“Play the Sunset.” This is the inspirational advice that fictional music teacher, Glen Holland (actor, Richard Dreyfus) offers his student, Gertrude Lang (actress, Alicia DeWitt), which eventually helps her improve her clarinet playing in the popular film “Mr. Holland’s Opus.” When standard music teaching methods; after-school tutoring; and relentless practicing failed to produce better results, the teacher inspired the student by unearthing her deep-rooted love for the music, itself. It’s all about passion leading to exemplary performance.
There are those that sleep walk through life. They basically go to work to get paid and then go home to sleep. In between, many do just enough to maintain their own status quo. The work seems to get done, but with little evidence of pride, enrichment or enjoyment. It all becomes very uninspired and mechanical and pollutes BOTH the work and customer environments.
Deborah Becker, a State Farm agent in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, says that the majority of applicants she sees at her office—regardless of age—seem unable to project warmth and kindness, especially crucial in the service business. This seems consistent with what many of us have been observing in the workforce the past several years.
How many cashiers do you encounter that really care whether you “have a good day” or not? Do you really think that the customer service representative reading from a script is really hoping there is “something else she can do for you, today?” Ever notice how the seemingly emotionless pharmacy tech steps back from the counter after telling you that your insurance company won’t cover your prescription medication? These days, it is very rare to find someone, who is so passionate about his or her job that he or she truly cares about what they are doing; how well they are doing it and who they are doing it to benefit.
The people just described may be able to play the notes, but they apparently haven’t “played the sunset.” And, whose fault is that?
Passion can’t be taught, but it certainly can be brought out through inspiration. Like a snake charmer with a soothing flute; parents, teachers, employers and mentors need to help their youthful understudies discover their own personal “sunsets.”
“Do this and do that” hasn’t cut it for a very long time. Where is the self-actualization in those robotic commands? Oh…people will still obey and “do this and do that,” if they need a paycheck and don’t see their jobs as anything more than work for pay. The problem is that if they are miserable at work, they will only “do this and that,” and not one thing more. Usually, that means lackluster performance and poor customer service. Everyone suffers as a result.
When guiding passions are coaxed from deep within an individual’s soul at an early stage of life, the cause and effects are usually much more positive.
In “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” Gertrude Lang learned to “play the sunset” as a teenager. We can assume that the confidence she gained from mastering the clarinet, further inspired her to eventually run for governor in her adult years. And, this is not just the stuff of fiction. There are many real life stories in which real people have “played the sunset.”
There is a real life Daniel Eugene “Rudy“ Ruettiger, who clawed his way to a Notre Dame education and football playing assignment. There is a real life Erin Brockovich, who refused to struggle in life and – instead – became a successful legal clerk and environmental activist; gaining lucrative speaking engagements and earning honorary doctorates from several West Coast universities. And, there is US Congressman John Boehner, who grew up sharing one bathroom with his eleven siblings, while working in his family’s bar and later as a janitor. Boehner is about to be sworn in as speaker of the United States House of Representatives.
All of these people learned to “play the sunset” and they have succeeded in life as a result. In “playing the sunset,” they each followed their own passions and excelled at what they loved best. And, when someone excels at what they love most, who benefits along with them? The people they serve – you and me.
Marc LeVine is Director of Social Media for RiaEnjolie, Inc (www.RiaEnjolie) a web design company specializing in professional looking and affordable websites for small businesses of all kinds. Follow us on Twitter @RiaEnjolie
Famous australian yodelling queen Mary Schneider yodels the Clarinet Polka.