I have received a few questions about career and about making professional choices. These questions bother our university students as well as our high school students and their parents. Many parents are worried when their children show serious interest in music or any other field that requires devotion at a young age and may take the child’s attention away from pure academics.
My first answer to these questions is that the job market is so difficult nowadays that people have better chances to succeed if they do something they are really passionate about. In the introduction to my book Mr. Karr Would You Teach Me How to Drive a Double Bass, I talk about the first time I heard Maestro Karr “sing” on his bass. I knew right away, I wanted exactly that.
So what I tell my students is, that professional life is like juggling: there are three balls in the game, usually only one is on top at any given moment. The first and most obvious ball is making a living. Everyone needs to make a living and there is not much to say about that. The second, and probably the most important and often overlooked one, is our love and passion for what we do. This ball reminds us why we are in our profession, it is the things we do because we love to do, because we’re passionate about and not because we have to. What I love to do is to “sing” beautiful melodies on my double bass. I love the sound and I love the physical sensation. I also love teaching and working with people.
The third ball is what we call career. This is probably the most complicated one because it is hard to define. Career is one’s place in the food chain of his or her professional world. Where I am in my career is what enables me to make choices and it is maybe what determines the price that I charge for my work. Career is managing my own professional life. Career is sometimes doing something which I do not particularly like and even does not necessarily pay that much, because it is good to have on my resume, it is good for my reputation. It sounds terrible, but when we are young we tend to overlook this ball.
Another mistake we make when we are young is to view all three balls as one. We imagine that we will immediately find the work that will pay us a lot of money and will make us happy and will also move us one step higher everyday in our career. Even when one becomes very famous, not every concert is really inspirational and at the same time pays a lot of money and at the same time is really important to add to the resume. It is okay to do something for either reason as long as we know why we do it. The secret is to know which ball is on top at any given moment.
Our main goal is to keep the balls rolling in the air in perfect balance, for as long as we can. Juggling is really fun!
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