On Friday afternoon, Tim Grahl’s newly published book Running Down a Dream arrived. It was still warm from the printing press. It is that new!
I eagerly opened the package, flipped to the first page, and started reading. I finished it three hours later. It was that good!
Tim shares 20 practical tools that helped him while running down his dream. I didn’t think I would need his toolkit quite so soon. Was I ever wrong!
Producing and sharing creative content “in the open” via a blog, website, YouTube, Facebook, etc, is an excellent way to connect with readers and/or listeners.
Invariably, you will face rejection or criticism. It may even happen sooner than you think.
This happened to Tim. When he started sharing content on his website, he mentioned that a handful of people pounced on him. He shares a great analogy: “It was like waiting for a baby to take her first couple of steps and then immediately pushing her over. Who does that? […] Even now, thinking back to those times still makes me angry” (page 71).
How I Benefitted From Tim’s Toolkit
Four and a half years ago, I fulfilled a 20-year dream. I purchased a used, upright piano and found a great teacher. I have since upgraded to a grand piano, and continue weekly lessons.
Three months ago, I started a thread in a piano technique Facebook page encouraging members to do a 40-piece piano challenge with me. Within one year, the goal is to play 40 pieces for the purpose of improving your technique and increasing your repertoire. The post has generated hundreds of comments and numerous people are doing the challenge. The group has 20,000 followers so if you post a piece, you are opening yourself up to criticism.
A week ago, I shared my fifth piece. I couldn’t play the piece a year ago so I was excited to share my progress. I am a firm believer in celebrating life’s small wins. Over time, small wins become big wins.
Today, I received a comment I perceived as negative from a piano teacher within the group. With that first comment, I felt deflated, didn’t want to play the piano anymore, and wondered if I should even bother. It’s amazing how one negative comment can make you question your dream. The dialogue is as follows:
Feedback: I think you really need to work on strengthening those fingers as they sound very weak. The performance also has no dynamic variation whatsoever. Do you have a teacher?
My response: Thanks so much for the constructive feedback. Yes, I have a teacher who I see every week. This piece, like everything I am learning, is a work in progress.
Feedback: Did your teacher mention anything about basic technique and dynamics yet?
My response: She did. I posted this piece before she had a chance to hear it.
Reading her comments really stung. I envisioned her sneering behind her computer. I proceeded to analyze everything she wrote. Were my fingers really that weak? Last year, I couldn’t even play this piece. Now I can. Doesn’t that count for something? Did I have dynamics? I did, but sometimes they are hard to hear on a cell phone recording. Of course, I have a teacher! How rude of her to ask! Wait!! Am I that bad that it seems I don’t have a teacher? Why yes! I know about basic technique! I didn’t start lessons yesterday. My face grew red, I started to become angry, and I walked away from the piano.
I needed Tim’s help. I flipped to the toolkit at the back of the book and found two tools to help me through this situation.
Tool 9: Find the Right Kind Of Criticism
Tim advises his readers to, “ignore 99% of criticism that comes your way. My rule: I only accept criticism from people I know care about me. […] Ignore online criticism. Instead, focus on the handful of people who love you and are willing to tell you the truth” (page 198).
I decided that the only person I will accept constructive criticism from is my teacher. When I surprised her with the piece in question, we played the duet and she suggested I play it for an upcoming recital. Maybe it wasn’t so poor after all.
Tool 13: Realize You Are Supposed To Suck
Tim begins this section by saying that, “Anytime you start heaping shame and despair on yourself, step back and remember that you are still learning. Yes, you are not where you want to be, but you are on your way” (page 201).
I took Tim’s advice. Maybe I do suck at playing the piano. Even if I do, so what? I am still learning. The person commenting knows nothing about me or my progress. Besides, I am only 4.5 years into this journey. I am not planning to become a piano teacher. I am not, nor will ever be, a concert pianist. That isn’t my goal. I play for my own enjoyment and I love encouraging other adults to learn. One day, when my teacher says I am ready, I plan to become a music therapy volunteer at our local cancer treatment center.
Even though I am still bitter about the comment, I am thankful for Tim’s toolkit to help me overcome life’s hurdles. I know I will reference the book again.
Don’t let others smash your dreams with rejection or criticism. Keep those you trust close by. Keep moving forward towards your ideal life! You really can do it!
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