Thursday, November 16, 2017

Time Is On the Side of the Persistent

There are too many axioms that advise patience and persistence in the pursuit of an objective.  That should be obvious and commonsensical to anyone who takes the time to think.  However, it has never been the habit of the common man to be patient.  Otherwise there would not exist so many philosophies suggesting that longterm accomplishments require time and hard work.  Our societies, if not at their onsets, then certainly the more they develop, have aspired to make quick use of the few who by happenstance have acquired certain competences, rather than invest in the seriousness of those who engage their pursuits with commitment, regardless of how long they take.

After some 30 years of teaching singing, it has been my observation along the way that those who have had an easy path find it difficult to face challenges because they were not trained for them.  The number of singers who have a brilliant start and end up as "a flash in the pan"are too numerous to mention and in fact even useless to spend time on.

There is a well-known saying:  

"You can take the horse to water, but you cannot force it to drink."

The saying should be updated to say: 

“You may take the horse to water but do not expect it to drink!”  

I would never tell a student “you cannot.” But occasionally it might be a good idea to test a student’s resolve by saying so and see how they respond!  Then again I’m not one for head games and there are enough people in the word who revel in discouragement. Students will not lack for opportunities to be discouraged. Whether our students take our teaching and advice seriously is not in our control.  We must use our limited time on those who are serious, determined and engaged.  They will reveal themselves.

And so I celebrate some students this week who are enjoying the earned fruits of their hard labor.  I am proud of them and celebrate our teamwork.  It is the most extraordinary experience to watch the moment when a singer resonates with his/her unique vibration.  It’s like meeting a hiker who was lost in the woods for years and kept looking for the path home and found it. In essence, the path to excellence is a search for one’s personal truth.  We teachers are Tenzing Norgays guiding a new climber to the top of Mt. Everest.  It’s an exhausting climb and we cannot waste such energy on the “weak of heart.”  Sir Edmund Hillary, the first person to make it to the top of Everest could not have done it without Tenzing Norgay, who worked as a lowly porter on several expeditions.  However that experience prepared Norgay to be a proper guide and partner to Sir Edmund.  Norgay’s remarkable training was necessary for success.  Yet Norgay’s skills would not have been worth much in that expedition if Sir Edmund were not committed and prepared.  The recognition was given to both equally.  But it is not about recognition from the outside.  I would have been interesting to see how the two men interacted.  There must have been an extraordinary level of trust between them.

In honor of those who persevere and take the road less traveled in search of their truths, and out of respect for my own time, I must say no to the uncommitted.  I will invest in the “Amateur” but not the “Dilettante.”  The unfortunate fact is that the vast majority “prefers” to believe they are inadequate out of fear of failure rather than that they have it in themselves to achieve! 

Finally, I honor the most accomplished among us.  There are some fortunate ones who have had a relatively easy path in their early stages, leading to early successes. Instead of resting on their easy laurels, they challenge themselves to reach ever greater heights.  They are the few who end up inspiring millions. Unfortunately only a few will act upon that inspiration.

©  11/16/2017

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