Overcoming Scarcity, Competition, and Toxicity

mindset Mar 05, 2020

Today is the day! After a few weeks of pondering the toxicity in classical music and the reasoning behind it, today we are finally going to come up with some solutions.

So if scarcity and competition are the issues that lead to toxicity, the solution is very simply the opposite of that: abundance and inspiration.

Let's look at the example I brought up last week about the scarcity of only having one chance to nail a performance, and see how we can turn that into an opportunity for abundance.

The absolute perfect story for this is a performance in which a mistake happened, but it made the performance better!

I was at a concert of listening to a clarinet quintet. Throughout the piece the string players were quite enthusiastic about their page turns and each turn had a very noticeable snap to it, then towards the end of the piece there was a big sort of tutti section where the strings were playing on their own before the clarinet came in, and just before the return of the clarinet almost all of the string players turned their pages in unison with a really rhythmic and very audible snap. It was so oddly musical that the clarinetist actually paused for the briefest moment to lightly chuckle along with a few audience members before moving along. Now technically this was a significant mistake that marred the perfection of the performance, but in actuality it was a really unique occurrence that has really stuck in my head since then.

You see, when you give a live performance you aren't there to achieve all of the notes perfectly. That is what leads to the scarcity mindset that you only have one chance to nail it. That just isn't the point of live performance. If the audience wants a perfect image of the piece they should listen to a recording. Your job in a live performance is to communicate your music to the audience in a way that impacts them. In that, there is abundance. Every person in the audience is impacted in a different way, every time you play you may communicate your ideas a little differently. It isn't one-time all or nothing. It is an abundance of sharing yourself with all of the individuals who are experiencing that unique performance with you.

A performance will never happen the same way twice, but that doesn't mean you only have one chance to get it right. It means that each performance is an opportunity to share your authentic self and expression of the music. And if that is chuckling at amazingly enthusiastic page turns, that is perfectly alright.

Now what about the competition?

I hope you have thought through some of the questions I posed in the previous post, about why you feel competitive and how releasing the burden of trying to make a career out of just playing can go a long way to relieve this.

For the next step, I want you to watch this QuickStart Clarinet YouTube video titled: How to Succeed Without Being Talented: Your Unique Journey

The purpose of this video is to prove that talent doesn't really matter because your success is more a product of your hard work than any mythical idea of talent. This means that you don't need to be so concerned about comparing yourself and your "talent" to others. When you hear someone better than you it just means they have spent more time and energy playing, but you can absolutely catch up by putting in the time and energy yourself!

By looking through that lens, it can move you from a place of competition to a place of inspiration. When you hear one of your colleagues who is so much better than you rather than being concerned that they are going to take your potential job, or the respect of your teacher or conductor, be inspired by their success and use that as motivation to put in the work yourself to achieve your own great results.

You could even talk to that person for advice on what they did to get their results! That isn't admitting defeat and showing that you are lesser than them, it is showing that you respect their hard work, and you know their is an abundance of "talent" to go around.

And as for making your teacher/conductor proud, any good teacher will be far more proud of your growth rather than what you accomplish. Progress is more important than achievement.

So let's put a bow on this and give you some specific action steps to take the toxicity of scarcity and competition, and turn it into abundance, inspiration, and dare I say happiness and creative expression.

  1. Ask yourself what your true long term goals are for your playing, and realize if you take consistent action in that direction for long enough you will make it.
  2. Be patient! It may not be easy to reach your goals, but remember progress is better than achievement, and with consistent progress you can achieve anything.
  3. When you are feeling bad, ask yourself if those negative thoughts are coming from a place of scarcity and competition, and see if you can turn your thoughts and actions toward abundance and inspiration.
  4. Be the change you want to see. Understand that everyone is on their own unique journey. There is no need for you to feel bad about yourself or put anyone else down simply because they (or you) have put in less time and energy on the journey, so far.

I hope that helps! Next week, I will be back to some more standard clarinet tips and tricks, but don't underestimate the power of these mindset shifts!

If you really want to make this stick for you and change your thought process, leave a comment with your biggest takeaways and a concrete action you are going to take to shift from scarcity and competition to abundance and inspiration!

I wish you the very best on your unique clarinet journey!



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I can't wait to see where your clarinet journey takes you!