There was a movie in the 90s called Mr. Holland’s Opus, starring Richard Dreyfuss. I didn’t much of it at the time, but the message has stuck with me all these years. The basic plot is that Mr. Holland dreams of composing this great piece of music, an ‘Opus’. But in order to make ends meet while he’s writing it, he takes a job as a music teacher at the local high school. The years go by, the Opus never gets completed, and when he retires from his teaching job, the kids from his 30 years of teaching come back to honor him and show him how much he affected their lives. The children, were in fact, his masterpiece.
My dad passed away earlier this year. My dad was a bit of a Mr. Holland himself. Holding a high-IQ but seldom holding a job, I had thought my father never lived up to his potential. At his funeral, people showed up that I had never met. There was a young woman from the copy center, where my dad used to go there to make copies. She said that he always brightened her day with his humor and he engaged her in interesting conversations. She looked forward to seeing him come into the store. All these people had stories of how much my dad had helped them and affected their lives. I had been looking proof in a paycheck, and quite frankly I think my dad was too. I wish he could have been at his own funeral to witness his own masterpiece.
I’ll go get a tissue, and then we’ll talk about how you can appreciate your own masterpiece while you are still alive.
When someone tells you that you affected their life, believe them. I saw a facebook post the other day reminding me how much we all affect people’s lives in small ways. Then within minutes, I got a message that a friend heard a song that reminded her of me when we were kids. And my daughter tells me that the great music I introduced her to has influenced her playlist. What? My 12-year-old said this? Am I in an alternate universe? No, I’m not, I’m just more attuned to the small ways that people tell you that you affected their life.
Big things happen in the small. While you’re working on your grand vision, your Opus, big things are happening right under your nose. Those people standing in the way of your big plans, they just want to connect with you. I had someone tell me that I was a big influencer in their career development. What?! Had I known that I would have been more intentional about it, maybe took them under my wing a bit more, who knows? These tiny interactions that we take for granted can change the course of someone’s life. That doesn’t mean you need to work hard for each interaction, it just means that you should stop, take a moment and appreciate it.
Negative energy counts too. It was brought to my attention that I have a unique ability to shift the energy in a room. It’s a great super-power. But, my first reaction was “Oh crap, I have been using that power for evil and not for good.” A co-worker used to joke that when the elevator dings I step off, the music gets shut off, and all fun gets sucked out of the office. Yep. That was me. Making people feel bad, intimidated, or otherwise uncomfortable is a way of affecting their lives too. Do you want to be remembered for that?
What is your masterpiece? Let us know!