September 4, 2014

What I Learned From a 9-Year Old (The Power of Being ALL IN!)

I spent 28 years as a public school music teacher, where I taught literally thousands of students. Among them were some incredible, and also some not-so-incredible students. Actually, even the not-so-incredible students went on to do great things. But many years ago one student, Jimmy, was in a class of his own. Jimmy had a smile that would light up a room and an amazingly unique way about himself, which allowed him to connect with his fellow classmates and adults. If you saw Jimmy in the hallway, you always said hello. That is, if he didn’t say it first.

He loved being a part of every school activity and never shied away from anything. Jimmy loved going to school. He loved the atmosphere and completely embraced being a part of the school culture. He did however have one major issue. He learnedextremely slowly. Jimmy needed extra help with everything. Even so, in the 4 grade when most of the other students decided to learn to play a musical instrument, Jimmy did the same.

The Trumpet was Jimmy’s instrument of choice. Just like all of us, he just wanted to be a part of something bigger than himself…the band.

Unfortunately Jimmy’s learning issues followed him to the music world. Remembering fingerings, note names, and other very basic parts of musical knowledge necessary to be successful, were extremely difficult for Jimmy to absorb.

Think back to something in your life that was terribly difficult for you when you got started. How did you react to it? Were you frustrated? Angry? Disillusioned? Disappointed? Did you quit? What if everything you wanted to accomplish was difficult, actually extremely difficult for you? So difficult, that each day was almost like starting over again. That’s what it was like for Jimmy.

By the end of his 4 grade year, Jimmy had learned one 8 bar song, most of which was repetitive. Ironically, other much brighter students quit after just a few weeks, proclaiming that it was “too difficult to learn an instrument!” I was incredibly proud of Jimmy, and asked if he would like to play his short song as a solo at one of our concerts. He answered with a resounding, “YES!”

Jimmy played and everyone loved it, because everyone loved Jimmy. They saw his heart, his desire, his energy and his enthusiasm for whatever he did.

Halfway through 5 grade Jimmy played his second solo and by the end of the year, he had accomplished his goal and finally got to play with the entire band! As I was conducting from the podium and looked across the 150 students playing their hearts out, my eyes caught Jimmy’s. His smile was from ear to ear. He smiled so hard, I’m not sure he could even play! But at that point it really didn’t matter. He had made it. He crossed the finish line.

Here are some phrases, I NEVER heard Jimmy use:

“I can’t.”

“I won’t.”

“It’s too hard.”

“Why don’t I learn any faster?”

“It’s not fair.”

“Why do all the other kids…?”

“I’m not good at…”

“I want to quit.”

Instead, Jimmy eagerly arrived at his weekly lesson with a smile on his face and a funny story about his past week’s practice. Jimmy was a believer in himself and the process, no matter where his starting point was. He understood that “right now” isn’t permanent. He was willing to take baby steps to accomplish his goals. More importantly he stuck to his goals no matter what. But perhaps the most incredible thing he did was surround himself with positive energy that spread like wildfire to everyone who was within sight of him. Jimmy was all in, in every aspect of his life.

I wonder how many of us are all in? Do we still live life with passion and unbridled enthusiasm? Have we embraced the idea that where we start isn’t where we end? Do we really truly get it?

In my 28 years as a teacher, I learned many things. None were as profound as the lessons I learned from a happy 9 year old, who only had one gear; forward…and no brakes.

We only get one shot at this. Why only live half a life? Let’s be like Jimmy. Let’s all make it a habit to always be all in.

*The above story is true, however the names and events were altered.

Bearj Jehanian is a Speaker, Motivator, Trainer and Mentor. If you want to live lifeall in, please subscribe to his weekly F R E E video message here: .