When I was 7 years old, my parents gave me a special gift. It was a small, white, electric piano.
It was more of a toy than anything else, with terrible sound quality and powered by two AA batteries. Yet it had enough power to generate a painful experience early in my life.
I loved that little piano.
I carried it around because it was so small and portable. My preferred spot to sit and play was in the little tree-house in my backyard.
When I would sit in my tree-house and play, there was nothing but music. There was no self-consciousness. There was no ego. It was just music, and I was the conduit that let it flow.
I learned to translate the beautiful music in my mind into the finger movements that could cause a shadow of what I imagined to emerge in the wavering electronic sounds from my little piano.
My mother eventually noticed my music. My father was a penny pincher, but my mother insisted that piano lessons would be worth the expense.
I didn’t take well to piano lessons. It just wasn’t the same as letting the music flow through me. Piano lessons were too formal and structured for my liking.
Nonetheless, I cooperated with my mother’s plan. I learned the basics and one day in high school found myself invited to play at a recital for piano students at a nearby college.
I’ve never been comfortable with performance situations. I clam up. My hands seem like they belong to someone else, and I focus on my fear of failing.
The music dies. It stops frolicking in my mind and retreats to hide from the fearful focus of my anxious thoughts.
That’s what happened as I sat at the grand piano on stage, hundreds of music majors and professors of music gathered to hear their star pupils.
I felt fantastically inadequate. I did not belong. I suddenly felt angry at my mother for thrusting me into this uncomfortable situation.
Despite all this, my fingers began to play. The melody emerged as I focused on the technical qualities my piano teacher had asked me to display with this particular piece of music.
Then I froze.
My self-consciousness came flooding back as I recognized the hardest part of the musical piece. It was at the top of the next page, and I was just finishing the final notes of the page before it.
I felt the heat of the bright spotlight in my face. I projected myself into the minds of the college students in the audience, wondering who this little prick of a high school student thought he was showing up at a college recital.
A terrible noise jarred my senses.
The dissonant chords ripped my mind back to the music I was supposed to be playing.
I tried again. Nothing but noise.
I repositioned my fingers and tried the chord again. Still nothing but the noise one would expect from this chimpanzee who somehow got access to a grand piano.
For a moment, I froze in a terrible panic. It seemed I was stuck. My hands refused to play the melody I had practiced so many times.
I felt my face flush and my angry pulse ensured that I knew the seconds were ticking by as the audience sat in total silence.
Then something inside of me broke.
It was my ego, I think. I suddenly didn’t care. The ruse was up. I was clearly a fake. There was no longer any need to pretend I was a musician.
That’s when I remembered the music. It really was beautiful. I decided it deserved to be played. I thought about what it should sound like, and I ignored the paper in front of me.
I gave up on trying to make the right impression. I wished I was back in my treehouse, where the music was my friend…a fairy that danced around me, inviting me to hear the beauty in the music.
And suddenly I was grateful.
I was grateful for the beauty of music. At that moment, it seemed I would not be able to take my self-esteem home with me…but at least I could take the music.
So I played.
I played like I had never played before. Whoever remained seated at that bench, it wasn’t me. I was no longer present. I was the music. I focused on it so completely; I was filled with the joyful abundance of beauty that presents itself in music.
I wish I could have learned the lessons of an abundance mindset before that experience, but then I may not fully appreciate the power it holds.
Focusing on what you want displaces fear.
When my mind focused on the music I wanted to hear, my fingers obeyed. As long as my mind had been focused on the fear of failure…desperate to control my fate…the music was crowded out.
Mind what you focus on. In your relationships, focus on what you want. The things you appreciate.
Do this, and the best in you will shine.
During the lesson. All of the way home mother griped at me for not playing just the way Mrs Thompson told me to. My mother did not play any instrument, & not had the lesdond. What you had to say reminded me of 5 year me, my nervous body took piano lessons mainly for my mother. She paid for them. She sat in the room while I had my lesson.& all of the drive home, she would nag at me for not taking the lesson seriously. I was not, according to her, playing the way she would if she had ever had lessons.
She is the one who should gave taken the piano lessons and left me alone. I still get dick thinking about that. I discovered that my husband went through something similar. What a shame. He now us bipolar, music was not the cause but I don’t think it helped. He moved out 10 years ago though we remain married.
Thanks for your inspiring blog about freezing while playing. I play flute and love the sound. I can easily play the high notes with beautiful tone. Yet when asked to do a solo I generally freeze because I want to be perfect and set myself up for failure. Practice practice practice for the love of music is my answer I guess.
I always read what you have written James. I am truly grateful for your insightful thoughts.
Thank you James for this, its inspiring
Its all about the music! What a beautiful and insightful share. Getting out of stuck. Abundance. Appreciative for this example and you’re right, it feels oh so good to move in this way. And what’s not to love about that boy, his little keyboard and the magic of a treehouse. Shine on!
James: I truly want to thank you for your writings. I enjoy them so very much. You have certainly inspired me to be all that I can be. I keep all of your encouraging words of wisdom, and the timely explanations of how to treat our partners. They have certainly served to keep me intact in all ways of my relationship. Thank you so much and God bless you as you continue to inspire so many of us.
Thank you, Lois. There is no greater reward for me than encouraging words like these. Thank you for fueling my motivation with your kind words and participation.
Something I really needed to ‘hear’ today – thank you. 🙂
Thank you, James! That was a beautiful story you shared, and you are much appreciated! Kindly, Tamara Dawn
This story deeply touched my heart and gave me a new perception in a lot of areas. You are a blessed and talented writer. You are a great inspiration.
I have those exact moments stashed away in my memories , mine was a small cottage and I was a dancer and well a super hero in a dancers body. But the point is no one could stop the music in me . They can not like my work but that fear of someone stealing my music is gone. So I dance!
Thank you James for your whole blog and how you express your feelings. The piece about the piano playing was perfect to relate to so many who feel the same. I have a voice and love to sing but it’s hard for me to do that freely in front of others. Now I can do that without fear.
Thank you for all your advice that has helped me more than you know.
Sometimes when we write a blog we cannot see all those that read what you write and how it affects them. Be assured you have a great way of helping others
Wow! That means a lot to me. Thank you.
Beautiful story! I also was growing up playing piano as my mother brought a piano and wanted me to play for her everyday. My piano teacher was very tough, she had the annual concert for her and her students every year. My fear playing piano on the stage is exactly it as you wrote, feeling numb with fingers and ears just hearing broken tv noises. I felt I’m playing for my mother and my teacher, so my thoughts go out to them to play for audiences. Had they care if I liked? My 11 years of playing piano ended in my high school time. I begged my mother to give me my time for myself and I finally was heard and that that wasn’t for me. It is important to break fear being on the stage in front of audiences, although you have to have your passion and love what you do to keep the talent.
Totally awesome and great advice and stories that we relate to and are “common sense.”
James, I always read your mails because I bought your materials like a year ago when I thought my marriage was over and I was looking for something to help me stay. I have never been good at internet using but that day I saw your add and decided to give it a try, I remember that I listen to the hole audiobook in a day and by the time my husband got back from work I already had some of the advices in my mind so I put them at practice right away and the result has been amazing, I just don’t know if you realize how good your work is but I feel that I have so much to thank you, for my kids and myself, please keep on doing what you do and don’t change the way you express your ideas. It is so profesional and easy at the same time. I want you to know that I wish The best in life for you and also that I keep my audiobook as a precious treasure in my smartphone and I play it every time I need to remind myself of something. I hope this is not your only work and that soon you would give us some more of what you really have a gift on.
Thank you, Mary. Your comment made my day. I write for people like you.
Wow….Mona in little Norway here..I just needed to leave a comment on this cause both James’ story and the WONDERFUL reply from YOU, Mary left me in tears here. I was SO moved and it touched my soul! I have to continue singing when I get my energy a bit more up. Thank you endlessly both of you.
Sincere greetings from Mona. ♡
I agree 110%! My past relationship failures had left me paralyzed in fear of even the thought of allowing myself the opportunity to love or be loved….until I began to read and listen to your advice. Now, taking baby steps, I am regaining confidence and trust in myself and others who want to have closer relationships with me. It’s been a very enlightening and rewarding journey. It seems I had a bit of tweaking to adjusting my thoughts, attitudes, and expectations in relationships and within myself. The results have been so abundantly positive and I am optimistic about dating and deeper relationships again; whereas before, I was skittish and unpredictable. Often running away from intimacy and connection. Now, I am creating a deep bond with a wonderful wholesome gentleman and I look forward to what the future holds for us. Thank you from the bottom of my heart James. Your help has been enormous for me and for all of my significant relationships!
Thank you…I REALLY needed this today! I am greatful! L
What an amazing account from your life you have shared. A lesson for us all. How wonderful each individual soul is!
I love your use of analogy to make your points!!! Thank you for the advice!
Great story James! Thank you for sharing!
Such a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing!
I loved this article and how you managed to become aware of the ego and not let it take over you. Can’t wait to read about the abundance mindset. I need to get to that mindset as recently I’ve been experiencing that I’m more focusing on the lack in my life and I know I have to shift it.