instead of pursuing the idea of greatness.”
– Eckhart Tolle
So, what does it mean to be “successful?” It could mean a number of things. It could be being rich in money. Or, success could be having a full schedule every day. Both of those are nice. Seems like the second one would impact the first one in a positive way, as long as I’m charging people enough money for my services. In my mind, though, making a lot of money is a side benefit and not my number one goal. I’m really the most interested in making enough money to live and judging my personal level of success in other ways. Probably because I understand this model very well.
All my life I’ve been underpaid for my work. I spend a quarter of a century as an elementary school music teacher. In a private school. I made about 2/3 of what my colleagues who taught in public schools made by the end of my career. (Public school teachers are not known for being rich, either.) Yet, I was an extremely successful music teacher by the standards of my profession. I remain nationally known as a clinician for music teachers, I direct a summer institute at George Mason University to train teachers in the Kodály method. My choir sang at the White House, at the opening of the Marine Mammal Pavilion at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, on stage at the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall with the Concert Artists of Baltimore, at Camden Yards, and lots of other places as well. I gave children some amazing musical opportunities over the years. I have directed, sung and played in places I never imagined possible. I never set out to be “great,” but opportunities presented themselves over the years and from a place of being present to them, I moved into some very interesting career choices. I’ve served on national boards for my professional organizations multiple times, met people from all over the world, had some fantastic experiences. What is all of that, if not success?
When you start looking, there are all kinds of marketing techniques out there. “Choose a niche.” “Don’t choose a niche.” “Create a funnel.” “Create a referral network.” You can pay a lot of money to learn them, too. None of those ever appealed to me, until I met Megan Macedo and her idea of “Telling your story.” I’ve been playing with this for about a year now. I’m building a body of work in writing, which greatly appeals to me as a creative person. My name is getting out there in a different field. I’m enjoying myself while giving play to my creative expression. I get to be present, to really think through my ideas, to write in a style that is right for me. It’s a codification of what I stand for as an Alexander Technique teacher, a music teacher, a pianist, and most fundamentally as an artist.
Ultimately, my idea of success lies in fulfillment of artistic creativity. Every Alexander lesson I teach is an exercise in improvisation, in creativity, in listening to and working in harmony with my students. Only by being present to them can I work this way. It’s just like making music and it’s what I love to do.
Would I like to be paid more? Sure, I would. Mostly, what I’d like to have are additional students so I get to share this experience more often.
What is your definition of “success?”
Do you feel successful and fulfilled in your career? Why or why not?
What is your creative outlet?