How to walk through Steel-Reinforced Walls

From the Avanoo founders, and thanks to StumbleUpon, I discovered How to Walk Through Steel-Reinforced Walls. While sitting in a coffee shop, this guy decided that instead of teaching a little boy who was trying to walk through walls like Harry Potter that it couldn’t be done, he thought to foster his imagination. He took him through the steps listed, as instructions on how to walk through walls – without actually telling him that it could or couldn’t be done. As fantastic a story as it is, obviously some people just don’t get it – including the mother of the little child, who said that his advice was very irresponsible and that he shouldn’t have kids for a very long time.

Shame on her I say! We should do everything to foster people’s imagination in this day and age. As this blogger pointed out – while something might not be possible now, it may be possible in the future. Who would’ve thought in 1920 that we would have a computer that fits in the palm of your hand. It’s the imagination that drives these things – for someone to say “why can’t it be possible! Why can’t I do that?”

It also has some interesting takes on real life, and some interesting issues that are going on in my life at the moment. I’m going to take these 9 steps, and discuss them in relation to me.

1. Make sure you were born to walk through walls.
A very tough thing to ascertain. Was I born to be a musician, or was I born to be a teacher, or was I born to be a computer guy. There’s strong cases for all three. In my family, we have lots of teachers. Both my parents were teachers at one stage, and you might say that as ministers, they were teachers for a long time. I have teachers on both sides of my parents brothers and sisters – ranging from country music teachers through to prestigious private school principals. But does that neccessarily mean that I am to be a teacher?
Music has been heavily involved in my life since I was very little. In fact there’s a photo of me when I was about 2 or 3 sitting at the piano pretending to play it. When I was 4, I took a toy ukulele down to the shops with my mum and sang christmas carols outside the supermarket while my mum did the shopping. Earned a nice sum as well – I have memory of it being about $40, but I think it was more like $12 – but still, not bad for a 4 year old.
Computers of course, are a more recent thing for me. But I have always been very adept at them. I wouldn’t say that I’m an expert, but I think that if I had chosen to head along the computer path a while ago, that I could’ve made it there.
But Music is where I am. Whether or not I was born for it, I do not know. But this is where I am, and this is where I’ll go.

2. Decide that nothing, including steel reinforcements, can stop you.
A very important decision. In everything we do, there are things that make it tough. An obvious one in music is competition – there are only so many seats in orchestras, and more and more musicians coming into the market world wide each year. But deciding that this is where I want to be means that I will decide that nothing will stop me getting there. If there’s going to be competition, well I will need to make sure that I’m better than the competition.
There are obvious, external “steel reinforcements” – such as competition. There’s also internal ones – things such as distractions, laziness. These also have to be overcome in order to get to where I want to be.
It reminds me of a passage from the bible.

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
Matthew 7:13-14 – NIV

Basically, it’s saying that even though the road might be tough, ultimately it leads to a more enjoyable life.

3. Get to work.
This is where a number of people falter – and I have faltered as well. Our greatest adversaries are ourselves. The number of days that I have said “I’m going to do 3 hours practice today” and only managed 1 quite frankly is appalling. I’ll be honest, I’m lazy, and I know I need to change that if I’m going to make it. It is this step that we say to ourselves “Ok, I want to do this, I know that I need to do to achieve it, so let’s do it.” I know that in order to get the job, I’m going to need to be better than the other players. I’m going to need to be smarter, more in tune, more in style, and more lucky. There are things there that I can control, so now’s the stage that I have to control them. In the past, I haven’t. I’ve let go the in tune part, and focussed on the smarter part. I could discuss the theory of Schoenberg’s 12-tone rows and why it was good and bad for classical music. I write a thematic analysis on one of Bach’s fugues. I could reconstruct a 16th century piece from hand-written parts. But that won’t get me a job in an orchestra if I can’t play in tune.
Thankfully, I’m working with a fantastic teacher who is getting results with me, even though I haven’t worked as hard as I should’ve this semester, so hopefully with a renewed attitude, and consistent effort, my progress in the areas that I have neglected should rocket.

4. Let the world know what kind of steel reinforcements you’re up against.
Well this one is an easy one. The competition for orchestral places is well known. The internal “steel reinforcements” are not so well known. But I’ve just let everyone know here. Anyone who reads this blog is able to see that I class myself as lazy. This is not something that I’m proud of, and is something that I am making a choice here and now to address. As the original post says – letting people know this gives added pressure, as it’s not only opening up about some of my most personal issues, but failure seems a whole lot larger. But it has been said that you should aim for the moon – even if you miss you’ll land amongst the stars. This is not always the case, but it is a slightly more comforting thought.

5. Cherish the people that believe in you.
I am incredibly lucky in that I have a strong support base from my family and close friends. I don’t think anyone would be able to survive in music without that. So much of a musicians life is spent alone – in a practice room (be that a specified practice room, a bedroom, the lounge room, or a park-bench) – that having that support is all the more vital. Even if it’s just knowing that there’s someone who you can chat about things to – whether you’re surviving your practice or if you’re having some issues. It’s incredibly important.

6. Dropkick the Dude Yamahas.
A Dude Yamaha is someone who’ll tell you that what you’re trying to do is impossible. Now I’m not trying to walk through walls here – it’s been proven that people can get a job in music. I think what I’m trying to prove is that I can get a job in music. There are people who say that I can’t play – which is fair enough. Listening back to past recordings of myself, I’d say that I can’t play. When people say these sorts of things – I won’t deny that it doesn’t hurt. But this guys advice rings true – “mentally dropkick them, and then forget that they exist… they aren’t worth your time.”

7. Prepare for pain… because there’ll be lots of it.
Of course there will be pain. No-one would expect their first audition to succeed. But that doesn’t mean that we won’t expect it to hurt if we don’t get it. When anyone sits an audition, or a job interview, and they don’t get the job, there is a tiny feeling saying “Well they didn’t choose me, there must be something wrong with me.” It’s a tough feeling, and can ruin many good people. What’s important is that when there is pain that you take a step back and figure out how to approach it better next time. Albert Einstein said that the definition of Insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” If you keep doing the same thing, and don’t take the time to evaluate what went right and what went wrong, then of course nothing will change. But if you take the time to go over what just happened, figure out what your strengths were, and determine what your weaknesses were, then address those weaknesses, then you’re likely to come out better at the next point of pain.

8. Enjoy the pain… because when it’s gone you’ll want it back.
I count one of the best days of my life as the day of my graduation recital for my Advanced Diploma of Performing Arts. I had put quite a lot of effort into it, and it had been the focus of the majority of my attention over the year. I did a fairly good performance, for where I was at the time, but of course could’ve been a lot better. For all that stress, and worry, and nerves, the feeling after that performance is intoxicating. It certainly was exaggerated when I was told that the violin I was loaning from Elaine Ho she had decided to give to me as a present. But that feeling right after the concert – before I had seen anyone, where I had just walked off stage was so incredible that I would go through it all to feel it again.

9. Don’t stop until you’ve done it!
I hope that I can continue until I’ve done it. But as anyone who has ever done anything knows, once you’ve done it, there’s always something more to do. I hope that I make it, where ever in the music industry that I go, and I’m glad that I’ve got my friends and family around to support me along the way.

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Author: Ben Clapton

I'm an Officer in The Salvation Army, currently appointed with my wife as Corps Officers at the Rochester Corps in country Victoria (20 minutes out of Echuca). I play violin and guitar, amongst many others, and love golf and running.

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