Inspiration

I Have an Idea by Chris Foley

These four simple words regularly pop out of the mouths of people in phone calls, meetings, coffee gatherings, and late-night Facebook Messenger chats.

I have an idea.

These four words signal that the person who said them has not only thought of something, but that they have plans, are willing to share them, talk through them, and have made the first steps forward towards making an idea a reality.

I have an idea.

If you’re the one saying these words, you’ve taken the time to find a new way to approach a situation, solve a problem, find a new market, or discover something completely new. You’ve also put enough trust in those around you to broach the subject, throw out an idea, seek input, and start a discussion.

I have an idea.

If you’re the one to whom these words are directed, listen carefully. Someone has put their trust in you and has gone out on a limb in order to share their ideas with you. They have just started the process of collaboration and need some valuable input based on your own experience and ideas. They might even have an answer to a question that has been nagging at you for a very long time.

But the person putting out the idea has also taken a risk. The danger of someone putting themselves out on a limb in this way is their idea might be dismissed for not being financially viable, a little too over-the-top, not cognizant of present realities, or not appropriate to the situation. They might get the impression that their ideas weren’t even viable in the first place.

But the process of putting out an idea is critical to moving forward projects, careers, and the entire profession. We need a steady stream of new ideas. Even if they’re a little too ambitious, they can lead to other new ideas, to partnerships, collaborations, and eventual solutions.

Over the last few months, the words “I have an idea” have been spoken to me a larger number of times than usual. This is good news indeed that I might be a person who has them too, am surrounded by exceptional individuals, and who trusts and is trusted enough to be able to understand and talk about them. Thank you for sharing your visions and crazy dreams with me.

For those of you who have said these words to friends, colleagues, or potential colleagues, keep up the great work. Keep on thinking up new ways of doing things, and take a chance to share it with others. Keep on looking for people worthy of sharing your vision with, and who have the ability to understand you. From these discussions there will arise a future of new possibilities.

(Image courtesy of Sean Patrick Murphy on Unsplash)

Robbie, a Short Sci-Fi Film by Neil Harvey by Chris Foley

My name is Robbie. I am from a planet called Earth. It is part of a four-billion-year-old solar system.

What if a robot was given consciousness, the ability to form relationships and run simulations, and went into space? That’s the premise of Robbie, a short sci-fi film by Neil Harvey from the always-fascinating (and binge-watchable) DUST channel on YouTube. My mind was blown at 1:35 and it kept getting better (and more emotionally engaging) until the very end.

Bring Kleenex.

Two Mountains by Chris Foley

Los Cuernos in Evening Light by  Walter Sawka

Los Cuernos in Evening Light by Walter Sawka

David Brooks’s The Moral Peril of Meritocracy frames the world in terms of two mountains. The first mountain is that of professional accomplishment and success. The second mountain is more elusive and is often reached through suffering, adversity, or through dedication to a cause:

If the first mountain is about building up the ego and defining the self, the second is about shedding the ego and dissolving the self. If the first mountain is about acquisition, the second mountain is about contribution.

On the first mountain, personal freedom is celebrated — keeping your options open, absence of restraint. But the perfectly free life is the unattached and unremembered life. Freedom is not an ocean you want to swim in; it is a river you want to cross so that you can plant yourself on the other side.

So the person on the second mountain is making commitments. People who have made a commitment to a town, a person, an institution or a cause have cast their lot and burned the bridges behind them. They have made a promise without expecting a return. They are all in.

On why the second mountain is important:

We don’t treat one another well. And the truth is that 60 years of a hyper-individualistic first-mountain culture have weakened the bonds between people. They’ve dissolved the shared moral cultures that used to restrain capitalism and the meritocracy.

Over the past few decades the individual, the self, has been at the center. The second-mountain people are leading us toward a culture that puts relationships at the center. They ask us to measure our lives by the quality of our attachments, to see that life is a qualitative endeavor, not a quantitative one. They ask us to see others at their full depths, and not just as a stereotype, and to have the courage to lead with vulnerability. These second-mountain people are leading us into a new culture. Culture change happens when a small group of people find a better way to live and the rest of us copy them. These second-mountain people have found it.

What does your second mountain look like?

What I Learned Over the Last Two Weeks by Chris Foley

This is a place I always go to when I’m in the western Conception Bay area. The weather in the first week of April was warmer than when I came here in mid-June two years ago.

This is a place I always go to when I’m in the western Conception Bay area. The weather in the first week of April was warmer than when I came here in mid-June two years ago.

Once in a while you encounter a period of time where everything snaps into clarity, and where the most important issues and questions all of a sudden seem to make more sense. A few days ago I got back from a two-week trip on the road examining at the Kiwanis Music Festival in Carbonear and examining for The Royal Conservatory’s Certificate Program in Winnipeg. In both these places, I had the chance to observe musical communities at their finest.

The stage at the Carbonear Regional Community Centre.

The stage at the Carbonear Regional Community Centre.

The trip started with a full week adjudicating in Carbonear, a small town up the Conception Bay coastline northwest of St. John’s, Newfoundland. What I found intriguing was how a small town of less than 5000 people can support a festival with a full week of piano and voice classes. What intrigued me about this trip were the words of those who had previously adjudicated in Carbonear, and how it had transformed their outlook on music education. So I left with an eagerness to discover something that several of my colleagues had already learned while working there.

The first thing I noticed was how well-run the festival was. Adjudicating a full festival is no small feat, and the web of rules, scholarships, and qualification requirements can be difficult to navigate at the best of times. However, the day-to-day logistics were handled with a level of detail that allowed me to concentrate on the music and how I could help each performer, given the limited time available in performing classes throughout the day.

The view from my motel room in Carbonear. The weather tended to be quite variable, and I experienced three seasons in one week.

The view from my motel room in Carbonear. The weather tended to be quite variable, and I experienced three seasons in one week.

But as the week developed, I also noticed a number of other things. Music in Newfoundland holds a central a place in the life of families, noticeable by the sheer love and engagement of so many musicians and the large number of relatives that came out to support the performers, many of whom learned multiple instruments.

The performers were highly supportive of each other, even in competitive classes. After performing, I would notice that many of them high-fived and fist-bumped each other. Sadly, there are only a few awards available for each class, many of which are quite sizeable. But after announcing the results, I was pleasantly astonished to notice that those who didn’t win genuinely congratulated those who did.

This was a tough shot to make, and I had to time the shot with the rise and fall of the waves so as not to have my iPhone swept out to sea.

This was a tough shot to make, and I had to time the shot with the rise and fall of the waves so as not to have my iPhone swept out to sea.

There are also strong ties between those working in the arts community with the business community at large. This is a relationship that in many places is largely not known or understood, but when you see it in action, you can see a community working together with strong cohesion, and with the best interests of everyone. In Carbonear, there was a strong understanding in the business community that arts activities are an integral part of the area’s economic activity, can strengthen ties within it, and bring people into the area. The large number of people learning instruments also created a strong demand for teachers in the area. My hope is that as current teachers in the area age and eventually retire, younger teachers will move to the community in order to continue the local musical traditions.

The trip continued with a short examining stint in Winnipeg, where I had a chance to catch up with some of my dearest friends as well as meet new ones. Tempering my admiration of the high standard of playing was a realization of the very real issues facing educators in that city, especially regarding the mental health of young people.

A well-deserved drink at Winnipeg airport at the end of the trip.

A well-deserved drink at Winnipeg airport at the end of the trip.

I like to thank people for the impact that they have in the world, and in the case of the last two weeks, the list of people I personally thanked, either in person or on social media, went well into the dozens. But I wanted to thank everyone once more who makes such an impact on their community in Carbonear, St. John’s, and Winnipeg. You know who you are, and I just wanted you all to know that your dedication to the arts community and young people whose lives you impact, either as educators, parents, or volunteers, really matters. You’re doing great work, and the example that you’ve shown will inform the work I do for a very long time.