The Still, Small Voice

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  • by Krissy Little

I love to make things.  I’m an engineer. I’ve built two small businesses. I’ve made five daughters ;)  At SEEK, I help brands make new products that improve the lives of the consumers they serve.  Last week, I was at a conference for makers, creatives, & entrepreneurs called Ocean. I want to share with you the one thing that stood out to me the most -- Josh Garrels makes music.  He spoke about what he called the “Loudness War.”  Today, songs are compressed by engineers to ensure that when someone flips the station on the radio, the song is “heard.”  No part of the song can be too soft or it will be invisible. Our world is so loud. So fast. So busy. All the noise in our lives is drowning out the quiet parts. Garrels said the loudness in his life had drowned out the muse, the Spirit, his inspiration.  Wisdom moves slow. Intuition is quiet. Writing music had become a grind because he’d lost touch with what he called the “still, small voice.” 

I don’t know about you, but the noise and pace of my life is making me anxious.  We recently took our family to Barcelona (yes, all seven of us – Kate (11), Ellie (9), Anna (7), Julia (4) and Rose (1).  When our flight was canceled, we jumped into problem solving mode.  My husband found another flight that was leaving in 30 minutes, I called the airline and got us rebooked, and we rushed onto the plane.  Just before the boarding door closed, I realized I was missing my baby’s passport. I ran off the plane, found it sitting at the gate desk, and sprinted back on the plane.  As we took off, I realized my heart was pounding so loudly it was almost audible and I had trouble breathing.  I realized that I can get things done, but it’s starting to impact me physically and emotionally.

So when Garrels said, “If this is what success looks and feels like, no thank you, I don’t want it,” I leaned forward in my seat.  I was actually seated next to my best friend Christine Wilson who then whispered, “You get to choose how you do your work.” I’m not sure if she was talking to me or to herself.  I decided at that moment, her voice WAS the still, small voice and I listened.

Shouting over others to be heard, rushing at a break-neck pace, bowing to the throne of busyness – if this is what it takes to create, I’m not interested.  I can’t do this.  I won’t do this.  Garrels described how he’s changed his approach. He gets in his car and drives alone on quiet roads.  Sometimes he drives for eight hours.  He drives until he hears the still, small voice. This approach has enabled him to accomplish better work in less time.

Hearing the still, small voice requires slowing down.  We can’t move at a frenetic pace and expect to connect with something still.  In our noisy world, we have to find a way to turn down the volume of everything else if we have any chance of listening to a voice that is small.  To me, that premise sounds so attractive.  Indulgent, even.  Slowing down, going somewhere quiet.  In our loud, fast world, that requires intention.  Garrels talk stood out because it was antithetical - he didn’t have a desperate desire to crank out work to prove his worth to the world.  He was refreshing because he was making something authentic and working from a place of vulnerability.

I get a lot of questions about my capacity - “how do you get everything done?”  It’s true, my life is full.  I’m a business strategist, mom of five, an entrepreneur with a lot of hobbies (I love swimming, snowboarding, reading fiction, traveling, curating beauty, drinking coffee, drinking beer, napping - don’t judge my hobbies ;)  My best answer is, my life has a unique cadence.  I know when to slow down and when to speed up (and what to skip entirely.)  I think that’s why Josh Garrels’ talk resonated with me.  I’ve felt frenetic lately because I’m not paying enough attention to my pace.  Quality suffers when I am moving too fast.  Slowing down to go to this conference reminded me of that.  I can sprint for a short time, but if I want to do this until I’m 80 (and I do!) I’ve got to pay attention to my pace.  If we want to make anything meaningful or worthwhile, I believe we have to have an experience with the still, small voice.