Dear friends - I just wanted to let you know I added a new page to my site, entitled "Stuff I Love" featuring piano gear and other awesome stuff that I find useful or inspirational. I hope it will be useful to each of you :) Thank you all so much for your love and support! Check out the new page here: http://www.joshwrightpiano.com/stuff-i-love.html
It's okay to have off-days. No matter how terrible or wonderful you think you are, you're human. Our society loves putting labels on things, and we certainly have favoritism at the forefront of our culture. When I was younger, I was a huge fan of Tiger Woods (pre-adulterous days....or pre-i/we-knew-about-the-adulterous-days-...-days). Even after the adultery, I'm still a fan of his in regard to his work ethic and skill set. He won more major championships at a young age than anyone in history, and is still only second to Jack Nicklaus. Even after all of those wins, who was I rooting for every tournament? Tiger. Lots of people root for the underdog, but I wanted the guy on top to keep winning. Why? Well, I'd read his book, "How I Play Golf". It's an amazing book, no matter how good or bad you are at golf. He was my golf guide. I had studied his swing, so to see it in action every tournament I watched just ingrained my admiration for his skills deeper and deeper. But, look at Tiger now. What a loser right? I mean, when's the last time he won a tournament? He's rebuilding his swing again? Wait, another injury? Give me a break. These kinds of thoughts go through so many people's minds. Why? I think it's our superhero-obsessed society being totally disappointed in a previous superstar. But, there's something so wrong with that. Does the fact that Tiger is losing now make his previous accomplishments any less great?
I firmly believe we must continue to push ourselves, even at a feverish pace, day after day, always improving, always striving, always determined to be better. That's how we measure up, that's what we can feel good about, that's what we live for. So, when we have an off day, even if it's at the most inconvenient time, forgive yourself. I recently performed Totentanz by Franz Liszt in Montana with the Great Falls Symphony. It went pretty well, but I had 5 or 6 completely idiotic slips that had never happened before, and they were on easy parts (well, easy for Totentanz). I felt like I played the hardest parts as well as I ever had, which only added to my frustration. The run through 40 minutes before had gone perfectly. The rehearsals the previous two days were absent of such stupidity. Why did it have to happen at that moment? My nerves were under control. I was prepared. I had worked like crazy to make sure this was as good as it could be. So why did it crumble in a few places?
I've thought a lot about it. It wasn't lack of preparation. And to be honest, it probably was nerves, maybe suppressed nerves because I was totally calm on stage, but it sure didn't feel like nerves. I'm just going to call it what it was - an off-day, or an off-performance. And that's it. I move on. I don't obsess (well, besides this post, and my next YouTube video, and THEN I'll be done obsessing) because obsessing over mistakes is pointless. If you make a mistake, move on. As much as I hate to admit it, I'm going to screw up on stage many more times throughout my life. But, I'm also going to have a lot of incredible opportunities to perform, and I'm positive that the vast majority of those will go well. My mom has always had a good way of looking at performance anxiety and mistakes. "About how many notes are in that piece?" "No idea, maybe 10,000? Totally rough estimate" "Okay, and out of 10,000 how many did you miss?" "Well, I was so stupid, and I messed up in like 5 or 6 places like a total moron. How could I have done that? I mean... [insert whining here]" "And how many notes were in those 5 or 6 places?" "I don't know, maybe 10 or 20". Even the most brilliant minds around would admit that a 1/1000th, or a .001 margin of error is pretty good, in any field of study. Off-days happen.
Okay, moving on now.... :)
Money is a medium that can be used for good and evil. If you're reading this, you need most likely need money, because you need to pay someone for internet service. Money is one of the hottest topics in society. Some people think those who have a lot of it are evil. Some people think those who have a lot of it are successful. Some people think those who have little are lazy. While every one of those statements could be true, they're not universal by any means, and they are beside the point. Money is simply a medium. It is necessary for survival in today's society, but beyond covering your necessities, money is simply a game, and this is where it gets interesting.
Why do you work? You may love your work. You may just need the money. You may not need the money. You may hate your work. I recently had the blessing of having too much work (teaching too many students, a work which I love). It was robbing me of a lot of my practice time. Performance is my greatest passion, and my music is one of the ways I define myself, and it certainly defines my teaching style and abilities. I was finding that taking on just one more student, then another, then one more was easy. But, after awhile, finding even an hour or two to practice each day, to develop the skills and make new discoveries that makes me a quality teacher in the first place, was getting more and more scarce. More work means more money, but does it really mean more happiness? Covering the necessities is important. Having a little surplus is nice. But allowing money to rob you of what really matters must be avoided at all costs.
"When something in life is difficult, you put fear aside and you take one step forward." - Chris Hogan
Often we miss so many opportunities in life because we are too fearful to start. There is wisdom in waiting for the right time if something requires it, as stated in a previous blog post. However, many things in life are not on a deadline, except the deadline of missed opportunity, and we must seize on each situation that presents a possible favorable outcome. The web of decisions and consequences in life is too daunting to try to comprehend wholly. Rather, live and love fearlessly, one decision at a time, one step at a time.
One of my favorite scriptures says the following, "By small and simple things are great things brought to pass."
When you are building your credibility as an artist, or a professional in any field, you will at first take almost any opportunity that comes your way. Then, as your schedule expands, your time dwindles, and you achieve a higher "status" or "profile", you may start to turn down certain gigs. Perhaps they don't pay you anything, or the fee is very minimal. Maybe the crowd is too small. Maybe they're asking you to do something that doesn't align with your style or brand. I can respect all of those things, and very often they are necessary. However, I recently learned a wonderful lesson from the notion that "no opportunity is too small."
A few years ago, I was quite busy with concerts, teaching, and school. My debut album with Shadow Mountain Records had just hit #1 on the Billboard Classical Traditional chart, and opportunities to perform were plentiful. At the time, I was asked to give a workshop at a local music store. They asked me to speak on one of my favorite topics - how to market yourself as a musician. They said I would get to keep all of the ticket revenue. They said their numbers at previous events had been scarce. I was thinking maybe 20-30 people meant "scarce". Well, four people ended up coming. So I think I made a whopping $20 or so for all of the preparation I put into this one hour lecture, sharing some of the most valuable wisdom my parents and I had paid thousands of dollars and thousands of hours to accumulate.
Of those four people, one of them was a a seventeen year-old girl and her mom, who later became one of my favorite students I've ever taught. I helped her prepare for her college audition at the University of Utah for her undergraduate work, and she went on to receive a generous piano scholarship and study with my former teacher while earning her bachelors degree. As an added bonus, I was just hired on at the University of Utah, and will be teaching this same girl - who is now in her masters program - this coming semester.
Three days ago I got a text from a woman that said, "I'm not sure if you remember me, but many years ago, I was one of the people in attendance at the lecture you gave at a local music store. We'd like to hire you to come and play at our annual workshop for our teen group. My friend and I were both in attendance and we would love to have you also give a lecture to inspire our young students."
Are you kidding me? That's a 100% success rate!! Granted, there were four people there, but two amazing opportunities came from it. I was able to help change this incredible young woman's life in helping her prepare for a career in music, and now I again have the opportunity to hopefully inspire more young musicians.
I say none of this to boast, because I firmly believe that God places each of us in unique situations, of which we often do not know the outcome or impact. I only say this to reinforce the critical lesson of never allowing arrogance to have a place in our hearts. I'm no better than you, and you're no better than me. We are equal, and must use the talents and gifts we've been given wisely, which may often prevent us from seizing every opportunity. However, when we have the time, we should always take each opportunity afforded to us to bless, enrich, and inspire others, no matter how small the gig might be, for we have no idea what rich rewards may manifest at a later date.
I was talking to a wise friend the other day, also a musician (and a marketing genius), and he gave me some insight that I won't soon forget.
"When you have something of real value, of real worth, don't just throw it out there. Plan, strategize, and release the material at the best time possible. If necessary, make people wait for it."
I've always been one to start, to get going immediately, but this advice has caused me to reflect a lot on the success of certain projects, and the lack of it with others. Waiting for the right time, with any situation in life, can mean the difference between success and failure.
I recently listened to the best podcast I've ever heard, with Tim Ferriss interviewing Tony Robbins. You can check it out HERE.
In the podcast, Robbins talks about human suffering, and how it is inevitable during our mortal experience. However, choice plays into every situation in life, no matter the circumstances. This is easy to see in Nazi Germany, where certain prisoners basically gave up on life and died shortly thereafter, while others fought and persevered, through deathly and horrific circumstances, and ultimately prevailed, stronger than ever. Robbins discusses the choice we face in every situation - to live in a beautiful mindset, or a suffering mindset. Even in beautiful circumstances, people can choose a suffering mindset, and vice versa.
The highlight of the show was when he asked each listener to place both hands over their heart, and breathe deeply, feeling the power of their heart, feeling the strength of it, the care for it, the beauty of it. Do this for two minutes. While doing this, think of three distinct situations, people, or things in life you are most grateful for. At the end of two minutes, I was amazed at the results I had achieved. I like meditation, but something about the focus on the heart made it so much more meaningful than a normal meditation. It had power...it was more vivid.
"As long as this heart is beating, you have the gift of life, and you live." - Tony Robbins
"Loss is nothing else but change, and change is Nature's delight." - Marcus Aurelius
Our lives are a constant equilibrium of gain and loss. Some gains are good, some are bad. The same applies for loss. However, when we come to accept our situation unconditionally, peace can distill upon even the most heartbreaking situations. It is maddening when people say to "move on", "be tough", or "get over it" when we are at the height of emotion after having lost a loved one, a beautiful situation in life, had to move, or even lost an item of great sentimental worth. Rather, "I accept this", "I will make this situation beautiful", or "I am the change that will make this situation great" are elegant mantras that can ease the sting of loss or change. In this respect, loss is not really loss at all, just a change that is defined by our attitude. We and the world may label it as heart-rending, terrible, wonderful, or refreshing, depending on the situation. Each situation in life is an opportunity for us to grow or die a little more, no matter how bitter the pain may be, depending on how we perceive the present circumstances.
"Too many rules is legalistic, but too much grace is enabling." - Rachel Cruze
This quote is from Rachel Cruze's book, Smart Money, Smart Kids, and it can apply to many situations in life. When we endeavor to be successful, we often set up so many "rules" - a perfect schedule, habits that can't be broken, an ideal working environment, an inspired mindset, etc. - that it can seem impossible to live up to our own standards. On the flip side, some people are free spirits, and figure that it will all work out, somehow. Proper planning must be in place in order to achieve goals, but we must always be willing to "adjust in battle," something a wise leader once told me on several different occasions.
So many self-help books and motivational speakers say to stop comparing yourself to others. In a society where everyone gets a trophy, it's easy to push aside the health of good competition. Others' actions can push us to be better. Look at the Lochte/Phelps or Raisman/Biles combos in the 2016 Olympics. Can people honestly say that the absence of one would help the other?
Is competition good or bad? Most would say it's good. Is comparing yourself to others good or bad? Most people would say it's bad. Doesn't that seem ironic? We must realize this truth: the key to competition, or any challenging pursuit in life, is to allow others to motivate, inspire, drive, and encourage you, but to never let others define you. Only you can define yourself, and you must choose to define yourself in a light absent of others. This way, competition always remains positive, no matter the outcome.
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