Shortcut to reinventing yourself

Grace LamI was about to become homeless in Hong Kong, during my first visit to Asia. My housing agreement didn’t pan out.

But then I lost my passport returning from Seattle (where I saw dead people), and turned my backpack inside out for the next few days.

If I put the passport by the food in my bag, I might’ve noticed it slipping out– but I couldn’t decide which sugary cereal to get at the rest stop before the bus driver marched us back, so I had nothing to put the passport beside anyways, and remained starved and half asleep on the way home.

This morning, my friend David told me to report the missing passport and gave me a government phone number. “Did you file a police report?” he says.

“I don’t think it was stolen,” I say.

“My friend replaced her passport three days before leaving the country,” he says. “Don’t worry– you have two weeks.”

I visit the bus station just in case, and as I decide to leave the convoluted buildings, the customer service lady returns from lunch; she has my passport in a binder of credit cards and IDs.

What this shows me, despite David’s insistence otherwise, is not that I have good luck, but that it’s a relief to have friends who know what they’re doing; David has lost his passport several times.

In music, our teachers light the way through musical genres, and we have a responsibility to surround ourselves with the right people; if we want to be the best, we must learn from the best. Or shut up when we realize how much we suck.

The litmus test is asking yourself, Do you want to play like your teacher? Would you want to teach like they do? Fortunately, we don’t have to see people in a dim room each week, nor call them teacher, to learn from them.

We look for a listening ear to guide us, not judge us, and often these people are hard to find. Once you find these special people, do everyone a favor and keep them close.

Photo by my lovely friend Alan Wu

Want more of this?

Get exclusive music tips and fresh stories in your email inbox by signing up below. It's Free!

Enter Your Name:

Enter Your Email Address:


  • Connor August 12, 2015 at 1:01 pm

    Hello Grace. Just a quick message of support and encouragement for you and what you are doing. I am happy to read your updates. I am an old sole and musician who has lost his passion for music temporarily as I care for my Wife with terminal cancer. I enjoy following your path in music and life. I hope to return to my music one day soon. I will continue to watch for your updates and just wanted you to understand how far your love for music reaches….. I am sure there are others who feel the same but don’t update their profiles or comment all the time. This is my first comment and just wanted to send my support and thanks.


    • Grace Lam August 12, 2015 at 10:29 pm

      Connor, I love this. Thanks. I don’t think passion is ever lost, just forgotten, at least for a while.


  • betty lou July 19, 2018 at 12:35 pm

    I am over 60 and still performing. I play easy listening dinner music. I sneak some light classical in, but it’s hard to find a audience. People say my music is uplifting and peaceful; which is encouraging. It is so competitive in the market place it can be depressing. I’m not a teenage and don’t play cutezy pop music. I do like John Legend and Adelle.
    Am I crazy to keep performing?

    • Grace Lam July 20, 2018 at 8:59 am

      You are not crazy, but being a fulltime performer is also extremely difficult. I would work towards improving my technique and also seeking new audiences–the first step really is to get noticed for a type of performance, any performance, perhaps playing at a restaurant or gallery opening, even.