I Hate Jazz

Click to hear, WBOK, by Kevin Shinn ©2015


A film that deeply moved me recently is La La Land.  It hit me at a critical time in my life when I was filled with overwhelming self-doubt, much like the characters Mia and Sebastian felt when they faced difficulty in pursuing their dream of being an actress and owning a jazz club, respectively.

One day while on a walk, Mia comes out and bluntly tells Sebastian that she hates jazz, the music form that he is ready to commit all his effort to preserving by opening his own jazz club.  Incredulous, he takes her to hear a band and invites her into his understanding of the beauty of improv and away from her impression that jazz is just background noise meant to talk over.

I believe this is the most vulnerable part of being an entrepreneur.  To invite another person, let alone the entire world, into your idea and so they can experience it from your point of view is risky.  What if they don’t like it? Or worse, what if it’s just ignored?  What do you do with that kind of rejection?

But ideas can never come to fruition without that kind of risk.  You see something.  Others don’t. Do you believe the idea deeply enough to seek to change their mind?

If no, maybe the idea wasn’t very good.

If yes, expect it to be challenged.

Either way, you’re going to have to contend with opposition. Craft your story to address it. You will be telling it many times over.

Click to watch I hate jazz.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses…


Click to hear MidiEastern by Kevin Shinn, ©2005

I have a friend getting out of prison this week.  It’s been an enlightening journey over the last couple of years visiting him and learning about life behind bars.  He was transferred to an Omaha facility last year, and it became a half day affair to go see him, but the effort was always worth it, because I felt like I received something back every time I saw him.

As a former chef, he and I have lots of common ground, but the one topic of discussion that helped me most during those visits was the subject of failure.  We both have our own stories that we hold and regret, but we also both see redemption from an entirely different perspective that we ever did before.  The view that has changed is the universal need for forgiveness.

The need for forgiveness stems from the fact that a wrong was committed. Those offended have a right to feel the way they do. regardless if the result was unintentional, misguided or accidental.  In my friend’s case, he broke the law while in a state of deep depression and mental instability.  His is a tragic story, but it still doesn’t change the fact that he had to own up to the charges against him and serve his time.  He has done so, but his road to recovery continues, even after he walks out of those doors as a free man.

We talked long about the need for forgiveness and his advice to me was life-changing.  He told me that before he could ask or even hope that others will forgive him, he must be willing to forgive himself, because his thoughts and mind are the only thing he can control.  He can’t change anyone else’s mind or feelings.  He can only wait, hope and pray that forgiveness will be granted. Once he finds the peace of self-forgiveness, then he can begin the process of changing his life and repay others with goodness and kindness.

These were the conversations I was willing visit prison in order to have.

Who among us has been offended? And who among us have made offense?  Of the few requests that are listed, it is important to note that The Lord’s Prayer includes a request to address both.  We are encouraged to both seek and offer forgiveness.  The lessons are simple.  The execution is a challenging choice.  But imagine the results if carried out.

We can’t right now. We’re watching women’s biathlon

Click to hear Ulcer at Work by Kevin Shinn ©2005

Over the last two weeks, how many of us became riveted to watching sports activities with which we were not familiar or possibly never even heard of?  Who knew women’s biathlon would become so interesting that it would keep Karen and me awake an extra hour because we wanted to see who won. And how did curling become so intriguing that three guys in the tap room ordered an extra beer and moved to a table with a better view of the television so they could keep watching a sport they will never encounter for another four years?

I think some of the interest stems from how well these sports are covered and produced for viewing.  High definitions cameras capture the intensity of the face of competition.  In-depth telling of the stories of the athletes draw us in to the effort it takes to compete at such a high level.

But of personal interest, I love learning what drives a person to succeed, especially in an activity that I could never imagine myself participating in. What does it take to strap on a pair of skis, shoulder a rifle, and set out across snow country every day, day after day, with the hope of someday being the very best among the rest of the world? I watch for that story.

I set out years ago to achieve a dream, but that dream finally came to an end last year.  And now I have to ask are the best days behind me?  Did I have my chance or is the slate clean again, ready for a new picture to be sketched into reality.

If you’ve had to start over, I’d enjoy knowing how you did it and how you found the motivation.


Click to hear, The Pipa by Kevin Shinn, ©2005


We visited the Outer Banks of North Carolina this past summer. The waters off that island were dubbed the “graveyard of the Atlantic. In 400 years, over 5000 shipwrecks were recorded. Sailors feared that passageway, but they didn’t’ stop going through because it was a critical route for commerce and trade. They were willing to take their chances for the hope of getting to their destination.

This condition caused the construction of lighthouses to be of vital importance. Before GPS and other advanced navigational tools, the captain had to rely on physical sight and instinct. The lighthouse served the captain by providing the necessary light for the safe passage to his destination.

Good leaders are lighthouses. They light the path. They help people get where they want to go. They are necessary because sometimes the captain can’t see very well.

Finding an Antidote for Boredom

Boredom is a fascinating human condition.  I wonder how much money is spent trying to address or assuage boredom versus trying to cure cancer or address any other disease?

What causes boredom?

Is boredom really a problem?

Should it be labeled a disease?

Does my dog get bored at home while I’m at work all day?

What does Hank know that I don’t?

I mashed up two old Prelinger Archive films. One on boredom, the other on television.  I like the juxtaposition it created.

“With mounting tension comes boredom.

A symptom of that conflict between the life that Hugh leads and his basic emotional needs.

In effect, boredom says, “I want to do something but I don’t even dare admit it….”

“….Unless you live in some parts on the country you can enjoy the newest marvel in modern scientific discovery, television, you can just lean back in a comfortable chair in the theater or in your own favorite chair at home, relax and watch the video

Compare that crude picture with these of today and you can judge for yourself how far along the road to perfection television has traveled.

Its bringing entertainment to thousands of people.  Through its magic, we are able to enjoy a combination of the radio, motion pictures and the stage, right in the comfort of our own home, as simple as pushing a button or turning a dial.”



It’s Time For Blessing

Click to hear, Abundance by Kevin Shinn, ©2005


I’m currently binging on the NPR podcast, How I Built This. The premise is the same for each episode. Enter an entrepreneur that started a well-known company from a meager beginning in his or her dorm room or garage and hear first hand how it was built up to what it is today. Some efforts, like Gary Hirshberg at Stonyfield Farm, who began with one cow 30 yrs ago, took years of blood, sweat and tears to become established. Others, like Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger at Instagram, rose to a billion dollar valuation in two years.

Stories like these can provide a source of inspiration to anyone who longs for an opportunity to make a difference with an idea. But it’s also possible for cynicism and envy to seep in and steal away the original desire to make the world a better place.

This kind of mindset injures only the one envious, and ultimately might prevent that next great idea from emerging and becoming reality.

I’m adopting a new practice if I begin to feel the pinch of jealousy about what someone else has accomplished. I turn it on its head and use it as chance to make a difference in my own mind. I think positively about it. I assign an affirmative response instead of a negative one. I offer support and gratitude.

This little exercise works in other areas. When someone flips me off because I’m driving too slow, I offer a little prayer for a person that’s easily upset and is in need of patience and peacefulness. I’m learning the futility of an eye-for-an-eye response for everything. Offer kindness for anger. Exchange a negative thought for a positive one. Give hope where there isn’t any. Put away cursing,

It’s time for blessing.

Uncharted Waters

I wrote this song in theory in 1994 for a student conference titled Uncharted Waters.  The theme centered around the idea that our beliefs require a step of faith toward a desired future or outcome without always knowing how we will get to that end.  I used the metaphor of ocean sailing as the language to reflect this element of the journey.

Early cartographers would use the Latin words, Terra Incognita to describe unknown land that had not been explored or about which they knew very little.  They knew something was out there.  They just didn’t know what.

Ironic that the words I wrote 24 years ago would come back around in my mid-life to encourage me in searching the terra incognita in which I now find myself.



Set to sail

Its time to board

On a lifelong journey

We cant afford

The trip is set

The plans are made

We need not worry

The cost is paid

He will lead us through uncharted waters

He will lead us deep into the sea

Knowing all the time

The treasures we will find

Are only waiting for us if we go

The Habit of Relaxing


We closed the doors at bread&cup for good last Sunday.  It was 10 good years of serving our community. But seasons change and its time for something new.  I’m not exactly sure what that next thing is, but what I’m learning is that all good and productive work and activity needs to emanate from a place of rest.  Interesting that the Jewish Sabbath began at sundown. It started with a good night’s sleep and continued through to a time of awakening that next day.  I recorded a song years ago to help me remember that rest needs to be a habit. Habits are just repeated responses.  They are usually associated with negative behavior, but why not make some positive habits too?


p.s.  I found the audio clip from the Prelinger Archive, a fantastic public domain site full of old film and audio.

What is Failure?

It’s loss.
It’s an ending.
A bust.
A defeat.
A demise.
A shortcoming.
A lesson.
A message.
An opportunity.

It doesn’t matter what word I use to describe it. It only matters how I define it.

If I don’t define it…

…it will define me.

The F-word: a progression through failure

Nobody likes to talk about it.  It’s as comfortable as discussing religion and politics with family at the dinner table. but I feel the need to write about the F-word.


It’s not something we seek, nor is it something we can avoid.

No one attempts an endeavor hoping to be unsuccessful.  No one enters a competition yearning to get beat.  No one gets married dreaming of a future divorce.

So, what do I do with the F-word when it describes my circumstances?  I’d like to relate some of my thoughts.  Maybe they will help you frame the experience in which you find yourself. Maybe they will help you know what to do with your F-word.

I recognize these four stages when addressing failure.

  • Failure equals loss
  • Loss requires grief
  • Grief produces pain
  • Pain demands healing

Failure equals loss

In 2009, my father-in-law died of congestive heart failure. There is a full description on WebMD with medical terms describing this condition, but its simple explanation is this: his heart stopped working the way it was intended.

His heart failed. And as a result, we lost him.

To me, this is the first step in working through failure. I must acknowledge the loss that has occurred.  Plans got changed. The future will not look the same as it was hoped.

I’ve been given well-intended advice to not call it failure, but to me, to not use the F-word is to not fully embrace the process that lies ahead if I plan to reach my destination of recovery and wholeness.  If I ever plan to succeed again, I must work through it step by step.  Progress comes through process.

Loss requires grief

There is no loss without grief. And the degree of grief is directly proportional to how much that loss mattered.  Losing a child is going to feel different than losing a pet.  Both will hurt, but I can get another dog.  I can’t get a child back.

There is no going around it. I can only go through it if I am to get to a better place.  The failure that produced the loss is going to hurt.

Grief produces pain

So yes, it’s going to hurt and hurt bad.  No need to be surprised.

There is no way to soften the blow.

Pain demands healing

Pain is a watchdog that barks when there is a problem. It’s an indication that something is wrong.   In this way, pain can be helpful if it points me to the right solution for healing it. Whatever the cause, whether its physical, emotional or psychological, pain is demanding attention.  The sooner I pay attention to it, the quicker I can know how to deal with it.  When I was diagnosed with a goiter on my thyroid and the doctor’s advice was to leave it alone since it was benign and if anything changed, he would take a look at it again.  Seven years later, it had grown to the size of my fist and began to affect my breathing, which meant no more ignoring it.  Surgery was required. It was a hassle, but I breathe better now.


Failure is painful.  And like any painful experience, I need to seek healing from it.  But if my solution is only designed to deal with symptoms of the pain and not its source, I’ve settled for relief.  Read the label of most cold medicine and you will see it described as “relief from the painful symptoms of cold and flu.” Relief is not the same as healing.

This is the point where it gets tricky.  The pain might be so bad that the thought of making a full recovery seems impossible.  That’s what pain can do.  It can alter reality.  I can’t convince anyone who has lost hope.  I can only put my story out there, shed a little light on the path that I’ve trod, and hope someone else can find their way in the same direction.

Thanks for reading.