Doing Things the "Right" Way
Kathy Paauw

  

You have your way. I have my way.  As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.   Friedrich Nietzsche

 

Those in charge often fall into the trap of identifying their own agendas and standards, along with a message that “my way is the only right way.”  Virtually everybody wakes up in the morning with an unseen assumption that life is about the struggle to survive and get ahead in a world of limited resources.  This limited view squelches innovation and creativity, and it also trains people to focus on what they need to do to please their superiors by doing things the “right” way -- whether that way works for them or not.

 

As a youth I had planned on a performance career as a coloratura/lyric soprano, so I was thrilled when I was offered admission to Eastman School of Music -- a very competitive and top-rated music conservatory in New York.  I vividly recall one of my lowest moments during my freshman year at Eastman...

My roommate was a bassoonist, and we were both giving recitals near the end of our freshman year.  

She needed a scheduled break in the middle of her recital to rest her embouchure (the formation of the muscles in the mouth and lips, designed to create pressure on the reed), so she asked if I would perform something from my recital on her program.  I agreed to do so, thinking it would also be good practice for me as I prepared for my own recital two weeks later.

The week before her recital, my voice teacher noticed a flyer advertising my roommate’s recital program, with my name included on her program.  That week when I entered my teacher’s studio for my voice lesson, she pulled out a copy of my roommate's flyer and informed me that I would not be performing in her recital because I was not ready.   During the ensuing rage-filled lecture that followed, my teacher instructed me that I was never to perform in public without her permission.  After all, her reputation was on the line!  She could not believe I had the audacity to consider performing anywhere in public without first getting her permission to do so. 

 

Recalling this most unpleasant outburst from my Prima Donna voice teacher 28 years ago, I have great appreciation for something that Ben Zander said:  “It is dangerous to have our musicians so obsessed with competition because they will find it difficult to take the necessary risks with themselves to be great performers. The art of music, since it can only be conveyed through its interpreters, depends on expressive performance for its lifeblood.  Yet it is only when we make mistakes in performance that we can really begin to notice what needs attention.”  You don’t have to be a musician to appreciate the value of his wisdom.

 

Zander actively trains his students to celebrate their mistakes by lifting their arms in the air, smiling, and saying, “How fascinating!”  As I read the book, I tried to imagine what it would have been like as an 18-year-old performer if I had studied with a teacher like Benjamin Zander. 

 

You may be wondering what happened after my voice teacher ripped me to shreds.  At the age of 18, I did not have the backbone to stand up to a person of such famed stature, so I did not perform in my roommate’s recital.  Just two weeks later I performed the same piece in my own recital. . . and my teacher was very pleased with my performance.  After completing my freshman year, I transferred to Macalester College in Minnesota, where I got a great liberal arts education and studied with an outstanding and affirming voice teacher for my remaining three years.  There I received encouragement and support in an environment where it was safe to take risks, make mistakes, and learn from them.  Instead of feeling defeated, I flourished.

Carl Jung, the Swiss psychologist and psychiatrist who founded analytic psychology, sums it up by saying that "Criticism has the power to do good when there is something that must be destroyed, dissolved, or redirected, but it is capable only of harm when there is something to be built."         

Zander suggests that mistakes and negative experiences can become great opportunities for growth.  He tells the story about a tenor who came to him after losing his girlfriend.  He was in such despair that he could hardly function.  Zander was secretly delighted, because he knew that this heartbreak would enable the tenor to more fully express the heart-rendering passion of Schubert’s Die Winterreise (about the loss of a beloved).  Zander recalls, “That song had completely eluded him the previous week because up to then, the only object of affection he had ever lost was a pet goldfish.”

 

In The Art of Possibility, the Zanders share a fundamental practice that is captured in the catch-phrase, "it's all invented."  It's all a story you tell -- not just some of it, but all of it.  And every story you tell is founded on a network of hidden assumptions.

 

Zander explains, "We do not mean that you can just make anything up and have it magically appear.  We mean that you can shift the framework to one whose underlying assumptions allow for the conditions you desire.  Let your thoughts and actions spring from the new framework and see what happens."

Here's a great example of the power of shifting your framework and assumptions:  A shoe factory sends two marketing scouts to a region of Africa to study the prospects for expanding business. One sends back a telegram saying, "Situation hopeless.  No one wears shoes." The other writes back triumphantly, "Glorious business opportunity.  They have no shoes!"
  
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© Kathy Paauw.  All Rights Reserved.  Wouldn’t you love to stumble upon a secret library of ideas to help you de-clutter your life so you can focus on what’s most important?  Kathy Paauw offers simple, yet powerful ideas, on how to manage your time, space, and thoughts for a more productive and fulfilling life.  Visit
http://www.orgcoach.net.

  
    

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