I finally finished reading The Last Lecture, and can officially deem it as one of those reading experiences where you nod your head the entire time in either agreement or in sudden inspiration. Sometimes it really does take someone who is dying to teach you how to live.

I love Randy Pausch’s way of living life. I love that he held on to his childhood dreams. I love that he asked questions. I love that he encouraged learning and experiencing. I so much believe in doing all of those things, simply because you have one life…why not achieve and learn all that you can? After reflecting on Randy Pausch’s words, I have developed my own thoughts on the matter.

Define your dreams and create goals.

During my college years I started a mental list of things I wanted to do in my life. Most are career related, but I find that they kind of “double dip” in career and personal interests/hobbies. After finishing the book, I decided to put the list in ink (or um…Evernote) so I can really keep track of everything I want to do and, hopefully/eventually, everything I accomplish.

I think it’s the best interest of musicians, teachers, and anyone for that mater, to keep a list of personal goals. Not just general, “I want to be a professional violinist,” statements, but real specific goals that keep you moving forward in your life. For example, “I want to be a professional violinist and perform at Carnegie Hall” or “I want to be a professional violinist and publish a book of my practice and rehearsal methods.” Adding something to the back end part of your goal statement will not only help the front end, but it will feel like accomplishing two great things at once.

Don’t settle for achieving one goal, or a general goal.

If you have dreamed of becoming a professional violinist, and you reach that goal, don’t stop there! Continually setting new goals will continually enhance the ones you have “already” achieved. You are already a professional violinist, now what? Do you want to start a professional touring quartet? Do you want to write that method book? Do you want to give guest lectures at colleges and universities? There are endless ways of expanding on your goals to create new ones. Why settle when you can keep accomplishing great things? Never say, “Ok, I’m done!” but always ask, “Ok, what next?”

Make your list and keep adding to it.

For my own list, all I did was write down everything that I want to accomplish eventually at this point in time. I didn’t specify a targeted date to have things accomplished, but perhaps for your list you want to set goal dates. Write it down somewhere that won’t be misplaced or thrown away, or even document it electronically! Blog about it, if you feel so inclined to share! Reading the goals of others may end up being an inspiration.

Here’s my list of goals as now:

  1. Get an album of my music on iTunes. I don’t have a projected “due” date for this, but I will admit to being extremely anxious with this one, especially with all of my writing and recording going on lately. There are a few steps in the process that I have yet to look into, like album artwork, pricing, and the actual process of getting the music on iTunes…but that’ll come with time!
  2. Have an original choral composition published. I started looking into this as well, and it seems like a bit of a daunting task. I’m planning the process of doing a “reverse commission” like Tom West wrote in this blog post.
  3. Write a book. I have no idea about what topic, besides the general theme of music, but I feel like once I acquire enough passion and knowledge about something I want to write a book about it!
  4. Compose a piece for dance. One of my best friends is an extremely talented dancer and gifted choreographer, and we share the same passion in creating for our art. This is more of a fun, collaborative goal that could potentially grow into something more!
  5. Run a coffee shop that supports live music. This goal sprouts from a coffee shop I used to play at in NJ that also was a Christian book and music store, had a professional recording studio, and practice rooms where I worked to teach lessons. I feel like coffee and music go so well together…they require the same atmosphere. That could just be me, but ever since I worked and performed at that coffee shop I have always wanted to run something like it!
  6. Conduct a choir. In some ways this goal means, “get a job,” but this goal is my “front end” of most of my other goals. I want to be a choral conductor AND do the rest of this stuff! I think I have my work cut out for me?

So that’s my list! I’m sure it’ll keep growing and growing, and perhaps at one point become unmanageable, but it still excites me to think about these future projects and goals!

All this to say, if you haven’t read The Last Lecture, you really should, especially if you are looking for inspiration.