Jack of all trades?

Suppose you had a guy ring you and say one thing like “Let’s meet for dinner tonight. There’s a great place downtown and the food is great and the music they play is really cool,” and when you meet for dinner there everything is as described. At the end of the evening the guy leans over to you and says, “I really had a nice evening” and when he walks you back to you house, he sings your praises and tells you what a lovely person you are and what a great time he had too. And when you probe, “Would you want to go there again?” and he says “I would”, your hopes are high, not because of the place itself, but because it is a way of perhaps saying he is attracted to you and wants to go out again.

Then the next day on Facebook (or some other form of social media, depending on your age – unfortunately my demographic preference is Facebook) you find out that he actually has a string of girlfriends and flings, and has actually a bit of a reputation as a womaniser. Of course, you might have done your research prior to going out with him. But hear me out – let’s suggest he has actually a girlfriend, or someone he is linked to. And when she asks him if he would go out with you again, and she says she actually heard him say “I would” – perhaps an undercover investigator was tailing you – and his response to her is to say, “Actually, I had meant to say ‘I wouldn’t’,” meaning that his message to you was an unfortunate slip of the tongue, then you might think, “This guy is either mentally unstable in some way, or he is a two-timing turncoat who says anything if he thinks he can get away with it.”

The problem with politics is that to appeal to a large voter base you need to be different things to different people. But perhaps here’s where a lesson can be learnt. The classical music composer Muzio Clementi was a composer, performer, piano manufacturer, mentor, publisher – but crucially, never all at the same time. You can read more about this in the Piano Teacher N4 blog.

So when the President of the United States says Russia did not collude to influence the US presidential elections, and then turns around the next day to say he meant to say the contrary, you know what to make of Donald Trump.

How many days until the next vote?

Success spoils: Staying Hungry

As we come to the conclusion of the World Cup, and a final involving a French and Croatian team, it is a good time to ponder over questions such as the following:

How did a team with a big national population and established football league and facilities, lose to a team from a small country and poor facilities? The majority of the Croatian team play outside of their own country and for those that remain, they have to train in ramshackle facilities and in harsher conditions. You can argue that these inbreed greater will to succeed, instead of the footballing teens who haven’t quite made it yet but are on high salaries.

Ever heard of Ainsley Maitland-Niles? Arsenal’s young player has played in a few games this season, but is on thirty-thousand pounds a week. If that is the salary of a fringe player, it is quite a cushy life, compared to what other people in normal jobs take home. A person’s annual salary in one week? You can see why some make the accusation that the hunger is lacking. Grown men in other European leagues have to fight to succeed to get anywhere near that.

The problem when you get too much, too soon, is that you go soft. You start to think about doing as little as possible to coast your salary. If you look at Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil, he has been a peripheral figure for much of the seasons; only when it was contract renewal time did he put in an extra shift. But now that he has signed his new contract, and will be banking every week more than people make in a year, as long as he can ignore the criticism of fans, he will be fine.

The NFL quarterback Ryan Leaf was only fresh out of college when he signed a multi-million pound contract. But he only played a few years – totalling a few games – too much money too soon. Success spoils.

Is it the truth that too much too soon is too much to handle? Leaf’s contract was $31.25 million over 4 years. He ended playing 25 games in his NFL career, which is what most pros do in just over two seasons. The music composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was identified as a child prodigy, but throughout his life had money problems and could not cope, dying penniless. (You can read more about Mozart from the Piano Teacher N15 blog.)

Success spoils – that is why Cristiano Ronaldo, fresh off his world cup exploits, sought a new move from Real Madrid to Juventus. After a few years of winning everything there is to win, staying hungry by moving to a less winning team is the only way to keep striving and improving!

Looking beyond the obvious for meaning

Remembering going on a school trip when you were younger? For you as a student, it might have been a welcome escape from the drudgery of classroom life, a chance to explore beyond the four walls.

Many of us will remember more perhaps the freedom of a school trip. Sure, you were still bound by rules of what to do, what not to do, timings you had to meet, language phrases in case you were stuck … but most of us would remember having the license to roam and explore, as the teacher really couldn’t be everywhere, supervising.

What the teacher’s role was on that day was being a meeting point rep, staying at a certain place, manning a certain phone, while students followed their inner guidance and came back if they had difficulties.

The freedom to explore one’s own instincts is a truly magical thing. It means you can go where your heart leads you, and the discoveries you make are meaningful and have relevance to you. What you learn, sticks with you. Most of us can remember events that happened on school trips, or family holidays vividly.

It is of more worth to the individual, in a history lesson, to actually see and experience a place, trying to visualise himself or herself as one living in that time and condition. For example, when we speak of the many that died in Flanders and the battlefields of northern France, they are just numbers in textbooks.

But take a trip to Flanders and see for yourself all the poppy wreaths laid down, and you will have a more meaningful idea of what war was like.

Music can have a similar experience too. According to Piano Teacher N4, music can take you on an incredible journey. When you play the piano, see it not just as a sheet of music with instructions you have to follow. Play the music, yes, but try to understand the person writing it, the composer, and what he was trying to convey. Why is there the sudden change from loud to soft in the music of Beethoven? What was Stravinsky trying to do with all the rhythmic motifs? If you seek to understand the motivation of the person behind the music, then it will hold more personal meaning for you. And like a school trip, you will be taken out of the walls of conventional thinking into a more meaningful experience.

Risk; and thinking out of the box

It is hard not to be affected by World Cup fever at the moment. Every where you look, people are fascinated by the football going on. Even non-football fans are affected. Perhaps it is because everyone is, and it is hard not to feel anti-social about it if you diss it in front of people who are genuinely affected. So everyday I hear about what has been going on, even though I may not necessarily like football very much myself – or not to the extent that others do.

One of the surprises of the tournament may be the fact that champions Germany are out already. Now, as some of my more worldly football friends may tell me, this is not a surprise, and this could have been anticipated already because the signs were there. Germany are in a transitional stage and many of those who were young and experienced in winning the last World Cup have matured and slowed down. Manuel Neuer is not the first choice goalie of his team, and it so proved in the vital game when he was dispossessed and lost the ball way outside his own half. While many question what he was doing there as an outfield player anyway, there was nothing wrong in it; ice-hockey goalies routinely venture out of their goal, and Neuer, rather than making a mistake like many assumed he was, was merely leveraging his skills to pass long balls (he has a strong leg, remember?) into the penalty area. He was using his peripheral skills as a goalie to get an advantage, a football virtuoso, not a music virtuoso looking to create more opportunities for his team. At least he didn’t make the same mistake as music composer and pianist Frederic Chopin did, which was to head for Majorca thinking it would be nice in winter, except that it rained heavily and lodging was hard to fine, leading him to seek refuge in an old abandoned monastery, exacerbating his health symptoms. The football equivalent would have been Neuer injuring himself trying a cross into the penalty area!

Germany’s decline was already in doubt, my football muse tells me. If you look at Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil, he has been struggling all season long and now that he has gained a five year contract, Arsenal manager Unai Emery should just try to extricate him from it, otherwise he will drag the team down like a lead balloon. But that is Arsenal’s problem. Mine is just waiting for the football to be over so life can return to normal, instead of the football circus!

Doh, a deer …

What is your favourite kind of music? You may like rock. You may like RnB. If you are more the classical music kind, you might prefer impassioned Romantic music, or technical Baroque music, or a bit of both, such as when piano music combines two styles. The pianist and composer Ferruccio Busoni, for example was born in the Romantic era and tended to interpret older works by Bach with the romantic passion.

Giving old things a new twist is something we see all around us. Take the world of fashion. You see a garment or a piece of clothing and try to match it or wear it in a different way.  Ten years ago office dress and trainers would have been a no-no. Now it is commonplace and I must admit, it is not only comfortable, but works better than having to wear high heels in the office. Do you see men wearing military boots?

Looking at new ways to do old things is a refreshing skill to have. If we get stuck in our office jobs and expect that everything rolls along like it does on an escalator, than pretty soon after that happens your boss will learn that the work escalator may roll on without you and you may be surplus to requirements. But by showing you have new insights into existing practices, you are not only demonstrating potential for improvement to your boss, but showing you are thinking outside the box – but not by being too radical for its own sake.

Which takes us to the title of this post – Doh, A Deer from the Sound of Music. The lyrics go “Let’s start from the very beginning, and a very good place to start …”

When we are at work, look at things that you often do and try to see if you can minimise the time spent on time, or whether they can be phased out entirely, or replaced in a better way.

When my mother worked in an office and they still had punch cards, someone figured that a more efficient way to track when employees arrived and left was for computers to record the time they were booted up and shut down using the user’s login details. This got rid of the punch cards for attendance, and the unnecessary tracking of employee attendance.

In this day and age, if we can demonstrate our worth to our employers subtly, we are positioning ourselves to remain in our jobs, or move up.  Try to add value-addedness to your job, by looking for ways to improve existing processes and refine them.

 

Being two-faced (or more)

Do you have many faces? You might need more makeup.

Seriously though, when I say we have many faces, what I mean is that we have different sides to us. The face we show at home is different to the face we show at work. The face we show at home in front of our kids is different to the face that we show when they are not around. No one person is the same in different situations.

Take for example, this fellow Tom. In the office he is mild-mannered and agreeable, but on Saturdays when he goes to the football stadium he turns into a different person, disagreeing with refereeing decisions against his team, chanting taunts at opposing players, vociferously slagging them off. Tom goes home, kisses his wife and kids hello, reads the little ones the bedtime stories, and after that he goes out with his mates where they take turns badmouthing their other halves and complaining about women.

Stella works as a PA and is pretty much her boss’s runner, meekly taking orders, but after work she goes home and decides to go out with her friends, whereupon she tears up the dance floor.

When the people in various parts of their lives come together, they are surprised that the Tom or Stella they know is different from the other ones people know.

Is it good to have many sides to you? Yes. Your work may require you to be forceful, strong and opinionated, but maybe your children don’t need to see that side of you. Your children may think of you as generally sweet and cuddly, but they should know you can be capable of being forceful if they cross the line. Some sides of us may be less appealing than others, and we may try to suppress them, but there is no advantage in maintaining only one side to ourselves. If we refuse to acknowledge the darker side of us, we may find ourselves taken advantage of by people who bully us for trying to be to nice.

According to a Finsbury Park piano teacher, the composer and pianist Mozart had many sides to him. While he is recognised for being somewhat of an outlandish extrovert, no one saw the depressed side to him, the one he reverted to in private. Did he come under pressure to maintain the happy extrovert face at all times? Perhaps when he was down in the dumps the expectation by others that he should be positive and not feel sad might have even been a bit oppressive.

We all have different sides to ourselves, and the glimpses of others we come across may not represent them as a whole. That’s just how it is.

Get rid of disposable cups? Or the idea?

Is it a case of more being seen to be doing the right thing, than actually doing the right thing?

I’m talking about the ban in coffee cups.

I admit, I’m biased – I love my caffeine fix in the morning, in the mid-morning and in the afternoon. In fact, I have it as a nightcap.

The coffee industry accounts for billions of paper cups being disposed of each year, most of which ends up in landfill.

Currently there are only 5 centres in the whole of the UK where disposable plastic cups can be recycled.

The problem with disposable plastic cups is that they are single-use only, and the plastic coating that lines each cup to stop the liquid leaking through is what causes the cup – despite being made of paper – to end up in landfill instead of in recycling facilities.

The ban on disposable plastic cups is great, despite its inconvenience. Various coffee chains are already incentivising schemes where customers bring their own mugs, by giving them reductions, but this is usually paid for by charging over the odds for products.

The corner cafe where I live charges a pound for a cup of tea. Starbucks tea costs nearly twice that. You have to be amazed at the profits and the difference in price.

But coffee chains have to be seen to be encouraging recycling, because being sustainable is a perceived plus point. So when chains purport to be environmentally-friendly, and have a social conscience either by being Fairtrade or building schools in deprived areas, don’t be hoodwinked into thinking they care, they have to be seen as caring so as to attract customers.

Part of me wonders, shouldn’t we be trying to tackle wastage elsewhere in products where plastic plays a major role? I’m thinking, instead of tackling the coffee cup, tackle the plastic water bottle first. You get a few uses out of it, true, but certainly the amount of plastic in a water bottle is greater than the number of uses you get out of it.

Maybe we should spend more into researching thinly glass-lined cups that are more recycleable? Or design flasks that are more sleek and more easily washable?

The problem with carry-flasks and mugs is they have a hole in the lid – plastic, I may add – to allow the hot air to escape, which means they are not leakproof. Flasks are hard to clean, which is why people don’t use them. Maybe a plastic, folding cup like campers use are better for the environment?

In short, I can’t think that the spotlight on coffee cups is misdirected.

In the early days of film music, people merely used to sit with their food and drinks in the movie theatre to watch a silent movie. What cups did they use then? Everyone merely brought a mug or flask with them in their picnic basket.

If you want to help environment, target the behaviour, not the symptoms. We have to focus on the disposable culture of society, instead of the cups itself.

In other words, if you have poor skin conditions like acne because you eat too much oily food, getting pimple cream is a waste of time; you need to address the consumption of oily food first.

What are they going to do at music festivals? When you are bopping to the dance music or rocking to punk rock music, will you have a mug in your hand instead of paper cups?

The whole strategy seems rather confused.

Coming out of the patriarchal shadow

If you haven’t heard of Meghan Markle, you will probably have by now with the media fanfare surrounding the royal wedding. But had you heard about the newest member of the royal family prior to her being Prince Harry’s wife? If you knew she was an actress, then good for you. You must have been checking out the American acting scene. But many people arguably knew about her via her connection to Prince Harry, which is not good.

How many times have we seen women only prominent when linked to powerful male figures? Unfortunately this perpetuates the stereotype of women being subservient to men. The media are keen to mention women in relation to men, but not the other way round. Sheryl Sandberg is COO of Facebook. Do you know who Sheryl Sandberg’s husband is? That’s right, you wouldn’t. But that’s because the media don’t often print it.

You may also attribute this to the fact of the glass ceiling in many corporate organisations. Not many women reach high enough positions to merit mention. By the way, while you may know ex Prime Minister David Cameron’s wife is Samantha Cameron, do you know who current Prime Minister Theresa May’s husband is? Anonymous.

There are many examples such as this throughout the course of history. Fanny Hensel was an accomplished pianist and composer. She composed many piano works and her skill was said to be as good as any a composer’s but why did she not became even more popular? According to a piano teacher in Muswell Hill, it was because in a patriarchal society, her worth was only judged by its link to men. Which is why Fanny Hensel gets more recognition when she is known as Fanny Mendelssohn, brother of Felix.

We need to promote the role of women. Society is changing and women must emerge from the shadow of men!

Dealing with stress

Stress is an unavoidable part of life. Unfortunately, we cannot escape to a situation without any stress and still remain a part of the social fabric of society. Society is full of stimuli, most of which imposes on us and forces us to respond. Being able to respond correctly is a sign of maturity on our part.

We experience stress because we are in new situations that we have not quite known fully yet how to respond. For example, if a work colleague says something unkind to us, whether inadvertently or otherwise, we may not have the experience or the knowledge yet to know whether to speak harshly in return, to ignore it, or have the words to rebuke yet in a manner that does not seem anti-social. And that lack of awareness causes us, when we rethink the events over and over again, a disconnect between what we feel and how we think we should act and it causes stress.

There are some that claim that if we shut ourselves off from society we would be rid of stress and that would allow us to function better. If you think about it, that could only end up being a cause of stress, because we would still need to remain in a social world – unless you had vast plots of land to grow your own food and could survive isolated. But even if you were comfortable with being on your own, you might find yourself going nuts with the silence around you, and it would not be good for your mental health.

What can you do when you are stressed? Investing in a skill is a good idea. You can take up candle-making, knitting, or join a choir. It may be said that the mental loops we run in our minds thinking over situations can be cleared and calmed by doing something physical, to bleed off the stress because any nervous energy is worked out of the system. You may even find it worthwhile to learn the piano or another musical instrument. According to a piano teacher in Crouch End adults learn faster and it is not necessarily the case that if you missed the boat as a child, you will progress at a slower rate. In fact, your experience and maturity will help you grasp concepts quicker, and the confidence and joy it gives you may give you an outlet for your stress.

If you suffer from stress, you don’t necessarily have to sit in silence and wait to burn it off. You can take action to deal with it. Learning a new skill can distract from the worrying situation at hand and give you an outlet for your frustration.

New Beginnings

A new beginning causes disruption to the status quo. It causes change. And sometimes the change is welcome. Sometimes it is not. Sometimes it causes uncertainty and stress because we have not grapsed the situation fully yet and our minds go crazy at the lack of control.

To be human is to want control. While control varies from different people, ultimately control gives us a sense of confidence, of certainty that things are going right and that we are in charge. It is being in charge of our lives that we ultimately seek.

But change is not necessarily bad because it throws control into havoc, however mildly. It pushes us out of our comfort zone so that we find that when we have adapted, we are in greater control because we have adjusted to and assimilated the thing that we were fearing the most.

So while it may be difficult for us to realise this, embracing change and new things is necessary. It opens up new avenues and mindsets. It gives us more awareness of the things around us instead of trapping us in daily routine.

SO let’s embrace change for what it is.