What I’ve learned from writing a blog is that I love it. It’s hard to build an accurate picture of my life, though.
In the next little bit, we’ll be talking about putting yourself out there and being able to perform your music, so what better way to start that off by putting myself on the spot?
I get a lot of questions asking, “How do you find your passion?” and “What if I’m not good enough at music?“, so here are some guidelines below that helped me along the way!
A list of things you would like to try, of music you would like to play. I’m against bucket lists because they assume these tasks are a zero-sum game, that you’re done when you’re done.
They’re good for once-in-a-lifetime tasks like skydiving, but not very accurate when it comes to our real lives. But on an explore list, you’re allowed to explore each item in-depth even after you first attempt it. You’re also allowed to try a few things at once.
I tried everything, and I think I got lucky.
I first discovered how to make useful digital products from scratch when I got hired by Microsoft to make software as a UX designer. I love to make stuff, and draw.
To give you a concrete example:
How did the phone or computer or tablet you’re reading this on come about?
Someone had to draw what the product looks like and design how it’s used, and pass it onto an engineer to code and test the product before it plops into your hands.
Someone had to compose the sound effect that it makes when it starts and someone had to code it into the start function.
Microsoft was my first peek into how satisfying it was to see a real person using something I’ve created.
Sometimes you’ll get lucky and stumble upon doing something you really enjoy.
Find out what you dislike.
The only way to figure out what you dislike is to put yourself in situations where you are struggling, so you can compare it to when you are having fun.
We can’t expect to have fun 100% of the time, so instead we can compare it to the times when we are having more fun than we are now, and know relatively how much better off we are. Would you rather play music by Chopin over Bach? There is no right answer.
After the design gig, I got a job as a software developer. At first I thought I knew a lot about what I was doing, then my work got harder and harder until I couldn’t finish any task without consulting Stack Overflow, which is the manual for computing science.
I am not sure if I have enough patience to sit in a room by myself all day coding, but I love making things enough to stay in the software world.
Part of it is my desire for social validation. Everyday, I need someone to tell me my code is either good or bad, but there was a lot of holed-up-in-a-room work as a developer that I was not mentally prepared for.
Still, I write code for fun once in a while.
If you have the time and the resources, it’s better to figure out what you dislike now, than to be stuck five years down the road with fewer options.
Create your own standards
There’s a lot of research that suggesting we are more satisfied in a role when we are engaged and working with people we like. Beyond that, we have the flexibility to create our own roles and decide what is meaningful and interesting and fun for our everyday lives.
Some of these standards may include: How often do you prefer to talk to people? Do you prefer being a specialist or a generalist? What other qualities in your day would you love to have?
If you’re a music teacher who dislikes talking to people other than your students and prefer to specialize, you could consider teaching at a music school or finding an assistant who manages students for you, so that all you have to do is teach.
When I used to teach piano, I could see the direct impact of my work, which was very satisfying.
Now, I work with people who are visually impaired or blind; I work with university students; I work with so many interesting characters and get to know about their lives.
I like the idea that my work makes a difference in someone’s day.
Let go of anything draining your energy
Once you identify something that you want, account for anything that might hold you back.
For example, are you going to start exercising in the morning? Do you know that you’re lazy in the morning? How about setting out your gym clothes the night before and packing your meals, so that all you have to do is wake up and get dressed… and by the time you’re all dressed in gym clothes, you don’t have an excuse not to go anymore.
Better yet, book a personal trainer so that you HAVE to show up every morning.
Once your plan is in place, let go of any thoughts that are draining your energy, like “I used to be (bigger/smaller/thinner) 2 years ago,” or “everyone looks so good at the gym” or “I don’t know what I’m doing.”
You have a plan in place, and it will run its course.
I created Lumohacks, Canada’s first major health hackathon. That’s in the photo above.
It’s an event where hundreds of people use technology to solve problems in healthcare, such as in mental health. Three years ago, no one knew what medtech was! (Here’s how I ran the first Lumohacks, and the behind the scenes of a large-scale event.)
I had a hard time fitting in with the health science professionals. They spoke complicated jargon and had bureaucracy like I’d never encountered before, and in their defence, it’s hard to trust a young woman who speaks worse health science jargon than your PhD intern.
Each Friday night I kept telling myself I was done, that I didn’t have the skills, that I needed my weekends back anyway, and that I didn’t have to deal with the overbearing bureaucracy, the unanswered emails and phone calls, and the sheer stress of it all.
But after all that hustling, I see now that I have created something beyond myself.
This year, my team and I ran Lumohacks in partnership with the Department of Defence in Canada.
The sheer satisfaction of seeing hundreds of people in front of me because of something I believed in a few years ago, was worth it in the end.
Once in a while, I would encounter people who went above and beyond to see me succeed. They would introduce me to key people, help secure partnerships, and gave timely, wholehearted advice.
For most of us, that final, crucial push is the one that we need to excel.
I’m lucky to have found people who believed in what I wanted to create.
We often find strength in great mentors and teachers, not just in music, but in all of our fields, who are open to sharing their vast supply of experience and knowledge, and who often go out of their way to create that space for us to learn.
That is the community I’d like to be a part of and contribute to.
I am nowhere near finished with exploring all the possible things I can do with my life, and am still not perfectly proficient with my skills, but I do know one thing for sure–I will be looking for the best way to live and learn, albeit unconventionally, as I always have.
Maybe you’ve heard me talking about this in the previous year, in which case you are an awesome, attentive reader:
In the next little while, I will be moving to the USA to join a software company. I will share all the details once I’ve settled in so if you’re curious, check back in a bit!
If you are wondering about your next steps, as I often do, start small and explore different interests that you may already have, rather than trying to “find” a completely new thing that may just be a distraction in the long run, whether this be music related or not.
It never hurts to try, no matter what you’re interested in. To explore your interests to the extent of your ability is a privilege and your right to do so.
P.S. Don’t forget to keep all of us updated in the comment section. :)