Monday, March 14, 2011

Everything I need to know, I learned in Master Class

When I started college, I wanted to major in three things: Creative Writing, Art, and Vocal Performance (singing opera professionally, for those who haven't wandered into the world of music degree titles).

Sadly, that was not to be - I realized that although singing will always be something I love, I simply do not love it enough to give up everything else. Yet even as I've left the world of professional singing in my past, the lessons I learned there continue to resonate. The most important of these lessons came from a guest speaker in my master class.

As part of a talk on the learning process as it relates to singing, he asked for a volunteer. A women raised her hand and went to stand beside him in front of the class. He handed her a piece of paper and set a music stand, its shelf turned parallel to the ground, about five feet away from her.

"I want you to ball up this piece of paper."

She did so, looking a little confused.

"Now throw it onto that music stand."

The woman looked at the stand, squinted, bent back her elbow and took aim. The paper ball arched through the air, falling - just - short of the music stand.

He grabbed the paper of the floor and handed it back to her.

"Now try again."

This time, the paper hit the stand, but fell off. The third time, it landed soundly in the center and stayed.

After the woman went back to her seat, he addressed the class. "What can we learn from this experiment?"

Silence. He turned to address the woman who had volunteered. "When you missed the stand, did you beat yourself up?"


"And when it fell off, did you think, 'Oh, gosh, I'm such a terrible person and I'm never going to be able to make it -- I should just quit now'?"


"What did you think?"

"That I should try again."

We can't continue to hold ourselves to these "all-or-nothing" paradigms - in everything we do, we can try our best, but when we fall, when we fail to accomplish a goal, it's not the time to give up or beat ourselves down -- it's just something that happened. Pick the ball of paper up and try again!

We just might hit the stand.

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