[blockquote author=”Theodore Roosevelt” ]The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again… who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotion, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.[/blockquote]

When a program is failing, it appears everyone is to blame (the students, parents, administrators, and members of the community) for the bleak circumstances. If that is so, it is time for some positive influence from an enthusiastic leader who refuses to accept the conditions as they are, but is committed to infusing life into the program and offering hope to everyone who eagerly seeks a pathway to success. Who could that savior be? Who is willing to go that extra mile?

The answer is quite simple: it is the person we see when we look in the mirror. There is the solution to the problem! The question is: are we willing to pay the price? It means breaking old habits and developing new patterns that will allow us to generate the effect, rather than be “at the effect.” We will have to take the road less traveled, and the journey can be very long and very lonely, but it leads to success—success for everyone who wants to be a part of excellence.

Unfortunately, we have become masters of blame. Every time something does not meet our expectations, we tend to blame someone or something. However, whenever we blame, we give up our power over the situation. We have, in fact, given in to the circumstances and have allowed the situation to determine our reaction instead of our pro-action to determine the situation. This certain pathway to failure is so subtle that most of us don’t realize we are on it. What’s more, we will defend why we had to blame someone or something, which is just another coating of blame! How paradoxical!

The powerful human mind will always be right; therefore, whatever we see as true in effect becomes true (self-fulfilling prophecy). The only way out of this downward spiral is to change (reprogram) our minds to believe it can work. At the very moment of the acceptance of the new belief, we begin to refocus on the various aspects of the situation that prove us right, but this time we are right about the belief that things will be taking a turn for the better, and, once again, we are confirmed: it will work.

Too simplistic, you say. (That’s just more “being right” about the fact that it won’t work, and everything continues in the predictable old negative pattern. The mind wins, you lose. It’s frustrating, isn’t it? This is exactly what got us in this predicament in the first place.) If we want to shift this and upgrade to a new level of living, we must leave the comfort zone and risk some new thoughts, new ideas, and even new experiences with an entirely new attitude.

Leaving our comfort zone is frightening. This fear will often serve as a barrier to keep us from taking that all-important step to a new understanding. We become sarcastic, cynical, and even hostile about those who challenge us to break away from those comfortable habits. It’s not that we are satisfied; rather, we are afraid of what might be a waiting us in the unknown parts of life. As one person told me, “No, I don’t want to change. I’m not really satisfied with my life, but if I gamble and make these personal changes, things might get worse than they already are, so it is just easier to stay where I am. At least I know how to handle life at this level.” Is that living or just maintenance? Is that a positive role model for our students’ attitudes?

On the other hand, there are many people who are exploring life at its fullest. They have learned to use fear as their ally and turn the energy of fear (which often holds us back) into the energy of risk and continue to add to their library of experiences by learning, growing, discovering, and enjoying the full range of dynamics in living.

Which person would you predict would be the most effective teacher? Which one would inspire the students to jump headfirst into their studies? Which one would you like to be around if you were a student?

Which of these people do you see when you look in the mirror?

It is often uncomfortable to discuss being uncomfortable. These kinds of articles are not popular because they challenge each of us (including me) to come out of ourselves and reveal our insecurities. We are vulnerable and often defenseless, so the constant temptation is to run back inside our safe character and avoid any chance of the embarrassment of failure. (How ironic that this process assures failure and even is failure!) The only real security is to admit that we are insecure, just as the only real competence is to admit that we are incompetent. When we are willing to bring this truth forward and embrace it, we begin to empower ourselves and do not have to resort to blame. We can use that energy to start to take action to improve the conditions. What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us is pale compared to what lies within us. The answer is in the mirror!

The many cultures of the world have brought forth some remarkable wisdom. The following story, an ancient Hindu legend, is one that provokes a great deal of thought in a gently humorous way. Please understand it is not a religious message or an implication of suggested metaphysical beliefs, but a chance to understand the tremendous potential we all have.

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At one time, all men on earth were gods. But they so sinned and abused the Divine, that Brahma, the god of all gods, decided that the power of the godhead should be taken away from man and hidden someplace where man would never find it and abuse it again.

“We will bury it deep in the earth,” said the other gods.

“No,” said Brahma, “because man will dig down in the earth and find it.”

“Then we will sink it into the deepest ocean,” they said.

“No,” said Brahma, “because man will learn to dive and find it there too.”

“We will hide it on the highest mountain,” they said.

“No,” said Brahma, “because man will some day climb every mountain on the earth and again capture the godhead.”

“Then where can we hide it where man cannot find it?” asked the lesser gods.

“I will tell you,” said Brahma, “hide it down in man himself. He will never think to look there.”

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Ah, yes. We are once again reminded through this fable that the solution to success is in the mirror.

This article is adapted from the book “Everyday Wisdom for Inspired Teaching” by GIA Publications, and reproduced with permission from Tim Lautzenheiser

Tim Lautzenheiser

Written By Tim Lautzenheiser

Tim Lautzenheiser presently serves as Vice President of Education for Conn-Selmer, Inc. His career involves ten years of successful college band directing at Northern Michigan University, the University of Missouri, and New Mexico State University. His books, produced by G.I.A. Publications, Inc., continue to be bestsellers in the educational world. He is also co-author of popular band method, Essential Elements, and is the Senior Educational Consultant for Hal Leonard, Inc.