More than anything else in our lives, we seek encouragement and support. A little encouragement is often all that’ s needed to take a risk, try something new, or pick up an instrument again when you left it behind years earlier. Encouragement can be a very powerful motivator.
A few years ago, going through a team building exercise, I saw how powerful encouragement can be. A member of our group was selected and asked to write on a white board a single word, over and over. He was asked to do it as many times as possible in 60 seconds, while the rest of the room quietly watched. When he had finished, the leader asked him to do it again, but this time instructed the room to cheer him on. This time, with loud encouragement coming from the 40 other people in the room, he was able to more than double the number of times he was able to write the word in the same 60 seconds.
Imagine if we were to unleash this power in our workplaces, in our homes, and in our families. How different might the world be?
Encouragement was on my mind because in the past few weeks, I’ve been the recipient of some strong encouragement in my musical life, and I’m also beginning to see my efforts to promote more music-making encouraging others around me to take up their instruments again.
Encouragement has come my way in several ways. The first came at my piano lesson, where the ever-patient Peter heard my “Take Two” on Bach’s D minor Invention and said he was able to “hear an idea” in the way I performed the piece. To my ears, this was a validation of my efforts to master not only the technique of the keyboard, but to be able to move beyond the notes into real musical expression. I floated on that remark for the better part of a week.
The second incident was an unexpected circumstance that came during orchestra rehearsal, when the conductor asked me to move over and assist the second violins when they were struggling with a few critical bars in Pachabel’s Gigue. Twice, she asked me to play the bars for the other violinists so they could hear what it was supposed to sound like. To my surprise, my impromptu solo surpassed my own expectations, and was delivered without squeaks, squawks, or serious errors of intonation. Progress!
The third area of encouragement has come from my friends and colleagues with whom I have shared this blog. They continue to react with surprise, delight, and real interest and have offered suggestions for next steps and ideas for taking it further. They reinforce my feeling that I’m on to something, if we can just figure out what it is.
Finally, the sharing of these experiences with some of my co-workers has resulted in another nice surprise. A few are re-entering the world of music. One has joined a community band, delighted to find out her playing “doesn’t totally suck.” Another is piggybacking on a son’s piano lessons to learn how to play. Several people, knowing my passion, have asked me for lesson referrals. All of them have drawn encouragement from the discussions in and around this blog — enough to take the next step.
There’s a public service annnouncement running on TV these days from the Foundation for a Better Life. The story takes place in a concert hall, where a couple has just realized their young son has gone missing. The lights dim and the curtains on stage open to reveal the boy, sitting at an enormous piano, playing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. The soloist comes out on stage, reaches around the boy, and begins playing variations on his tune. (Ahh … Mozart!) As they finish together to wild applause, the soloist tells the boy, “Keep practicing,” and the spot ends with the message, “Encouragement … Pass it On.”
Encouragement is a wonder. Pass it on.