Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Finding Your Purpose

Making Your Marks

Which is the greatest, the one who achieves the most, or the one who has the most influence? We have become a hero-oriented society idolizing those at the very top of their profession. Our superstars have well served to motivate and inspire millions to compete for all we are worth. Drive, focus, intensity, and specialization are each the marks of greatness that separate the men from the boys. This mindset however is not without its destructive side effects.

At the core of each profession is its purpose. Does music performance edify or just serve the ego of the performer? When it is all about self the side-effects hidden in the small print begin to show themselves. The stress produced by comparison, pride and inferiority can ultimately interfere with the effectiveness of the performance and ruin the performer. When the goal is to give and to build others, the pressure and symptoms are greatly relieved and the message is more effective.

In considering your purpose consider also your odds. For instance, how many top orchestra principal positions will become available in the near future? You can count them on one hand, maybe two. To invest all of our energy on such a tiny window of "success" is beyond reason. O.K. how about section positions in a wider range of orchestras? A bigger pool for sure, but still extremely competitive. There are simply more competent brass players than there are positions to accommodate them. We have two options. We can give up and move to another profession, or we can readjust our perspective and redefine our purpose.

One one hand, there are those who will never be content unless they reach the top. Odds are, they won't. They will forever be condemning themselves and comparing themselves with perfection. That kind of life will likely be full of frustrations and self-imposed stress. In this case, a career move should happen sooner rather than later. It's a question of where one will be the happiest and most useful. Life is more than a title.

Evaluate areas that you are passionate about and pursue them. The world has a huge need for those who will challenge and inspire young people to find themselves and their purpose in life. For some being able to belt out a blistering high C is admirable. For others an equally legitimate life calling might be to inspire others to realize their potential in the many opportunities in the music field. The goal is to apply ourselves to excellence without making its pursuit an obsession.

The gifts and talents we have been given were not by chance. Our task is to go as far as possible with the tools we have, and to work diligently and see where it leads. We each run in our own lane. It's not that we might miss the mark, but that we proceed confidently preparing to make our own marks.

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