Hard work, Disappointment and Learning Life Lessons

Life is a harsh teacher, it gives the test first and the lesson afterwards.

Every once in a while I mention my 12-year-old daughter in my blogs.  (You can check out some earlier ones here, here and here.)  As we travel along this unknowable journey called life we have a number of successes and failures.  As an adult it is easier to see both as “lessons” but to a child or young adult it’s not so clear that there is a lesson inside the experience.  Sometimes it just hurts.

Stephanie has been playing and studying the violin since she was six years old and has done extremely well, passing her Grade 8 violin exam with distinction when she was ten and has even played a very difficult violin solo (Sarasate’s Ziegenerweissen: Gypsy Airs) in front of 1500 people.  And recently she won an internal competition at the Royal College of Music Junior Department.

Naturally she was pretty high from these experiences.  We talked about the lessons learned and she came to the conclusion that practice improves confidence and confidence improves your ability to perform at a high standard.  Okay, so much for the positive lessons. They tend to be the easy ones.

Throughout her six years of playing the violin she has been plagued with intonation challenges.  What that means is that the notes are not quite on center when she presses her finger down on the strings running along the neck (fingerboard) of the violin.  Thus the note is slightly out of tune.  Good intonation is the lifelong challenge of all violinists and a constant struggle.

She recently had a consultation with a highly recommended violin teacher and heard words she really didn’t want to hear.  Her bow hand wrist is too stiff and her fingering hand collapses, thus significantly impacting intonation.  To fix this technical flaw in her playing requires some remedial work on scales, specific studies and a few classical pieces that require the proper techniques she is currently missing.

Well, the world came crashing down.  I can’t think of another person I know who hasn’t had at least one similar highly disappointing experience.  You thought you were making excellent progress only to learn you were moving towards a dead-end and needed to back up and take a different path.

The real question is, are these failures or learning opportunities?

It is easy to sit here and say that of course it is a learning opportunity.  Try telling that to a sobbing 12-year-old!

We are not certain what the best approach to this situation is but for now we have decided that love, support and encouragement, as well as time for her to sort it out herself, seems to be the best path.

As an individual how do you handle setbacks?  As a parent? And as a business executive how do you handle the setbacks of poor performance from your staff or company?

I have a feeling the solution might be the same in all cases.

Tight Lines . . .

John R Childress

E | john@johnrchildress.com      T | +44 207 584 3774      M | +44 7833 493 999

About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. Between 1974 and 1978 John was Vice President for Education and a senior workshop leader with PSI World, Inc. a public educational organization. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress currently resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at john@johnrchildress.com or john.childress@theprincipiagroup.com
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