A while ago I was listening in on a conversation between two prima donnas – world class opera singers – now in their late 80’s. I was immediately amazed by how vital they look for their age and also how fast and powerful their brains are. Comparing to some other, “ordinary” people at that age, they were so sharp and interesting to listen to.
One of them said at one point: I was probably not the best opera singer in the world, but I was the best one in protecting my voice and that’s why I managed to remain on stage for so many decades.
Then she gave an example. When she was still a fairly young singer she got an offer from one of the biggest opera houses in the world to sing one very demanding title role – Medea in the opera by Luigi Cherubini. It was an offer from a man who created Maria Callas and Renata Tebaldi, among other amazing artists. But, she said that she didn’t feel ready to sing that role. She thought that she could damage and widen her central register and ruin her higher registers for the future.
How amazingly delicate is a singer’s voice. I didn’t even understand what exactly she was talking about, but I could understand the point. And then immediately some questions started running through my head, since I was at the same time preparing my speech for the HR conference where I was about to talk about leadership and managing managers. I was of course questioning myself – if I gave enough during the times I was going to talk about during the conference? Was it the right time for me to be a leader and a manager of managers? Did I face a challenge that I was not mature enough or good enough for?
But, the most important question was – what are we doing in order to protect ourselves and to keep our talents and our skills in good shape?
Are we wasting and spending our capital so easily, pushed by modern demands to give more, to give everything now like there’s no tomorrow?
Isn’t it more important to enjoy what you are doing and you like doing for a long time, instead of achieving fast success and burn everything you have in a couple of years? It’s just like a world class sport which I consider equally cruel to gladiator games.
This fantastic conversation of two amazing ladies and amazing artists made me create several important resolutions:
- I will stop giving more then I’m asked to give and more than is necessary when it comes to things that are not of key relevance for me. I will continue streaming toward the highest achievements, but I won’t accept any more stupid concepts like “there is always room for improvement”. Sometimes improvement is not necessary. We are tricked to believe it is.
- If I find something that I enjoy doing I should do it as long as possible. If I have a talent of some kind I should protect it, nurture it and develop it in a way that I can enjoy it as long as I want.
- I should create my peaceful base: it doesn’t have to be a real space – it can be aplace and time in my head (or activity), that I will use to recover and to protect my talent.
We all have some skills and some talents. It’s not only about arts. It can be a talent of working with people, doing some crafts, cooking or organizing things… OK, maybe not all of us. But quite a number of people.
Some of us discover it and some don’t. Some of us develop it, but the majority doesn’t. Only a few make a living out of it and take it to the highest levels. That’s normal, because if everyone were exceptional, we would all be average. But, even if we are just reaching our own, personal sky highs, we should strive toward enjoying it as long as possible.
I guess there are a lot of smart quotes on this topic. But I don’t care about listening to them. I always prefer to listen to a good story from a good storyteller. And learn from it. Like in this case of small talks about opera with big life lessons.
Enjoy some great opera music.
Cheers for music and cheers for long lasting talents.