You don’t have to be a star to do what you love, which is important to remember since we often associate brilliance with those who are living their dreams. These individuals tend to be gifted genetically. Their innate abilities are rare and astonishing as very few people possess their capacity. And furthermore, they are usually wealthy, astronomically rich, which makes them appear even more untouchable. Think of Bill Gates, Oprah, or Zuckerberg…modern-day juggernauts who have thrived and flourished in their respective professions. Yet nonetheless, any human being is more than capable of living their dream, regardless of their talent level.
Whether you’re a genius or ostensibly ordinary, you can still earn a livelihood…doing what you love, which is the ultimate dream for each and every one of us. Of course, exceptional talent will certainly help, but it’s not essential in terms of success. The pivotal factor depends on your mindset, your emotional fortitude. Or to put it simply: are you willing to fail in order to move forward? Needless to say, it’s a formidable task. It might even break you; shatter your spirit if your mind is too weak, too delicate to withstand the onslaught of difficulties. Yet with all that said, your personal dream is still within reach — if you’re willing to fail innumerable times — like Tan Shuzhen.
Mr. Tan Shuzhen may not have been famous in the traditional sense, but he quietly improved…the world around him with his ardent love for the violin. He wasn’t a prodigy. In fact, he was ordinary in terms of his skill set. And he wasn’t rich by any means; he struggled financially for the great majority of his life. However, these existential hurdles couldn’t derail him from reaching his full potential as a human being. When he passed away in his gracious nineties, his genuine love for the violin had inspired generations of violinists and violin makers, which included his children, his grandchildren, and even his great-grandchildren — a memorable testament to his distinguished life.
Though he lacked the prowess of a virtuoso, his utter devotion toward learning technique enabled Shuzhen to earn a position with the Shanghai orchestra in 1927. Over the passage of time, numerous patrons had come out to see him as he was the first — Chinese musician — to play with an orchestra comprised of foreigners. Yet he wasn’t elite. His talent was limited as a violinist. He relied on hard work as oppose to natural ability. But it didn’t matter. All he desired was a chance to play music professionally. He wasn’t interested in becoming a star, for recognition was beside the point. Tan Shuzhen just loved the violin. He loved to play it. He loved constructing it, which he incisively learned from his German books. His comprehensive love for this musical instrument had made his struggles worth fighting for.
China’s upheavals had brutally tested Mr. Tan Shuzhen’s childhood dream. At first, the volatility manifested in the economy, which forced him to accept a slew of jobs outside the symphony in order to care for his family. Nevertheless, he never surrendered; he never abandoned his childhood dream. He remained stoutly loyal to his principles and virtues in spite of the hardships, which further intensified with the Cultural Revolution. The Red Guards maligned him and tortured Shuzhen for his advocacy of Western classical music. But he never flinched. Despite the vicious abuse, Tan remained faithful to his spiritual calling.
In the end, his belief empowered him to climb this behemoth known as Mt. Everest — a personal metaphor for our greatest desire. He intrepidly proved that one could live the dream that one had envisioned in the midst of catastrophes. He taught us that talent and might were minuscule factors in the grand scheme of life; for he wasn’t a maestro or a Herculean man. He was frail and skinny with standard abilities, rather unassuming to the visible eye.
Yet, if we take a moment to observe and study his sophisticated character, we will easily discover a hidden gem, a precious soul that made the man EXTRAORDINARY. His inward glow allowed him to rise to magnificent heights as he played with an orchestra for twenty plus years. Shuzhen also became the vice director of a music conservatory — and contributed to China’s first violin factory.
Hopefully, you will come to realize that phenomenal talent isn’t a requisite for personal dreaming. To earn a livelihood at doing what you love simply necessitates a great deal of patience, integrity, and lots of grit. You’ll have to be vulnerable and willing to fail innumerable times, despondently cry and struggle emotionally, live paycheck to paycheck (at least for a while), sleep on the couch or perhaps in the car, eat cheap ramen noodles on a regular basis; and above all, stomach rejection from a horde of naysayers. If you can handle such adversities and still move forward to the finish line, then you will eventually move mountains like Mr. Tan Shuzhen.
Mural by Northwest Actor’s Studio
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