Are you a prodigy? Does some particular talent come ridiculously easy for you? Can you pick up a violin and the notes simply fall in to place on to the bars after hearing it once? Can you make a beautiful form escape from the block of marble? Can you sit in front a pile of numbers and have them explain the Universe in three easy steps? Can you spell hepaticocholangiogastrostomy and use it in a sentence?
Yeah, me neither.
I’ve always faulted myself for never being the person who got it brilliantly right the first time Or even the second. Usually I have to work my ass off for anything to come “naturally” to me. Dance was my penchant. It came easier than, say, things like sports. I wanted to be good at sports. I wasn’t. But looking back now I realized I still tried. I still played. I still pushed myself. I still sucked. Something magical happens when you align your efforts with your passion. Please note, I didn’t say talent. I said effort and passion.
For as long as I can remember Beethoven has remained my favorite composer. I don’t necessarily have a pure love for classical music, but now and again a piece will stir my heart completely. I always come back to the one piece I’ve loved above all others. Beethoven’s 9th symphony. Most people know it, even those unfortunate enough to have no love for classical know it. It wasn’t, however, until I read more about Beethoven’s life that I came to truly love that one piece of music with all that I am.
In case you didn’t know, Mozart and Beethoven lived during the same time. Mozart was born in 1756. He was 14 years older than Beethoven and was a true prodigy in every sense of the word as it applied to music. Mozart composed his first piece at 5 years old. He composed his first great Mass at 12. He wrote his first opera at 14. And in 1787 when Beethoven was 16 years old, it is rumored he was sent to study with the great master Mozart in Vienna. By Mozart’s brief life’s end, he died at only 35 years of age from kidney failure, he had composed 41 symphonies officially, but is known to have written up to 68 complete works.
Beethoven on the other hand, was different. Although blessed with incredible talent, it didn’t come easy. His father was a terrible alcoholic who beat him mercilessly. It is rumored that Beethoven’s deafness in his later years was a direct result from the beatings he received at the hand of his father who would strike him repeatedly in the head with a cane. When he was a teenager his mother died and he became responsible for caring for his two younger siblings. The entire last decade of his life he is said to have been wholly deaf.
Even though Beethoven lived 57 years he only completed 9 major symphonies. The last of which is known as Ode to Joy. He was almost fully deaf when he composed his last work. Just a scant 3 years before his death and for what is now known as one of the greatest pieces of music ever composed.
I look at Beethoven, who yes had talent, but more than talent he had passion and perseverance. It didn’t come easy. But he did it anyway. He wasn’t another Mozart like his father so desperately wanted him to be, but that didn’t matter. He didn’t have to be a Mozart. He was a Beethoven.
So many times we get wrapped up in the desperate notion that we are to look around at others to find our standing in the world. We believe, erroneously, if someone is better at something, or it comes easier, that our work is somehow invalidated.
I only point to Beethoven to say that’s completely untrue.
Are you keeping score of yourself on how you do compared to the person sitting next to you? Or the one you see on TV? Or the one successfully filling their dreams in the job you wished you had?
Yes, people remember Mozart, but by God, they remember Beethoven too.
I love him so much, my daughter’s middle name is Elise named after his piano sonata, Fur Elise. And by some happenstance, my daughter is the type of person who goes out and gets what she wants irregardless of experience or her situation. For Christmas one year she asked for a violin. By August of that very same year she had been accepted in to a performing arts High School to play in the orchestra. Her passion and talent was mixed, more importantly, with her perseverance. It laid the groundwork for a beautiful beginning. I am in awe of her.
She didn’t sit back and say, well, I didn’t’ begin when I was 6 years old like the other kids. She simply got it done. And don’t ever tell her she can’t do something. She’ll want to find out for herself. It’s one of the traits I love most about her.
There is such a great life lesson in that. Things don’t come easy for me. I doubt seriously they ever will. But my own resolution to succeed is greater than anything else in my life. Recognize that? Abraham Lincoln said it. The same Abraham Lincoln who failed over and over until one day, he didn’t.
I don’t care what cards life has dealt you. Your passion awaits. You don’t have to have all the things you think you have to have for success. You don’t have to even be a prodigy. Yes, I know. How much easier it would be if you were? But I’ll tell you this. When it is harder, it’s oh so much more sweet. Those who have toiled and reach success know the precious gem laid before them. You’ll appreciate your success with more joy than imaginable and your rewards will be great because you didn’t take a moment of it for granted.
So remember just because it doesn’t come fast or effortlessly doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t be as beautiful or grand.
I invite you now to see my favorite video of a flash mob ever playing my favorite song, that I’m pretty certain I’ve posted here before. But you listen to this. Especially when you get to the 4:06 mark, than take a breath, and close your eyes and listen to what Beethoven could only hear in his head. And then you tell me, if it isn’t the most perfectly beautiful moment in all of music ever, easy or not.