A dear friend posted a quote yesterday that I have been "chewing on" ever since first reading it. I haven't always followed this mantra, but when I have, the results have been no less than extraordinary:
"You cannot achieve your million dollar dream with a minimum wage work ethic."
No matter WHO you are, WHERE you are on the map, or whatever you might have DONE will disqualify you from achieving great and special things throughout your life. The only thing that will disqualify you is HOW you think about yourself and your situation. If you focus on what you DON'T have or how many mistakes you might have made, you are tying sandbags to your dreams.
This week I have challenged my trombone students at Arkansas State to write a short essay on WHY they are studying music. It will only ever be read by four eyes: mine and their own. I have asked this of them because I firmly believe that when I started focusing on the WHY (why=purpose) of my journey, my attitude changed, and shortly thereafter, my circumstances changed. When they focus on the purpose of their personal journey, those random Thursdays on October when assignments begin piling up may not be any easier, but they will be more manageable. This same focus will keep trombone in the daily mix as justifications for skipping warmups or practice sessions become easier to make. If the sandbags of our past are front and center, it can become easier and easier to put off practicing for an entire week, or even longer. After all, life stinks, right? I'm totally done for here at A-State. Why would practicing even MATTER????
It matters...a lot.
It matters because you will never have this much time to practice. Trust me. I know you're taking 27 hours a semester and have a part time job to make ends meet. I know you have a committed relationship that might even be headed to engagement or marriage. Even with all of that, you will NEVER have this much time to practice!
It matters because when you are ready to graduate, you will rely on me and other faculty for letters of recommendation. I will always be honest in those letters, because every time I sign my name to a document, I am putting my good word...everything I have sweat and toiled for...on trial.
It matters because, in my opinion, we as a culture have lost a portion of the fulfillment that comes with a sweaty work shirt and dirt under the fingernails. There is never a better night's sleep than one that follows an honest day of work!!!
Will completing the WHY assignment automatically qualify every one of my A-State students to compete for the title of The Finest Trombonist of Arkansas? No, it won't. However, I can guarantee that by holding onto old mistakes, blunders, and other old sandbags, none of us can expect our circumstances to change. What should be front and center is how you are going to make TODAY better than yesterday, so that the WHY that brought you to where you are can shine as brightly as possible.
If you're an A-State trombonist, a great way to make today better is to work up a little brow sweat in the practice room, day after day. :) When you are out in the working world, you will thank every teacher who pushed you to realize more of your incredible potential. I will leave you with a second quote, which encapsulates the concept of opportunity better than anything else I can think of.
"Tonight, when you go to sleep, someone will be up practicing your part."
I am honored to be your teacher. May we always bring honor to this great art form!