The Notes Without the Music

“The notes without the music.”   I had never heard that phrase until a few weeks ago.

I have been teaching college students for the last two years and, ordinarily, I create the content of my lecture and then present it on my own.  This quarter, I am working with some extraordinary mentors and I was asked to present their material in my lecture.  It was a big moment for me as it was a bit of a test to see how I would teach with this format. I prepped every day for a week.

It was both new to me and difficult to teach someone else’s content. I prepared as best I could, memorizing the material and presenting it the way I thought my mentors wanted.

Ironically, the topic of my presentation was about emotional intelligence and listening to your gut instincts.  I have worked so hard for the last couple of years to follow those gut instincts and listen to my own voice.  I don’t know if it was because I was new in this particular class or I wanted so much to please my mentors, but I made a mistake.  I didn’t follow my gut.  I memorized the materials, hit every point that I was supposed to, and I didn’t even choke.  But, in the end, I felt like a little of my soul had died. I hadn’t taught the lesson the way "I" would teach it.  I taught it like a lawyer and not the new person I had discovered in myself over the last few years, that is, someone who had found great joy and fun interacting with college students as they make important choices going forward with their lives.

I have been teaching that failure is important and that learning from failure and improving the next go around is how you become the best “you”.

So, in my mind, my latest lecture was a failure because I was not me.  I was trying to be someone else.

In the end, my mentor was kind and supportive, but he smiled and said, “It was the notes without the music”.

That phrase caught me by surprise.  That was it.  He had said in just a few words what I have never been able to encapsulate.

It wasn’t just about this experience. It was about all those times in life when it looks like everything is right.  There is nothing from the outside to indicate what is not working...a job, a relationship, or an experience.  I never had those exact words to describe when something is just missing.

The notes are there, but there is no music.  That is what happens when you don’t follow your instincts.  It’s very hard to describe in words, but you know when the music just isn’t there.

How ironic that the topic of my lecture was exactly what I was not doing.

“The notes without the music” in just a few words reminds me when I need to be aware that even with all the checklists marked, it can still be wrong. Even though it may be difficult to describe why there is no music, what is important is recognizing that it’s not there.

Just having that awareness can be a huge step in helping us to go forward.