Preface: Discovering the Whole World

I’ve been wanting to start writing again for years now, but starting a blog always seemed too daunting. In part, I’m hesitant to start something I know I won’t ever finish. More than that though, I’ve always thought there’s too much advice and information online already. You can practically ask Siri what the meaning of life is these days!

For the sake of interest, simplicity, and individuality, I’ve decided to take a different tack. Rather than lengthy posts about music appreciation, I’m going to focus on simple analogies, stories, and words from my artistic and personal heroes. I’ll be focusing on daily challenges rather than abstract ones, the kinds of personal and professional situations that speak to the quirks of human character. In an attempt to uphold my own premise, let me give an example:

Two years ago, some close friends of mine attended a chamber music masterclass hosted by Yo-Yo Ma at a small school in Wisconsin. To my surprise, they told me they weren’t that impressed with the music part of it, but that they did remember this one-liner. “If you dig deep enough in anything,” Yo-Yo Ma said to the pianist, “you discover the whole world.”

That’s the kind of sentence that sounds nice but doesn’t make much sense at first. By completely mastering the piano, one doesn’t gain any plumbing expertise or academic knowledge. After spending a few more years in a practice room though, I’m starting to have an idea of what that means.

If you slow down enough to study a single thing for a long time, you start to notice little things that reflect who you are. If you watch tapes of your past lectures, for example, you may start to analyze your speech patterns. You might notice the way you hold yourself, or the parts of your personality that come through the most when you’re in a room full of people. To change or become conscious of those things, you have to dive into the recesses of your mind. To quote my current piano teacher, it becomes a giant therapy exercise that has to do more with who you are as a person and less about the specific tasks you’re performing. Of course, you’ll develop specific skills to deal with those things. But in the process, you’ll also discover a lot about how everything works.

By “the whole world,” I think, Yo-Yo Ma was referring to the depth of character needed to do anything well. Changing habits requires a lot of discipline, strength, and personality. Through the years, I’ve heard many stories about musicians who change careers and feel grateful for the lessons they learned while practicing an instrument. That’s because music lessons aren’t just music lessons. They’re lessons in problem solving, patience, perseverance, and so much more. The clarity you gain through studying music translates to anything you’ll ever do, whether it be art or business or parenting. Experience is experience after all! Hopefully some of these stories, whether music related or not, will speak to some of the dilemmas or challenges you’ve faced too.

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