Success: The Life Skills Advantage
by Renae Collins
I was jolted awake at 7:30 Monday morning by the hostile
sound of my alarm clock buzzer. Visions of pointless
meetings, a panicked boss, and stressful deadlines galloped
through my mind. I had to face it: I was burnt out.
My corporate job was slowly suffocating my spirit. I
knew right then and there, things had to change.
At the age of 32, I decided to follow my dream and
go to music school. It was something I had always wanted
to do, but had deemed "too impractical" to
pursue. I knew that if I didn't go for it, I would be
plagued by the "What if?" question for the
rest of my life. So I applied for the Spring 2001 semester
to Berklee College
of Music in Boston Massachusetts.
I was thrilled when I received my college acceptance
letter. I busied myself researching financial
aid options, said goodbye to family and friends,
and dove head first into my new life back East. During
this time of transition, my scariest inner demons decided
to make a house call. Questions of self-doubt plagued
my mind. I asked myself, "How will I make this
work?" "What if I can't hack it?" I was
an older student who would be competing in a top music
school against 18 year olds with more musical chops
under their belt than I had at almost twice their age.
I was both elated and terrified of the decision I had
made. What I found
out surprised me: those 18-year olds may have had youth
on their side, but my life experience gave me a host
of wonderful advantages that I could use to my
SKILL #1. GRACE UNDER FIRE - PERFORMING UNDER
Music school is about performing. Performing in front
of classmates, teachers, and at end of semester juries.
My talent and hard work waited to be ruthlessly judged
and poked holes at. My precision and technical aptitude
coldly evaluated by an exacting faculty. A harrowing
scenario for sure, but not one that I was unfamiliar
with. It was similar to presenting to a big client or
my corporate boss. In business I had prepared myself
for slings and arrows that came my way whenever I put
my work on the line. This mental toughness proved to
be extremely useful
come performance time.
Rehearsing for hours in the practice room for an end-of
the semester jury exam was a bit different than working
on my laptop until 3 A.M. the night before a big presentation,
but the concept was the same: I did what it took to
get the job done. My business career taught me that
when push came to shove, I not only got stuff done,
I got it done well! If someone fired at my talent with
slings and arrows, I knew enough to get out of the way,
take criticism with a grain of salt,
and focus on improving my game.
SKILL #2. NO MORE DRAMA QUEEN - EMOTIONAL STABILITY
Being the artist that I am, everyday life experiences
always seemed just that much more dramatic when they
happened to me. Love experiences seemed to follow me
around for years - and not in a good way. When I was
in love, I let those emotions envelop me like a warm
blanket. When I was unceremoniously dumped, that cozy
blanket transformed into a soggy burden. Either way,
it was all "too much". Emotional extremes
kept me in their grip, leaving me unable to focus on
other areas of my life.