Why I Can't Play the Trumpet

When I was in fifth grade, I took up the trumpet in school.  My parents bought me a shiny new instrument on monthly payments.  I began in band with great enthusiasm and for several years of school, worked diligently and practiced hard. 

In my seventh grade year, we did a school trip to hear a Marine Corps Brass Band that came through our town.  The band featured trumpet players.  When the first trumpet soloist hit the first note, a startling revelation hit me.  The note rang proudly through the auditorium and sounded like it came directly from the horn of angels.  I realized that no matter how hard I tried, I would not play that well.

My desire to continue working hard plummeted.  Eventually, I slid down the rankings until I was at seventh chair out of ten.  Our band needed a baritone player, so I switched to that in my eighth grade year.  I played one year at that until quitting band altogether.  Actually, I quit the trumpet during the Marine Corps concert.  It just took me a couple of years later to officially put it down.

I still have my trumpet, packed away inside some closet or a corner of the garage.  So the question is why did I not sound like the Marine Corps trumpeter?  Why could I play a million notes and not have all of them combined worth listening to the one single note from the trumpeter?  Because I did not care enough. 

I had another circumstance similar to this when I was a senior in high school.  One of my favorite courses was physics.  I loved solving the problems and having the ability to figure out things.  So I decided to become an engineer.  After my first year of college and struggling through two semesters of college physics, calculus, and other advanced math, I decided to hang it up.  Could I have worked hard even though I thought I was at the bottom of the class in really comprehending the subject matter?  Sure.  But I did not care enough to do it.  I eventually after several changes ended up studying economics and finance, subjects I grew to love.

Celebrity worship seems to be rampant in our world today.  We look at those successful in movies, sports, or business and hold them in high esteem.  They all play notes that are worthy for others to hear.  We spend obscene amounts of money to watch and study these people.  Some of these have overcome tremendous struggles and have triumphed bravely.  Many times, we ordinary folks think that the success and characteristics of bravery they display are only for them.  But we are wrong.  It is for us.

Every one of us has the ability to play a note that is worth listening to; something that can turn the head of everyone and create an actual change in the world.  These change agents, or difference makers often are ordinary people with a dream and the desire to see something through till the end.  It was two ordinary brothers who saw their dream of flying through till they invented the airplane.  It was an ordinary lady who saw her dream through to sit at the front of the bus instead of at the back where people of her race were supposed to sit.  It was an ordinary man who led England and kept their spirit of never, never, never, never giving up in the darkest days of Nazi attacks. 

So the starting point in order to making a note that is truly worthy of others listening to, is to go “all in”.  If I were committed to the trumpet, I would have looked at the Marine player as something I could become and not an obstacle that I could never achieve.  If I had the desire, I could have worked hard enough to make it happen.  As it is, my trumpet sits in a dark corner somewhere in the house.

Going all in sometimes may mean eliminating the path of retreat.  Cortez the explorer, is famous for scuttling his ships once he brought his party to the new world in order to eliminate any possibility of retreat.  The only options came to succeed or die.  When those are your only options, that is the starting place where you can begin to create a note that is worthy for all to hear. 

So the question is what will it take you to go all in?  What changes do you need to make to your job, your character, or your life to set the stage for the world to hear a note they are starving to hear?  Or do you not care enough, like my trumpet playing, to be great?