What more can I do? This question can be incredibly beneficial, or extremely deadly, according to the individual. For perfectionists, it's torture. When I was young, I was a perfectionist. As I've grown older, I've mellowed out a little, but I've still tried to keep the intensity of focus I had when I was younger. To give you an idea of what a psycho I was, my mom would ask me at the end of the day, "Did you do your 2 and a half hours of practicing?" (that was the standard starting at 12 years old) and I would say "Yeah, I did it." Then she would say, "Did you do your best?".....NOOOOO! I hated that question. "Well, I don't know Mom. No, I guess I didn't, because I could always do better!" She would just roll her eyes and say, "Oh my goodness, you need to lighten up and have some fun!" My mom and I continue to have a great relationship to this day, and I attribute a lot of my success to the perspective she always helps me keep amidst this crazy career as a musician. I remember I was preparing to play the last movement of the Rachmaninoff Third Concerto with orchestra when I was 15 (in hindsight, it was a very smart move on my teacher's part, because I feel so much more comfortable with it now, but back then, it was pretty overwhelming) and I was really stressing out, saying, "What if I'm not with the orchestra? What if I screw up? What should I do?" My mom would respond, "Well, at least you'll look nice in that tux and be the cutest kid on stage. That's all that really matters, right?" She had a great way of lightening the pressures of performing that can really ruin you if you're not careful. I see lots of "tiger" moms (or is it "dragon" moms? Maybe I'm thinking of theCrouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon movie) and I just think, "Those poor kids aren't ever going to have a life! They might be the best at what they do, but who cares if they are that talented if they aren't enjoying their studies and having a good time in life?"
I think every person has potential to do great things, and self-belief is the first step to achieving anything. If you don't believe in yourself, if you don't have a vision that extends more than a few days or weeks, then you can't make any big plans for your future. Sure, living in the moment is the best way to live, but you can also plan for the future in the moment, planning wonderful things to not only benefit your life and your family, but also extending your reach to as many people as possible.
Being an artist, I'm always very intrigued by what other people do aside from piano. Sure, I'm inspired by the great pianists, teachers and composers throughout the past few centuries, but I think being 100% focused on any one thing in life is an enormous mistake. When we broaden our horizons, we become better at what we do. I recently came across a YouTube channel that one of my friends posted, called DevinSuperTramp. This kid is AMAZING at videography. Even though his videos are about people just having a wildly good time, like making a rope swing off of one of the arches at Zion's National Park, cliff-diving in Hawaii, or filming the world's best Yo-Yo"er", he is able to capture things with such elegance with his camera that I love just turning it on and watching if I'm feeling a little stale or uninspired in my practice. It's not that I want to be a videographer at all. It's his art form - motion picture - that inspires me, and makes me want to be better at what I do.
Would my life be fine if I hadn't found this kid's work (I say "kid" because he is really young - he's probably early 20's if I had to guess)? Of course it would, because I wouldn't know any better. But is my life even better because of this kid's videos? I would have to say yes. They aren't LIFE-ALTERING videos or anything like that, but they are really fun to watch, and they give me ideas for possible music videos I'd like to shoot in the future. So, how did the improvement in my life occur because of hisvideos? It all started back with Devin, one day probably saying something like, "What more can I do? I know, I want to be the best at what I do. I want to shoot the most beautiful videos possible. I want to work like a dog to capture every detail with such immaculate precision that my viewers will appreciate it and find beauty like they may not have seen before." Does everyone love this kid? Does everyone know who he is? No way. But I like his work, and I know who he is, and you know what? He makes me want to be better at shooting my videos on piano teaching on YouTube. He makes me want to make more beautiful shots when I record my performances, because the beauty and magic is in the details. His videos inspire me to be better and more creative at what I do. In essence, watching a random kid's video on the internet that one of my friends posted one day made me say to myself, "What more can I do?"
I feel very blessed to be a pianist, but I often feel even more blessed to be a teacher. Many students from YouTube who I've never met email me with their questions and express appreciation for the videos I post. I'm always flattered and humbled when they do this, but the thing that gets me really excited is when they tell me the videos have changed something within them, and they tell me what they're going to go out and do now that they've been inspired by a particular video. Every person that emails me is better at something than me. Maybe it's skateboarding, maybe it's video games, maybe it's violin, maybe it's math...who knows? But I know that every person who emails me is my equal, and that we each have strengths that can benefit one another. In this, we can learn from each other. When I can inspire someone to be better at what they do because of what I do, just like Devin's videos and work ethic inspired me, I've "paid it forward." That seed of inspiration that Devin received from whatever source he attained it was planted in him, and it grew, and bore fruit and a seed was planted in my mind, and it grew and bore fruit, and some of the students who have seen my videos have had the same thing happen to them. Where does it all begin? Who was Devin inspired by, and who inspired that guy/girl, and who inspired them, and so on? It all starts in the mind of one individual. It all starts with a seed of creativity and inspiration. We have unlimited to potential to extend our reach, and it all starts with one simple question - "What more can I do?"
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The musings of a (crazy) concert pianist
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