Second Place


Danneskjold

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From the Nathaniel Branden quote,
[One] misconception—[regarding "self-esteem"]—is the belief that the measure of our personal worth is our external achievements. This is an understandable error to make but it is an error nonetheless. We admire achievements, in ourselves and in others, and it is natural and appropriate to do so. But this is not the same thing as saying that our achievements are the measure or grounds of our self-esteem. The root of our self-esteem is not our achievements per se but those internally generated practices that make it possible for us to achieve. How much we will achieve in the world is not fully in our control. An economic depression can temporarily put us out of work. A depression cannot take away the resourcefulness that will allow us sooner or later to find another or go into business for ourselves. "Resourcefulness" is not an achievement in the world (although it may result in that); it is an action in consciousness—and it is here that self-esteem is generated.

I couldn't have any self-esteem if I didn't strive for perfection. It's not in me to not try my hardest at everything I care about.

Excellent; dedication, passion, persistence, and a respect for high standards are all very good ways to approach the challenges we face in life, but take care to notice that the point is, "The root of our self-esteem is not our achievements per se but those internally generated practices that make it possible for us to achieve. How much we will achieve in the world is not fully in our control."

There is no reason in the world for you to be "satisfied" with second-place, or to not strive to constantly improve yourself, but whether or not you achieve first-place or mastery in any given thing shouldn't be tied to your own self-worth or your ability to experience happiness. There are people, after all, who are highly successful in their fields, and yet for a variety of reasons tend to experience no happiness, no self-worth; surely this isn't self-esteem, or something even to be admired?

Also, learning to cope effectively (i.e. not beating yourself up) with the frustration you naturally feel at missing the mark, is just another skill and achievement...

RCR

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take care to notice that the point is, "The root of our self-esteem is not our achievements per se but those internally generated practices that make it possible for us to achieve.

What he said. That's what I was trying to say but couldn't quite find the right words to say.

Judith

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Second place is failure when first place was achievable. If you gave it your all, that really is first place. There is always someone better than you in one respect or another. He might get second place and you third, but if you gave your all and he didn't then he failed and you didn't. Also, failures are the foundation for subsequent success. The baby doesn't give up trying to walk because he keeps falling down, crawl to a corner and curl up into a ball of depression thinking he'll never be able to hack it and suffer the effects of low self-esteem. Competition is also about building mental muscles, the true source of self-esteem. To define oneself in relation to others is a basic mistake leading to secondhandism. A competitor is only a training aid and a yardstick. The rest is self-referential.

--Brant

Who said a thing in the world about crawling into a corner and curling up. I hate failure, but I'm not weak. I forge through it, and I continue to strive towards perfection.

Jeff, sorry if you thought I was particularly addressing you; I wasn't. I could have made that clearer. I was trying to speak generically.

--Brant

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On a sort of different note,

Jeff,

I have walked into my dressing room after conducting a concert where the audience was still applauding and calling for encore and spit in the mirror, so I know exactly what you mean. (I have also conducted a few times where I knew I could do no better and there is nothing on earth like that feeling.) That is why I said I can understand.

Michael - you're a conductor?!?! *glows*

~Elizabeth

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Elizabeth,

I used to be a conductor and trombonist in Brazil. It has been years since I put down the baton (and the horn). I left the orchestra to do pop music (produce shows and records) and motion pictures. Then I melted down with booze and drugs and left the arts for translations to clean up. There I did about 35,000 pages of technical stuff in all major fields and practically got a second education. Then I did some lobbying work in Brazil. Now I do an Obectivist website while I am writing my first book and waiting for some results to come in from some previous deals in South America.

If I ever conduct again, it will only be my own music, or it will be an exception. I am too busy writing these days to think about memorizing scores and playing the game to get concerts. But, I am getting the itch to do something in music again...

(btw - I am aware of your creative stuff and the positive feedback you are getting, but I have refused to hear/read it so far because once I do, I will delve into it and become diverted from a present task. I love creative work by the talented too much and it distracts me from all else. As soon as I finish my present task, I will go deep into your stuff. I think you will like it. Ask Victor about what I do, when I do it.)

Michael

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Elizabeth,

If there is one thing that Michael and I have in common it is a strong love and respect for talent...and a basic indifference or odium for mediocrity, depending on the context.

I am currently undertaking to write a novel called The Hungry Artist. I am also to complete a book called Icons and Idols—which I am both writer and visual artist. What a Herculean task, but I love the arts. I love what I do. I love creativity with a fervent passion. I have struggled with my craft and try to undertake whatever I love with a disciplined seriousness.

Creative writing is a second hat to me. I am first and foremost a visual artist. Michael was kind enough to provide a detailed and precision-like analysis of the first chapter for The Hungry Artist. His feed-back made a lot of sense and left me feeling “but of course, he is right!” The advice given covered general principles that I can now carry over into any written work. God knows we don’t always agree when it comes to the arts, but his advice regarding my written work has been very valuable to me.

I’m not sure of the details of what creative enterprise you are undertaking. Please let me know. And if Michael is helping you at all...you are very fortunate indeed.

-Victor

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Michael and Victor,

Okay,

first,

AWESOME?!?

It is such a lift and an inspiration simply to know that you people exist! I feel like a little window just snapped open, allowing me to catch a glimpse of how I always wanted my life to be.

Michael, how difficult was it getting work in the music scene - both classical and otherwise? I'm incredibly interested in what you've done, since that's more or less what I'm aiming for myself.

All the more coincidental with the two of you, I'm also in love with creative writing and aim to be a published author in the near future. Whenever people ask me what I want to do, I automatically respond, "be a composer" - I sort of forget to mention "be an author" as well because I've always taken that future of mine for granted. I can't imagine a time in my life when I didn't want to be and know I was going to be a writer. However, I'm so incredibly busy with school and piano and work and everything that I haven't had much of a chance to write more than a paragraph or two of description or jot down story ideas. I was working on a novella over the summer but that has been put on hold. . . it's all very depressing. =( But I'd love feedback - especially the kind you described, Victor - on the little I've written.

Victor, my creative enterprises are at this time, unfortunately, rather inchoate. I sometimes wish I could drop out of school just to stay home to write fiction and music! However, I do manage to churn out a few pieces every several months or so, and have been getting my school orchestra to perform some of them. Some of my friends in college are going into film and so I've done some music for their class assignment shorts (very exciting since I mainly want to be a film composer). I've got samples of some of my music on my acid planet account:

http://www.acidplanet.com/artist.asp?songs=450345&T=9640

And, Michael, it's really not all that much to delve into, so I don't think it would too too distracting! However - how am I to know what may or may not distract you? *shrug* In any case, any and all feedback is MORE than welcome.

~Elizabeth

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Elizabeth,

You won't distract me from being bad or mediocre. My present task is like a torture chamber and I fight myself to stay focused. Give me a pretty piece of music or some interesting literature to read and discuss and I lose several hours before I get back to the grind.

I have done some beautiful things and some horrible things in life, but I have always had a habit of completing my projects once they have been undertaken in earnest. So do not think of this small delay as any reflection on you.

About getting ahead in music, here is a piece of advice I got in Boston when I was studying at BU. I used to play in a hockey band directed by a trombonist, Ed Madden. This guy, in addition to being in the business since the big-band era, was a songwriter who wrote the lyrics to "By the light of the silvery moon." I had read Atlas Shrugged for the first time about a year before a hockey game where I went into Randroid mode bitching about politics in the music industry. He asked what I meant. I said that people call you for gigs based more on who you know than on how you play.

Now you have to understand that I admired this man enormously as a sort of hero in order to understand the impact his following words had on me. In a very angry tone, he suddenly bellowed out, "ARE YOU CRAZY? WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH YOU? OF COURSE SOMEONE HAS TO KNOW YOU BEFORE THEY WILL HIRE YOU! HOW ARE THEY GOING TO HIRE YOU IF THEY DON'T KNOW YOU?"

My ears turned beet red and I wanted to crawl into the bell of my trombone and curl up around the spit valve stay there until I died from being poisoned by the gunk inside the horn.

But he was right. Networking is a very important part of a musical career. Do not be afraid to make contacts, be very pleasant to them and use them. This is not being Peter Keating if you are competent. It is having a good marketing plan. No contacts, no gigs. That's reality.

The hard part for me (even today) is to listen to a lot of bullshit and not react (and there is oodles of bs in the music business since vanity runs rampant). Often you have to ask yourself what your priorities are—if keeping your trap shut is the same as selling out, or if it is simply not blowing an opportunity over some minor point that no one will remember later. For instance, my conducting master was Maestro Eleazar de Carvalho. He gave me private lessons in conducting for 3 years—all without charge. (He said he would have to charge me more than my orchestra wages could pay, or charge me nothing.) His lessons were about 60% mind games, 10% neutral and 30% pure gold.

I took the gold and kept my mouth shut about the rest. Nowadays I can still remember the gold and I find it difficult to remember the bs.

Michael

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Elizabeth,

I would like to offer another bit of advice about making it into whatever creative career you undertake: watch the other people—your peers, and be better than them. What do you I mean by this?

Let me illustrate my point (pun intended):

I was commissioned to do a caricature of Hollywood director Ron Howard, who was in town a few years ago shooting Cinderella Man starring Russell Crowe and Renée Zellweger. The heads at the Toronto Film Studio wanted to get Ron Howard a gift for his 50th birthday (which is March 1) and they approached me and I got the commission.

The story to how they came to select me is interesting.

I later learned that they had first approached another very popular Toronto illustrator who completed a few sketches, but the studio heads were not too pleased. Curious, I asked why they selected me over this other gentleman who is more of a “bigger name” than I am. They complained that, while having excellent drawing skills, his concepts where lame. The studio heads wanted a caricature that would encapsulate Ron Howard’s entire career—from childhood actor to award winning director. The artist merely rendered Howard sitting in a director’s chair with an old-fashion loud speaker blowing out direction to actors. This failed to achieve what the studio heads envisioned in commemorating the Howard's career. This illustrator was lazy and relied on a tired cliché. Where is the goddamn creativity and artistry?

Now, they had heard that I am known for “conceptual caricatures" and illustrations and was asked how I would capture and freeze -- in a single rendering -- Howard’s incredible career. (I kept the Randian principle to “concretize my abstractions”—and that is what visual art is about).

Here is what I came up with:

The rendering, highlighting Howard’s career — noting his freckled-face turn as Opie Taylor in The Andy Griffith Show to portraying Ritchie Cunningham on Happy Days to moving on to feature films with roles in American Graffiti and his numerous times behind the camera as a director. This span goes from 1960 to 1995.

My “concretization” was done via a rail road train. Yep, you heard me--a rail road train! I have the beginning of the train going waaaaay back and then the viewer moves forward (which is the locomotive part) and one can see each caboose capturing different aspects of Howard’s career and the famous director is up front and center. He’s got greater things to look forward to. He is moving on. He’s moving forward and the train cabooses behind Howard reflect past glories because each caboose has “graffiti” on it "crediting" his career. For example, the tail caboose has written on it the words The Andy Griffith Show and like wise with the other cabooses. (Damn, I wish I could just show you the picture, that is worth a thousand posting words).

The abstraction was a life in show business and to concretize this was one hell of a task. But I am thankful to Rand.

The picture was presented to Howard the night of the Academy Awards, when a special pre-birthday celebration was held for him. Howard could hardly concentrate on the rest of the Oscar night because he was always going back and looking at it and chuckling and making further commentary on some detail of the painting.

Now the point of this little story is to strive for excellence. Be better than your peers. Be better than who you are today. This is not a Peter Keating trip—because Keating merely gave the impression-- where you and I need to be the reality. It is okay to know who your industry competitors are and to do something better than what the standard has proven to be. People will want to hire you for it.

-Victor

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I've got samples of some of my music on my acid planet account:

http://www.acidplanet.com/artist.asp?songs=450345&T=9640

E, I'm wondering if you've tried posting any of your music on http://www.garageband.com? It is a good site for getting feedback on your work. They have a nice system for reviews, and I tend to get much better response there than on Acid Planet.

RCR

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