This week I had the great pleasure of seeing opening night of Light in the Piazza at the LA Opera, where my daughter Dove played one of the two leads: Clara Johnson, opposite opera legend Reneé Fleming.
I think most parents would be thrilled to see their kid on a huge stage with world-class performers, but this show is extra special for us: Dove has dreamed of playing this role since she was very young. And watching her joy in performing it, and seeing her recognized for her hard work was too gratifying for words.
When your kid develops a passion for something as a child, you don’t really expect an outcome like this.
I certainly didn’t. Did I believe in her? Of course. You don’t leave everyone and everything you know behind to move to Los Angeles to give your child a shot at their dream without a true belief in their abilities. Still, we all know what the odds are for any kind of success, even with serious skills and a fierce work ethic.
So many micro steps happened to get to this place.
The steps from childhood dream to Light in the Piazza may look like big events in retrospect, but in fact they are all made up of tiny moments. Each large and small decision is like a stepping-stone across a river, where you cannot see the other side because the river is shrouded in fog. So much trust and deep listening.
Five years of play and learning on the stage of our local community theatre, Bainbridge Performing Arts, including an ensemble role in Light in the Piazza on that stage. Three years of voice lessons. All without a thought of going professional, and all before we left for LA. Then, over the next nine years:
- Countless auditions
- Slowly building a team
- Eight years of TV and film
- Many vocal recordings
- An off-Broadway run originating Cher in Clueless the Musical
And every step along the way, building relationships, and learning how to navigate a constantly changing landscape.
Every new level of success brings a new learning curve. And you must learn and grow to stay on the curve without falling.
It’s easy to want a magic formula for success. But at this point it’s clear to me that so much of what makes a difference for success are the soft skills that are so hard to talk about:
- Managing your emotions and inner self-talk
- Finding courage when it’s called for
- Knowing when to be silent, and when to speak up
Of course, self-mastery is a life-long process.
I know I’m still working toward it. I watch Dove display all of these soft skills in action, and notice with gratitude that so many of the skills I’ve tried to model for her, and her sister Claire, are in evidence. Kids are always listening, even when we think they aren’t.
When your kids are young and you’re caught in the craze of daily parenting, with the ten thousand details of life and school and work and auditions and rehearsals, it’s easy to feel it will never end. Or to wonder if your kids will actually absorb what you are trying to teach them through the noise and chaos of life.
Watching Dove shine on stage this week at the LA Opera in front of thousands of people as she played her dream role, I was struck by her self-mastery.
Perhaps a large part of true success is to continue to work toward self-mastery as we work toward mastering our work, whatever it may be. This makes us better parents, better partners, and better humans. Which is my own definition of success.
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