Every dream begins with an idea. You run into something, see something, hear something and think, “I want to do THAT!” Such a common thing! But how often do we allow ourselves to explore and try things out? And more importantly, if we discover a passion, how often do we really see it through? When people come to see me and say, “I’ve always wanted to learn to play the piano” or “I’ve always wanted to learn to sing” – I really take that seriously. It’s a sacred responsibility to share in someone’s dream.
One trend I’ve noticed in my music teaching is that many people who set out to learn a skill want to be perfect at it NOW. And if they can’t be perfect at it NOW, then there is something wrong with them/ they’ll never get it/ they’re just bad/ they are a failure. To me, that’s like walking into Sunday school at church or a meditation class and expecting to be enlightened like Jesus or the Buddha right on the first day of class! Wouldn’t that be nice!
On the way to pursuing our dreams, shall we perhaps allow ourselves to be students along the way? For fun, I looked up the definition of the word student. A partial definition was, “a person formally engaged in learning.” Relax and let yourself learn. Let yourself make mistakes. Please. In the process of learning to sing, of learning to play an instrument, learning to paint….one should expect to make plenty of mistakes. And hey, very often we learn the most from performances we blow than ones that go perfectly. Journeys in learning can be fun as much as they can be frustrating! The moment we encounter an obstacle, or things get more challenging, is it time to just give up? Or do we persist?
During one of the more challenging periods in my life as a student, I read Paulo Coelho’s book “The Alchemist” repeatedly to keep me on track. And this quote has stayed with me through each personal trial and has helped me keep my eye on my goals.
“What you still need to know is this: before a dream is realized, the Soul of the World tests everything that was learned along the way. It does this not because it is evil, but so that we can, in addition to realizing our dreams, master the lessons we have learned as we’ve moved toward that dream. That’s the point at which most people give up. It’s the point at which, as we say in the language of the desert, one ‘dies of thirst just when the palm trees have appeared on the horizon.’ Every search begins with beginner’s luck. And every search ends with the victor’s being severely tested.”
-Paulo Coelho, “The Alchemist”
In our path towards mastery, we can never know how close we are to a valuable insight that will help us rise to the next level. I recently read a passage in a book by Napoleon Hill about some miners who ran into difficulty at a site where they were certain there was plenty of gold. When they encountered a challenge, they just gave up! Along came another person, brought in some experts, who determined that they only needed to change their approach. It was discovered that the original miners gave up only three feet short from where the gold was. Three feet!
Let that be a lesson to all of us. As Thomas Edison said, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”