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Setting Your Own Hoops January 21, 2011

Posted by Beth in Education, Personal.
Tags: ,

My daughter is trying to decide whether or not to take two AP classes next year.

The work is demanding, although not particularly enriching or even of clear educational value. Yet—to take the “regular” courses is to be separated from the bright, motivated and more responsible kids in the school. Yet—the shear volume of work will make it difficult for her to have the time to let her musical creativity blossom.

The decision is hers, and it is not an easy one. What I am trying to help her do is to make the decision based on her own goals. To let her know that she can take the harder classes, and get whatever she wants to get out of them, i.e. not stress about the grades–or she can take the less challenging courses and concentrate on activities which are more meaningful for her.

The fundamental point which came to me and that I hope she can understand and accept is that school is a tool for her to help her reach the goals she sets for herself. It is not a measure of her intelligence, or competence, or worth as an individual. The grades are important only as the means to achieve what she wants to achieve in her own life.

The world is full of people who can successfully jump through hoops—-hoops that others create and set the standards for.

What the world needs more of are people capable of identifying and generating their own values. People who are able to take their own measure and ask questions like: Does school measure up to my standards, my needs, my values…rather than do I measure up to theirs.

This is not to say that external measurements are worthless, only that they must be held in the context of one’s own personal goals, values and standards.

This is one of the gifts our friend Auri gave to those who were lucky enough to know him. He not only set his own hoops, he spent his life helping others set theirs.  Gently. Lovingly. Truly an inspiration. Thanks, Auri.


1. John Dick - January 27, 2011

A very thought-provoking and well expressed posting. As any of us may remember about our own teen years (or even early twenties), there always seemed to be that lingering pressure to be what every one else around us (parents, peers, teachers, bosses, etc.) wanted us to be instead of pursuing our own values and becoming what we might have wanted ourselves. And, most of these people in our lives had good intentions in wanting a say in our futures, even if it were the wrong suggestions or motivated by their own unknown personal desires, because many were nonetheless sincere in offering advice.

However, no matter how sincere others may be in offering advice and ideas, we must still hold to our own individual rational ideas and values of what is important in the long run for our own lives. This can be extremely hard to figure out in our teens to early twenties.

I highly applaud your approach, ideas and advice to your daughter in helping her explore, discover and formulate what is truly important to her and her independent pursuit of values — especially learning to set her own life and her own mind as her guiding standard of value in all her eventual endeavors.

Though I have never experienced parenthood, I can relate somewhat to the decisions your daughter is facing, and will continue to face in life. I too have a great passion for music in my own life, and as a teen-ager desired to pursue music composition full-time after high school. But many adults around me whom I highly respected suggested that while to have such dreams for music were important, it is always safe to have “something else to fall back on” just in case. So, being the naïve teen I was (and not having the advice you are now giving to your daughter), I proceeded to try to do both, music and “something else to fall back on.”

Unfortunately, I spent a lot of my early productive years pursuing “something else to fall back on” (civil engineering) instead of pursuing the music I so desired. So, music became something that drifted in and out of my life for years.

Don’t misunderstand me — the years I worked in the civil engineering field have been financially rewarding, intellectually challenging, and professionally satisfying. But, I don’t think I ever quite experienced that complete feeling of true passion for my engineering work that I can still feel anytime I sit down at my piano to play what music I have composed for myself over the years. Life is not always fair, but it can still be made good. And, eventually I bought my own piano and I still compose music.

However, there are times when I wonder what if I had been able to ignore what others had thought best for me years ago and instead worked hard only at my music career for my own independent pursuit of happiness, “held in the context of (my) own personal goals, values and standards.”

My point is that while we adults might be sincerely motivated and tempted to “strongly” offer our own help, advice, ideas and directions to our young enthusiastic teens and adults because we see their potential and we have “experience” on our side, we must temper our own desires to direct their lives with reason, rational thinking, and the fact that these young people also have their own independent minds, desires, and career passions — and this must be respected and nurtured properly.

From my own musical perspective, I offer this insight: if your daughter decides to pursue music for a living, whatever aspect of music she decides to follow, PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE, and then PRACTICE again — and you’ll do very well. Finally, here is a quote from a very dear friend of mine, who lost his life to cancer in 2010, regarding the pursuit of a career:

“In the context of pursuing rational values, it is always best to follow that passion which makes one feel most alive at living.” — Mick O’Connell.

Again, Beth, though challenging, I think your approach to this most important period in your daughter’s life is to be applauded. Bravo.

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