college. I already knew major and minor scales, modes, intervals, key signatures, all of that stuff. I even took piano classes, guitar classes, and courses in music composition. But when I was in high school and college, I wasn't a bass player. I was signing in the choir. That's not so different. Right? The information should transfer easily to playing an instrument. Well, not in my case. Why? Because it literally never even crossed my mind to apply the things I already knew in my head to the instrument I was holding in my hand. I could have, but I didn't. I never even considered it.
So, why am I telling you all of this? Is it because I just want to embarrass myself? Mission accomplished, but no. I want you to learn from my mistake. "But I don't play an instrument," you might say. That isn't the real point I am trying to make. The point is that I was woefully unintentional about what I was doing (concerning bass guitar) for nearly a decade. I had a huge opportunity in my hands, but I was just cruising on auto-pilot. A lot of people are making the same mistake as Christians. They have gone to church their entire lives. They have a dozen different kinds of Bibles (sorry, I'm old, I mean they have a Bible app). They learned Bible stories in Sunday school, and they know a few big theological words. But then one day they get hit by a difficult question, person, issue, circumstance, or all of the above, and they suddenly feel like they don't know anything. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that they don't have a legitimate relationship with God. I legitimately played bass guitar professionally for many years. But like me, they were cruising on auto-pilot rather than being intentional. Like me, it never even crossed their mind to connect the dots, and they never made it out of the shallow end of the pool.
If you feel like I am describing you, or someone you love, I don't want to leave you feeling hopeless. While it is an awful shame that I basically wasted a decade where I could have been becoming a better bass player, I picked up a lot of things a long the way without even realizing it--things that are even more valuable now that I have finally started putting the pieces together. What is more, I already had a lot of knowledge, but had just never set it to work for me. I just needed to turn the auto-pilot off and start being intentional. When I did/do that, it is often like turning a light on in the attic and finding things that I had all but forgotten I had. And, for the record, that was not just a one time decision. The truth is, I find myself regularly lapsing back into cruise control in any number of areas of my life. It is a daily challenge. That's right, I even have to be intentional about being intentional.