Sunday, May 9, 2010

Finding Focus


At a recent recital, I was playing piano for several high school musicians. We had rehearsed together a few times, and I felt confident going into the performance. Then little details started whittling away at that confidence. The piano was arranged in such a way that I could not see the performers well, so I missed some opportunities to coordinate. The room was cold, and the resulting stiffness in my fingers reduced my dexterity. I hadn’t had a chance to practice in that space, so my ears were not accustomed to the reverb…

It looks like a list of excuses from where I am sitting, and perhaps that what it ultimately is. But my performance that day was not what I would have liked it to be. I am convinced that the real reason is simply that I don’t practice as much as I used to. Without frequent practice, the muscles and the mind lose a bit of capability, and I no longer spend the 4–6 hours practicing every day that I once did. If I were to focus my career on being a pianist, I would need to make some adjustments.

Instead, I have concluded that having money is the result of helping other people. I want to find ways to engage my passions in helping other people, and I want to create ways for that to be an income stream, so I am not sacrificing my own well being for the sake of my passions. In fact, that kind of sacrifice is the stuff of martyrs, and I’m not submitting any more applications for that position. But not every opportunity to help others is equally satisfying or equally compensated. As much as I have enjoyed playing the piano and the connections with young musicians, accompanying middle- and high-school musicians frankly doesn’t pay well enough for a person to make that their entire source of revenue.

So I am faced with a challenge of focus. As I began exploring what I wanted my life to be, I realized that I had been playing small for a long time. My first goal was to spend more time creating music and seeking opportunities for it to be heard. Pursuing that goal initially resulted in some short term jobs to meet immediate financial needs, and in less than six months, I now have an exclusive publishing contract for one of my pieces, which can be a stepping stone toward long-range success as a composer.

There have been other things occupying my attention, however. I became an independent contractor in a wellness business in order to develop residual income which would allow me to take full advantage of the freedom of time and location I had gained. As a result, I have been learning and honing some entrepreneurial skills I never saw a use for in previous positions. It has definitely ramped up my personal development, and the skills I am learning are transferable to every other area of my life. Although I haven't yet replaced my old salary, if I were to truly focus on developing this business, I can see the potential to do so in a short period of time from where I stand.

And yet, I still have a passion to help others deepen their purpose and build a strategic vision for their own goals. Although my wellness business can offer this in a very focused way, some people aren't looking for an entrepreneurial opportunity. They want to engage their passions differently, create something bigger than what they thought possible, or just find greater meaning in what they are currently doing. Helping people find purpose and create a vision energizes me and fuels my own creativity. So I am creating Envisionability, a newsletter about purpose, vision, and creative solutions. I see how this can help other people, serve my own personal growth, and ultimately serve as another revenue stream so that I can keep spending my time helping people, composing, and simply enjoying life.

My challenge now is focus. Do I focus on the thing that I most want to do, or the thing that can bring the most financial freedom? Do I split my focus on three different endeavors, recognizing that they all provide some transferable skills and learning? How will that impact my ability to accomplish my goals in each of those arenas? Will other people see how the different elements of my path are linked, or will they judge me as lacking credibility or clarity? Or is my focus actually on something other than the activities of my journey?

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