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Saturday
Oct082011

Turns out that thing only you can do is also the hardest thing you can do

"Find something you love and let it kill you." - Derek Sivers

Thoughts of inadequacy and self-doubt had better not get near my most important work. (Library of Congress photo)I've been hooked on House since 2007 when I crawled into bed exhausted in the middle of the afternoon after Eclectic Music's first-ever November recital. I decided to reward myself (for pulling off the recital, not for crawling into bed) with a TV episode downloaded from iTunes. I remembered seeing promos for the premiere of House during the legendary 2004 ALCS and it looked interesting, so I thought I'd give it a try. Seven seasons later, I am still along for every DDx and going-into-a-commercial panicked use of the crash cart.

I have given a lot of thought to why the show resonates with me so much. For one thing, Hugh Laurie is absolutely compelling - I would watch him read a grocery list (in any accent). Also, I've always appreciated the fact that the Dean of Medicine at House's fictional hospital is female (the amazing and gorgeous Lisa Edelstein), which is relevant to me on an aspirational level as a woman in a leadership role.

The main reason I connect with House, however, is because I relate to Dr. House's passion for his career. I am nothing like Greg House, except that when it comes to teaching music, I see things that other people don't see. I love the tough cases and the clever, counter-intuitive solution. Like House, I am an expert in my field.

Tonight I watched the Season Eight premiere and it was intense. I was literally shaking from nerves as I watched our hero make ridiculous and risky choices I would never make. Figuring out what is wrong with the patient means everything to House, and he will go to great lengths to find the solution to a medical mystery even if it ruins everything else in his life.

At one point in the episode, a character tells House that he has a gift that he should use. It's a gift that, because of his circumstances, he isn't supposed to use. But House can't help himself.

Considering this, I had an insight. It seems like all of the advice that is good and wise tells us that we each have been put on this planet with our own unique mission. We each have our special talents that we will use to find fulfillment and contribute to the human race, whether it's by raising children, eradicating disease, making art, advancing technology, or being the most amazing mime the world has ever seen.

However! Because we are all such special snowflakes, whatever wonderful ability or insight we have is so rare that, the further you go down the path of developing it, the less you have anything to compare yourself to to know you're on the right track.

In other words, the deeper you get into your passion, the more you start to get this creepy feeling that maybe you're completely delusional.

It's like you're tooling along down a populated divided highway, and then you look around and everyone's gone and it's turned into a one-lane road and eventually to a dirt road and then finally you have to get out and walk, feeling all the more vulnerable and alone. No? Just me?

I've spent the past few days working on a new piano method. There's already a perfectly good piano method out there, but I feel compelled to work on mine. My approach is weird and different and hard to explain but it works - I truly feel that it will be a helpful contribution to the world of piano pedagogy. But as I'm down the rabbit hole working on it, I have this voice telling me I'm wasting my time, it's too out there, no one will like it, I'm going to have copyright issues, it will end up unfinished and I'll end up like Smile era Brian Wilson or Lifehouse era Pete Townshend.

In the moments when the mean voice quiets down, things are falling into place. I feel like the hero of my own story. I do believe that is what life is supposed to feel like. But is it enough just to trust that?

I guess it depends on the result you want. If you want to get rich or be admired or otherwise attach yourself to an outcome you don't actually have control over, you're setting yourself up to fail even if you succeed at your calling. Any external prize is a moving target.

If, like House, just the satisfaction of solving the puzzle is enough for you, then you've got nothing to lose.

Reader Comments (4)

I really enjoy your writing and your thoughts. Very refreshing and informative ideas from another music teacher! Please keep the thoughts rolling:)

October 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGaby

Interesting and enjoyable post. Thanks for sharing this. I too am a House devotee, so that's what caught my eye initially. And you bring out some great insights and applications to your music activities. For some reason--and I don't quite understand it myself--I'm able to draw inspiration from episodes of House! Kind of strange that such a damaged and dysfunctional character can do that for me. But then again, Greg House may be the most genuinely human character on TV...in some ways, anyway...

October 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBob Woody

@Gaby: Thanks so much! I love your blog, too. :-)

@Bob: Thanks for reading! I agree - I think the success of House as a character is due to the humanity Hugh Laurie brings to the role. He alienates everyone around him but still manages to keep the audience rooting for him.

Also, the fact that House is constantly cutting through the bullshit and saying what's on his mind is really refreshing to me. As a teacher, I have spent lots of exhausting hours in the studio trying to find the "nice" way to say things, and I've ultimately concluded that just being direct is the way to go for me. Luckily, I don't have a misanthropic bone in my body so, unlike House, I'm generally able to be truthful and kind at the same time!

I appreciate your thoughts - thanks for taking the time to comment!

October 11, 2011 | Registered CommenterCasey McCann

The work is enough. The rest is gravy.

October 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMichael McGill

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