Begin It

October 27, 2011

By Ariel Friedman, guest blogger

This post was originally published at NEC’s entrepreneurial musicianship alumni blog on 10/27/2011, and is reposted here with permission from the author. IPAP thanks Ariel Friedman for sharing this post.

My grandfather’s favorite acronym was D.I.N.  Do It Now.  While this has always been second nature to me, it has come with a cost.  I answer emails and make phone calls promptly, not because I want to be responsible, but because the thought of having to do them later is more than I can bear.  The problem is that this cycle does not end.  There will always be emails to write, bills to pay, phone calls to make.  D.I.N. turns into D.I.A.T.T. (Do It All The Time). And thanks to my iPhone, these days I check email more frequently than I am willing to admit.

I think there is a balance that can be found here, but the point is that my grandfather actually did know what he was talking about and it wasn’t necessarily about life’s endless errands.

Recently I was teaching a cello lesson in which my student was expressing frustration. She wanted to be improving faster, but due to her frustration she was not slowing down to practice details, to delight in her instrument, or to find peace in the journey of learning. She told me that, within the last year or so, she and her partner had taken up beekeeping and that she felt a similarity between learning cello and learning how to keep bees; both are enshrouded in mystery, she said, until you begin to experience them. The more you approach the hives, the more you sit down with your instrument, the easier they get, the more sense they make, the more nuance you are capable of achieving. Then she made a beautiful analogy: Let’s say you wanted to be a botanist but you had not yet learned anything about plants.  If you noticed a tree of interest, you might go up to it, study its bark and its leaves, then look it up in an encyclopedia.  But once you delve into the learning process and botany becomes a part of your life, you will eventually walk down the street and be able to point out the flora. Ah, there’s a maple. Here is a spruce.

In other words, if there is anything in this world that is pulled toward your heart, why not do it now? As musicians and artists, we have the ability to choose to construct our lives the way we want.  I still believe there are a lot of “shoulds” around the careers of musicians. Many people from a classical background are expected to go to school until they get a job in an orchestra.  This is what I thought I would do from an early age, but at a certain point this stopped feeling right to me. I realized I had other choices and I wanted to experience them.  When I first started playing fiddle tunes on the cello at age eighteen, I felt like I was flailing around. Learning by ear was hard. My musical rug had been ripped out from under me.  As I’ve continued on my search, I notice this to be true over and over. My two years at NEC took everything I thought I knew about music, shook them up and dumped them on the floor.  Instinctively, I dropped to my hands and knees to clean up the mess, and here I am, still on the floor, slowly and steadily lining up the broken pieces. Without a doubt they will get scrambled again and again, only each time, I will have a new scrap of knowledge to add to the mosaic of my life.

We must take risks to be in this profession and this, as I am finally realizing, is the real meaning of D.I.N.  My grandfather’s favorite quotation was by Goethe:  “Lose this day loitering and it will be the same tomorrow. If you can do it or think you can do it, begin it.  Boldness has magic, power and genius in it.” To do it now is to throw oneself in, one hundred and fifty percent. Eventually the flailing becomes graceful.  The bees become approachable.  The piano keys start to look like chord shapes.  Making a life as a musician becomes a reality, one day at a time, easier and easier, broken piece by broken piece.

You can read more from Ariel and other authors writing about Entrepreneurial Musicianship at http://necentrepreneur.posterous.com/

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