My family and I recently took a trip up to Washington State, and during our stay, we spent a few days in downtown Seattle. If you have been to Seattle, you know the buzz and energy that surrounds Pike Place Market. If you ever intend on visiting Seattle, this is something that must be experienced. It is a thriving hub of people, food, shops, live music, art, and culture.
There are many street performers through the streets, and most of them are really good, but some of them are great. There was one act that we saw where I truly felt that I witnessed greatness. There was a piano player who had an upright piano set up right at the main entrance to the public market. He was playing his heart out for the gathering crowd. He was playing unlike any piano player I’ve seen, and he was ALL IN. Between each song he would quickly stand up and address the crowd: “My name is Jeffrey Circus and these are all original songs, I hope you enjoy your day, this song is…”.
Not only was his skill level extremely high, but he brought an attitude of gratefulness and encouragement to his performance. In the midst of playing out of his mind on the keys, he still made sure to acknowledge anyone who tipped with a quick “Thank You”, which is hard to do while maintaining your focus; for some people, saying thank you for anything is hard!
This experience for us only lasted two songs before we had to leave, but the impact of that moment continued. I began to wonder how much time this young man had put into learning the piano. At what point did he become confident enough to perform?What were the steps to transitioning from someone who could perform to someone who could captivate an audience?
As a musician, I know how hard it is to develop at an instrument beyond the base understanding. I remember the hours and years spent practicing how to play guitar well, and the following years it took trying to figure out how to sing at the same time, especially since I didn’t know how to sing. I remember the time, the frustration, the pain, and perseverance needed to get better. I remember the fear of learning how to perform in front of others, and how to engage people through songs. So when I come across a musician like this guy, who is playing miles beyond what I can currently accomplish, I could only imagine the level of dedication it has taken him to become who he is now.
Perhaps for you, music doesn’t move you the same as me, but I know that something inspires you. Whether it is a good book, athlete, speaker, movie, teacher, chef, or parent; we will all encounter moments of inspiration. How will you respond to those moments? How do moments like that make you feel? I know that there is spark that takes place, but is it a spark of inspiration, or a spark of inferiority? Do you feel empowered to become more, or do you find yourself feeling like less?
I have been on both side of that impact. I have always leaned more toward inspiration when experiencing greatness, but at times, I have also felt like less because I don’t view myself as someone who can accomplish greatness. I don’t know if one response is right or wrong, good or bad; but I do know that there is benefit to believing that we are capable of greatness. I believe that each one of us should feel the push toward being more rather than being less.
Here’s an excerpt from the book The Power of Positive Thinking:
…change your mental habits to belief instead of disbelief. Learn to expect, not to doubt. In so doing you bring everything into the realm of possibility.
Step one toward achieving greatness is to have a belief in yourself. The path towards mastery is paved with a strong mind. Be intentional about the thoughts that we feed our brain, and be ready to combat the thoughts of self doubt with thoughts of self worth. If you are like me, then we must learn to become an optimistic thinker in times of adversity; we must rewire our brain to see obstacles as opportunities.
Make the time and take the time to practice. Mindset alone will not increase our skillset, but it will keep us moving forward. I know without a shadow of a doubt that the Seattle piano player had put in some practice. I’d be willing to bet that he had some painfully frustrating moments along the way as he tried to break through each new level of skill, or learning a new technique. As a relationship grows with time, so do our abilities.
As a parent, I now understand what I must have put my parents through each time I wanted to quit whatever I was working on. Whether it was building a Lego fortress, playing catch, soccer, piano, guitar; the list goes on, and there were points in each of those learning experiences that I got frustrated and wanted to quit. My parents didn’t push me because they liked to see me frustrated, but they pushed me because they knew that if I could learn to practice and find purpose in the process of learning, nothing I would come across in life would be impossible to overcome. This leads me to the next point.
Do the work, even when it hurts. It is work to excel. Speaking, writing, and reading are some of the fundamentals we start young, and it takes a lifetime of working on these to become masters. Expanding our vocabulary, improving our speed and creativity in writing, and becoming an efficient and understanding reader all take hard work. Your brain will hurt, your eyes will hurt, your hands will hurt; but each hour spent honing these skills, are hours invested toward becoming great. In running, there are a lot of walls you must break through, whether you want speed, endurance, or both; you will be met with pain throughout the journey, but the joy of the experience is worth it. Running a mile can be torture until you get to the point that you can run three. Running three miles can feel like torture until you have run six. The more work you put in, the longer the thresholds of joy will be; and in that joy, you may find the strength to move forward toward greatness.
It starts yesterday. We already have foundations strengths and talents inside of us, so in a way, we are already on our path to greatness. What energizes you? What creates a spark inside of you? These are the questions to start your journey to greatness. It started yesterday, so let’s start today.
Now please take a moment to be inspired, and watch a clip of Jeffrey Circus in his element: Jeffrey Circus the Seattle Piano Player