Parable # 34: Focus on What You Can Change

    A Parable by Donald Lee

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    (This week is the 37th installment of the book, “The Band Director’s Lessons About Life”, which TCRN is publishing as a series during 2020. This week, band director and spiritual author Donald Lee relates a parable about staying “at the moment” and doing the task of the moment. For a complete listing of previous episodes in this series, click here.)

    The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus.BRUCE LEE(Actor, director, martial artist)

    “Where’s Logan? He was here a few minutes ago.”

    Nobody knew. Logan had walked into the grade-nine band class, then mysteriously disappeared. By the time everyone else was ready to play, Logan was gone. Arghhhh! The day before our concert at the seniors’ home and my worst player was AWOL. Everyone needed this rehearsal, but Logan most of all.

    The next morning, I had just settled into my desk when Logan appeared in my office.

    “What happened yesterday?” I asked gently. “You were here in class, then you disappeared.” I could be calm and gentle now. Logan was a gentle soul himself, so I didn’t want to be aggressive with him.

    “I needed to walk around,” he replied.

    “Walk around? So you just walked around the hallways for the whole block?”

    “Yeah.” Logan looked at the floor dejectedly.

    “Here, pull up a chair and sit down. What was upsetting you, Logan?”

    “Stuff at home.”

    “What happened at home?” I pressed.

    “Well . . .” He hesitated. I sensed Logan wasn’t sure whether or not he should trust me with his heart.

    “Yesterday morning I was eating my breakfast, and my stepdad was rolling a cigarette. He said I was making a mess with my food, so I said he was making a mess with his tobacco. Then he started yelling and swearing at me. It bothered me all day, and I just needed to walk around for a while. I didn’t know if I was going to go home after school or not.” Logan let out a deep sigh. It’s good to get things off your chest.

    “I see,” I said. “You thought your stepdad was being unfair, even hypocritical.”

    “Yeah.” Logan leaned back in his chair.

    “Relationships are tough, the toughest part of life,” I said. “I guess it’s one of the paradoxes of life: relationships are the most rewarding and fulfilling part of life but also the toughest, the part we struggle with the most, agonize over, despair over.” I thought for a moment.

    “So, did you go home last night?” I asked.

    “Yeah, I did.”

    “And were things okay there?”

    “Yeah. I mostly just stayed in my room,” Logan admitted.

    “I don’t know how you can improve your relationship with your stepdad. There are always things we can do to improve our relationships, but you’re going to have to work that out on your own.

    “The ability to focus our attention on one thing at a time is key to success in life.”

    “But even when we’re having family problems, we still have to live up to our other responsibilities. Sometimes, as hard as it is, we must try to put the various parts of our lives into compartments and deal with one compartment at a time. We can’t deal with everything at once. We have to try to set our relationship problems aside for a while and focus on our work. Otherwise every problem will incapacitate us. We become unable to do anything.

    “The ability to focus our attention on one thing at a time, one problem at a time, is key to success in life. When you’re here at school, you can’t mend the relationship with your stepdad. You have to do that at home. On the other hand, when you get home after school, you can’t rehearse with the band. You have to do that at school. There is a time and a place for each problem, and we have to focus on each one at the right time and place. I know it’s hard, but that’s what we have to do.”

    Unfortunately, I lost track of Logan over the years. I have no idea whether or not our little conversation was any help to him.


    The inability to focus like a laser beam, on just one thing at a time, keeps most of us from becoming the person we want to be. We are distracted by so many things: other problems of our own but also problems that aren’t even ours—social media, the favorite TV program, the hockey/video/football/basketball or whateverball game. We can’t change any of this, and none of it can change us. The only way to solve our problems is to set everything else aside and focus on solving only that which we can. One thing at a time. Usually that’s just ourselves.

    Have you ever watched a symphony orchestra perform and seen a distracted musician? I haven’t. When they’re playing, they are incredibly focused. A bomb could go off and the orchestra would keep playing—assuming it was just a malevolent tympanist.

    For a truly great performance, we need laser-like focus on the one problem that we can do something about in the ever-present now.

    Focus, laser-like, on the one thing you can change right now.

    Donald Lee is a spiritual author and speaker. This article is part of a weekly series for 2020 in which TCRN is publishing his inspirational book, The Band Director’s Lessons About Life: Volume 1 – 50 Parables on Life’s Performance Cycle, in serial form – one parable per week. You can learn more about the author at his website:, or order a copy of his complete book on Amazon, or get his free mini eBook and sign up for his weekly blog. Follow Donald on Facebook.

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