Don’t Measure Life By Your Disappointments – A Philosophy Based on Music

I have a deep love for music and the discipline it brings to my life. It is a complex challenge to imagine my life without it. Music is an anchor for every step in my path of life. I feel great satisfaction when I can use my talents and today’s technology to help others achieve their musical goals. I am grateful to live today where traditional music and technology meet. Every day is full of creative opportunities. One day I may be recording a choir on a concert stage, another day coaching a shy singer in the studio as they record their written song. Another day, I may add orchestration to a songwriter’s music to help them complete their composition. But even as I reflect on the joy and satisfaction that music brings to my life, I can look back and see the beginnings of this philosophical outlook. It begins with disappointment.

It is so easy to layout in front of us our significant disappointments in life. I have a long list I keep nestled in my mind to wallow in at any given moment. Actually, by assigning them to that dark corner of my mind to be forgotten, I engage active neurons to be the guards of these miseries. So, even though I would prefer to ignore them, the mere act of making them actively guarded ensures their longevity in my life. By guarding them, I hope that they become petrified rocks upon which I can build some solid wisdom built upon or shared at will. So, the memory of what hurt so bad I today turn into the rock that I will step upon as I raise my triumphant fist in the air and declare victory.

I recall specifically a time when my main focus was to be a concert pianist. I wanted to be a performer. My path was clear. I would practice, present my skills, and move forward, step by step, until I realized that goal. There were so many small steps now I can hardly remember them some 30 plus years later. There were competitions, recitals, performances, practice, and more practice. 

The time had come for a significant judgment, specifically, a concerto audition with the state orchestra. It wasn’t a sudden occurrence that snuck up on me, but a moment easily envisioned in the future—nine months to be exact. So, I practiced, performed, and incessantly followed every step necessary to achieve the next step. I would arrange for access to pianos everywhere I would go to practice and never leave my goal unattended. The time came, and I traveled to the designated location, went through the routines I had so aptly prepared. The only thing that I didn’t prepare for was sitting and playing in front of my future judge. I didn’t know if it would be a man, woman, a group, or a collection of peers. It turned out to be a white-haired man. He listened to me for five minutes, and then I was done. That was it. A quiet “thank you,” and it was the following pianist’s turn. What had I just done? The results would eventually find their way to me. It’s been so long now I don’t remember how they were delivered, but someone gave the results. I was no good. Well, at least that is what I heard. This time of relentless practicing and then failing was the first step in what felt like a tailspin of events that would forever shape my life. Other pieces began falling. So many that I still feel beaten and deflated when I think about them. In retrospect, I had to find a way to understand and heal from what had happened. It was real, it was devastating, and to this day, it can ruin a great day if I let it. But I’m not going to let it. I write this today to speak one of the anthems in my life loud and clear. I can look on that year as the year I practiced over 1500 hours to play for 5 minutes in front of 1 man who I perceived as having the power to direct my life by telling me I was “no good.” It is empowering to hear the numbers. At this very moment, there should be motivating life stories resonating in your soul, inspiring you to never, ever leave your destiny in the power of one opinion to change or direct your life. Did I lose 1500 hours for that 5 minutes? I think not. I would love to have those 1500 hours available to me every year of my life. Even if I never have those 5 minutes of glory, I have a lifetime of musical power, pleasure, talent, and the ability above and beyond what I would have had had I not dedicated myself to that musical goal.

Then, in a reflective moment, I redid the math. In addition to 1500 hours of practicing, there is a need to account for approximately 4500 hours spent not practicing and preparing. Yes, sleep, school, work, and other life adventures fill those undocumented and precious 4500 hours. So the story is incomplete. You see, those hours, all 6000 of them made me who I am today. 

In parallel with that desire to be the very best, of which I am still pursuing, was the beautiful encountering of a kindred spirit. I met the woman who would become my wife. Our courtship exactly parallels those 1500 hours. At 250 was our first date and at 750 hours was our engagement. At 1500 hours was her graduation from the University. Soon after 1500 hours, our marriage. Did I lose? I don’t think so. 

Many facets of our lives develop simultaneously that to dwell on disappointments only interrupts the realization that we are actually on the path of greatness. It is all inside of us. There comes a moment when we realize our life has more significant meaning than one straightforward goal. We must develop a peripheral view of our life as we pursue the goals that move us is to find balance. Our lives are shaped by the experiences which we have and by our responses to those experiences.

I can honestly say that music lifts me. Music makes my day exhilarating. But in addition to music, there is an entire life co-occurring that contains joy, pain, success, and heartache. These experiences shape us as we continually grow and develop. Remember this, that one person’s five-minute examination of your talent and music does not reflect on the thousands of hours of personal growth that living a life infused with music provides. There is no waste in spending thousands of hours immersed in the art you love, even for only five minutes of opportunity. If music is a part of your being, then its disciplined pursuit will balance your completeness.