The greatest joy about being a human being is to realize the difficulty in reaching one’s aim, the greater the difficulty and the greater our joy and our humility.” (p. 96) –Nadia Boulanger in Don G. Campbell, Master Teacher: Nadia Boulanger
These quotes are variations of what you have likely heard your entire life: You can do anything you set your mind to achieve… Reach for the stars… Believe and succeed… Follow your dreams… What all those inspirational quotes fail to mention is the ‘easy-bake’ steps in order to complete your goals.
As a teacher of multiple levels for nearly 15 years, I can tell you our society is slowly evolving into one of less patience and less forgiveness for prompt response. Even with great motivational practices in the classroom, positivity, and fervently energetic approaches as years past, my students have more difficulty simply sitting down to master an instrumental skillset than ever before. My colleague says it best to our students: You can’t microwave the popcorn when mastering skills. Mastery takes time, patience, and many mistakes to achieve greatness, and even then, practicing is always frustrating. Edmund Sprunger, one of my Suzuki mentors said, “the purpose of practicing is not perfection; there’s no such thing. The purpose of practicing is to make things easier.”
This dominating age of technology comes into direct correlation with our society’s new microwave norm. Placing blame and dispersing lack of ownership for one’s own misgivings onto others has become commonplace when reviews are published permanently on websites for products, services, businesses, doctors, and even teachers. We live in an outwardly judgmental world as opposed to an experiential and inwardly reflective one, where people might taste, try out, and research information before casting judgment. Instead, people today tend to let others determine their thoughts for them through the convenience of social news media where tertiary, inaccurate reports are fabricated to spread like viruses. I am in no way suggesting ignorance of web-based reports altogether, but rather the concept of cross-checking information several times over before forming and handing off your perceptions of any story to other consumers. The sad reality is our impatient society refutes this due process every time they click the share button. My friends, have you thought about whether clicking “share” is helping or hurting our society? Is it tearing down or lifting us up? Unless you make time to cross-reference facts, I wouldn’t click that button.
The same concept transfers to families as well, where students become victims of their own family’s thoughts, feelings, and perceptions, instead of developing their own through firsthand experiences. We hear our loved ones debating at holiday gatherings, and automatically form an opinion instead of doing the research on our own. [By the way, asking heated debaters for their 2-3 primary, published sources is a great fire extinguisher!] Consequently, our children become products of their environment, and if post-secondary education and high standards for achievement are not the norm in the house, then how is a student to visualize a different (successful) outcome? When the art of drive becomes lost, this is the most epic failure passed down to our children of all. This form of flat lining or stunting our children’s success is a form of neglect and directly impacts what they will or will not achieve in life.
People always ask me where my drive comes from to set new goals, and as I have lovingly stated before, we ALL have the ability to achieve a great deal in this short life, but you can’t microwave results. Personally, I believe I was chosen to teach and inspire through the vehicle of music; therefore, the target was easier to hit (even when growing up with very little). In collegiate training programs, teachers learn the technique of showing students what something is by what is not, and through witnessing people both fail and then later succeed through quality hard work, the logical and obvious deduction is that reaching goals is nothing more than willpower. It is completely healthy for children to see their parents or guardians struggle when fear is one of the greatest motivators of all, but then rise up in the morning to let them see you set and reach new goals! When it comes to education, refuse to take ‘no’ for an answer. Following through can be a difficult barrier to breach when obstacles abound, but just assuming your child is a victim of their environment or shortcomings is criminal. Let them believe in possibilities through the example you set in this world, where success is achievable, manageable, and (God willing) purposeful for everyone.
Here is what I want for my children and all my students:
When the deepest part of you becomes engaged in what you are doing, when your activities and actions become gratifying and purposeful, when what you do serves both yourself and others, when you do not tire within but seek the sweet satisfaction of your life and your work, you are doing what you were meant to be doing. The personality that is engaged in the work of its soul is buoyant. It is not burdened with negativity. It does not fear. It experiences purposefulness and meaning. It delights in its work and in others. It is fulfilled and fulfilling. -Gary Zukav, The Seat of the Soul
I cannot imagine a quote more powerful than the aforementioned, and if you are a family of faith, I highly suggest you print and hang up the following quote for your child to see every time they walk out of their bedroom. It worked for me:
Who you are is God’s gift to you, and what you become is your gift to God. –Hans Urs von Balthasar
Straight path or not, everybody's life has meaningful purpose - I encourage you to find it and delight in it, my friends!