Monday, 20 January 2014

Toscanini's challenge

Arturo Toscanini, the acclaimed Italian conductor, started a whole new adventure at the age of 70. When most people are retired and looking back over their lives, Toscanini was looking forward.

He left Italy, the land of his birth, to become the inaugural conductor of the NBC Symphony Orchestra in New York. Not only did he play a leading role in the establishment of this orchestra, he also made classical music more accessible to people by touring extensively across America. At the age of 83 he undertook a major transcontinental tour of America, travelling with his orchestra by train and conducting performances in large cities and small towns alike.

Being open to new challenges and the new perspectives and opportunities they bring with them, however late on they present themselves to us, keeps our thinking flexible and helps us maintain our ability to be innovative in our problem solving.

Great opportunities can tend to come to us late on, either during the latter part of our lives or towards the tail end of our undertakings and projects. This is to be expected, because as we gain knowledge and experience we become more insightful and more keenly aware of the many areas to which our expertise could contribute. Also, those around us begin to notice our expertise and offer us additional and perhaps unexpected opportunities.

There is a danger, however, that as our lives or undertakings progress we become too set in our ways to recognise the insights, take advantage of the opportunities or realise the enhanced contributions our hard gained knowledge and experience could make possible. Indeed, our knowledge and experience can sometimes blinker our perception or, even worse, rein us back, pulling us in the direction of past achievements rather than spurring us forwards towards new and exciting challenges.

Welcome new opportunities and challenges that arrive late like interesting and stimulating people that turn up towards the end of a party. Engage with them and find out more about them. Enjoy them and encourage them to stay a while. The party may then continue for longer than expected and your new friends may offer to broaden your horizons in ways that were previously impossible for you to imagine.

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