One of Aesop's Fables tells the story of a Miller, his son, and a donkey they were taking to sell at the market.
Along the way they get harassed by various people criticizing what they're doing.
The first group doesn't like that they are all walking when they have a perfectly good donkey. So the Miller's son gets on to ride.
The second group thinks the young boy should walk, and let the old man ride.
The next group thinks that there is room on the donkey for both of them.
Next they get criticized for both riding, and wind up carrying the donkey themselves.
They create such a stir at the market that they soon gather a large crowd of onlookers.
Just as they are crossing a bridge the donkey gets excited and starts braying and kicking his feet. The Miller and his son lose their grip, and the donkey tumbles into the river and is lost.
The poor Miller was sad, but he learned that by trying to please everyone, he had pleased no one, and lost his Ass too.
There's another story from a scene in the 1980's film Bird, about the life of Charlie Parker.
A rival saxophone player, Chester Franklin, hears Parker play and becomes so depressed by his own playing; he throws his saxophone off a bridge. He vows never to play again.
Every now and then we all feel like we could do better than we currently do. And, there will always be people who do what we do just a little bit better than we can. Sometimes a lot better.
When we feel challenged in that way it can be very tempting to just give up and do something else.
What we're talking about here is two extremes of the same passion. To find acceptance, and recognition for what we do well.
Ironically, both extremes led us to the same place; an Axe falling off a bridge.
The answer to both dilemmas is also the same, and surprisingly simple. Just keep doing what you do.
If the Miller and his son had kept walking, minded their own business, and not let those other people interfere. They would have gone to the market and sold their donkey, and they would have all been much better off in the end.
People enjoyed listening to Chester Franklin, and he wasn't a bad sax player. In fact, he played a completely different style of saxophone than Parker. He was a Boogie-Woogie player. So there really was no comparison to be made, except the one he made up for himself.
In reality, Franklin may have been a character made up for the movie of all the players who felt inadequate and unworthy by comparison to Parker. I'm sure that more than one saxophone, trumpet and trombone found its way into the East River for the same reason.
So, the moral of both of these stories is:
Don't give in to criticism, mind your own business, and do what you do.
Practice hard, and try to get better. Learn the difference between constructive criticism, and mean-spirited destructive criticism. And, learn to accept your own limitations as a part of your own uniqueness as a person.
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