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Listening to others...

Everyman has his own destiny. The only imperative is to follow it, to accept it no matter where it leads him.

Henry Miller

Searching for a means to "know" has become quite popular. Various books suggesting methods to find one's inner peace and soul's desire have been written. Visualizing, saying affirmations, praying, following inspirational speakers may work for a period of time. However, there can be many psychological blocks such as low self-esteem, thoughts of unworthiness, negative self-talk or other blocking beliefs about oneself that are very deep within and may prevent any lasting positive effects.

In her book On Becoming Fearless, Arianna Huffington talks about the "critic within." This critic's voice is loud and clear to many people who have no difficulty hearing it. It's easy to hear "you can't do it," "you're not good enough," "I'm not safe," "I'm ugly," "I'm too fat,"...endless negative self talk that keeps you stuck. Why is it so easy to drown out the knowing voice we should be listening to in order to convince ourselves we're such losers? Why do we fall victim to the pressures imposed upon us by others for their satisfaction and not our own?

Listening to others telling you what opportunities you should pay attention to usually turns out to be a mistake. Their advice, although well-meaning, is more about them than it is about you. Most parents feel they know what their children should do with their lives. They may want you to do what they never had the chance to do. They may want you to go into the family business. They may want you to be something they think is impressive or could reap financial rewards. And since parents are supposed to know best, you may follow their directions, paying no attention to your own very deep desires.

On the other hand, if you do manage to recognize that inner craving, you might dismiss it by telling yourself that it's impossible because you can't finance it, or your idea is criticized by others, or there seems to be no apparent opportunity. There may also be times when you believe you do know, you try it but fail and give up. However, if the urge continues, pay attention to it. Regardless of failure or little opportunity or lack of funds, it will continue to try to push you toward your true destiny.


Larry Russell

Jazz Musician - The Larry Russell Quartet

Presently living and playing in Mexico City

I began clarinet lessons at the age of 9. A year later I heard, for the first time, a recording by soprano saxophonist Sidney Bechet on the radio and I knew I was destined to become a jazz musician. My parents had absolutely no influence over my choice. Even though I filled our home with jazz music, they said nothing. They both grew up with no guidance and therefore gave me none as well. I made my own decisions and selected New York's Juilliard Conservatory of Music instead of a Liberal Arts college as my friends were choosing. I passed the performance exam at Juilliard but, although I was voted "Outstanding Musician" of my high school and represented my school in the All Star New England States High School Symphony for three years, I had no schooling in the study of harmony and theory. My clarinet teacher, the first clarinetist with the Coast Guard Academy Band, advised me to brush up on the history and development of Western music for the written part of the exam. Although I knew what Mozart and Beethovan ate for breakfast and other details about both, I knew nothing of the rules of harmony. The test began with "Write an A minor seventh chord." It might as well have been in Chinese. After receiving praise for my audition performance I was urged to study harmony and theory and apply again next semester. Disappointed but determined I wrote to the New England Conservatory enclosing a copy of my rejection letter from Juilliard and was accepted with the condition I get a tutor along with my regular classes in order to catch up, which I did. My parents left it all to me, never helping, never voicing an opinion.

I don't know exactly how I new, but as far as I was concerned there was no choice. I was born to be a musician and I feel blessed that at age 87 I continue to make a living as a jazz musician and music teacher.

(Russell and his quartet are revered by jazz lovers and continue playing in Mexico City today.)


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