I remember being socked in the stomach by an upperclassman at the roller rink when I was in grade school. As this Amazon 4th grader skated away she said, “You aren’t very good at playing the organ during church.” That is a memory embedded in my brain.

It likely wasn’t too long after that when stage fright started. I don’t blame Rachel (…we’ll call her.) for my stage fright but I think it did something to me.

At that young age I played music for a few reasons. One reason was that it came easy/natural for me. Another reason was that it seemed to bring joy to some people. Most importantly, I truly enjoyed it for myself.

The problem was, at the young age of 9, when someone told me I wasn’t very good it started to play mind games on me.

Additionally, every single picture that my parents have of my piano recitals are blurred. Do you know why? Because my mom was so nervous that she shook the camera. Not one decent picture of me at a piano recital (7 years of piano lessons) taken by my mother exists.

So, I had someone very worried I was going to mess up and someone else telling me I was bad. It played with my mind because I gave it too much power. Well, I mean, I was only in grade school… but still!

I’ve learned a few important lessons from that for my own parenting and that is that I never, EVER ask my daughter if she’s nervous before she gets on stage. I also never get nervous myself… I remember her first dance performance I did and then I saw how good she was so I haven’t had to shake a nerve yet. To both of my children, before whatever they are doing, I tell them to have fun. Because if it isn’t fun, what’s the point? It’s extracurricular, not science class.

I’ve also learned some things so very late in life about this. No, I WON’T be the best at guitar or piano or writing or painting or anything. My art won’t be displayed in a museum. My music won’t be put on a CD and sold to the masses. My writing won’t make the New York Times best seller list. I won’t qualify for the Boston Marathon. …AND THAT IS OKAY!!

I’m not sure when perfectionism starts for some of us but I do hate it. I hate that I was so afraid to try new things for fear of not achieving an expectation I had. I hate that I had unrealistic expectations. I hate the time lost in typing on a computer, picking up a paint brush, tickling the ivories and grabbing my 6-string. .

And I do hate it when I see or hear about parents who’s expectations were so damn heavy on kids… So hard that years of therapy may only do the trick to fix it. I remember visiting with a priest once about parenting and he said, “I was putting the trim around the window in my cabin (when he was old) and I heard my dad’s voice in my head say ‘you didn’t measure it. It is going to be crooked!’ And I just grabbed a nail and banged it into place as hard and fast as I could anyway.” The weight parents leave on kids is enormous. Gosh, I remember listening to some parents talk to their kids after high school volleyball games and thinking “Dear God, I’m so glad I’m just mediocre at this sport because I couldn’t handle all of that criticism!!” And those girls, man, they found their coping mechanisms… And it wasn’t in the local library or saying extra prayers at the chapel.

Friends, it’s okay to not be the best at something. There won’t be another Mark Twain… Mark Twain already existed. There won’t be another Mozart… He already existed too. We can only be ourselves and pray for God to use our talents and abilities the way he sees fit. We can’t worry too much about the execution we just need to follow the call.

And to the nay-Sayers. Well… There will always always be naysayers and I’ve come to realize that anyone who’s putting someone else down for doing their life’s passion has an insecurity problem. They get a jealous feeling about people who follow dreams. They get judgey. They get this way because they can’t do it their self… It’s a whole lot easier to sit back and point and judge about how someone is trying to live their life than it is to get up and live your own.

Don’t be THAT guy. Get up. Go live it. It’s your one shot to make the big man proud.