Luciano Pavarotti, owner of one of the most amazing vocal instruments our world has ever heard, died today at 71. There are many stories circulating about his life now but one interested me more than the rest.
When Pavarotti was still in school, developing the discipline, technique, and sacrifice that would make his dream of being a world-famous vocalist a reality, one of his music teachers told him that if he expected to earn a living with his voice, he would starve.
We chuckle now at that and think that instructor must have skipped his Wheaties that morning but I bet at the time Pavarotti didn't see the humor. How could he? His dreams were still in that tender, nebulous stage where they existed solely within him with nothing but his courage and his belief in himself to give them life.
I bet those words struck a blow. I bet he looked in the mirror and wondered. Wondered if he was wasting his time. If what he heard was so different from what others could hear. If he would sacrifice so many years of his life only to become a spectacular failure.
How many others have wondered the same in the aftermath of a harsh review, an instructor's words, the advice of a family member or friend? How many artists have we lost because fear, that mortal enemy of our dreams, took root and festered, crumbling self-confidence, discipline, and artisty from the inside out?
I bet we all have one of Pavarotti's music teachers in our past (or maybe in our present). We all have someone who doubts us, who points out the obvious risks, the odds, the chance for failure. Maybe we even do that to ourselves.
The trick isn't to be fearless. The trick is to silence our fear by writing one more chapter, painting one more canvas, singing one more song. We can use our fear of failure to push us to be better, be more disciplined, extend our creative boundaries beyond their current limits until we see we are capable of the breathtaking, the astonishing, and the incredible.
Pavarotti did that. He silenced his internal fear. He closed himself away from those who would rip at his confidence. He clung to discipline, technique, and talent and eventually, he silenced every critic on Earth.
May we follow his example.