Maddy slid open the van door and threw her piano books on the floor so hard they scattered across the gray carpet. “I’m quitting piano.”

“What?” I glanced in the rearview mirror at my ten-year-old daughter, piano prodigy extraordinaire.

“I messed up.” Giant tears hit first, heavy sobs lagging only a second behind. “I practiced all week.” She sunk in the seat, yanked on the belt, and clicked the buckle in place. “And it was hard.”

“I get it,” I said. “You put in the time and effort and you wanted her to tell you what a great job you did and how fabulous the piece sounded.”

“I wanted a sticker.” She sniffed and kicked the back of the seat. “A sticker means I played it perfect.”

Do you ever have moments like that?  I do.

Aiming to be the best at what I do, I slave at something, put in the hours, forgo other activities, with the hope that my hard work will pay off. I want the validation. I want the pat on the back. I want the sticker. And it kills me when I don’t get it.

Questions plague me. Why? What did I do wrong? How could it have been better? The failure eats me up inside, crushes my heart, kills my motivation. And sometimes the failure, even the near miss to perfection, hurts so bad, so deep, so much that quitting feels like the right thing to do.

With great passion comes great pain. The frustration and hurt when I fail is the other side of the greatness of success. And if I rid myself of one, I lose the other.

It’s my passion that makes me shine. My passion that sets me apart. My passion that pushes me to compete against myself and strive to do better every single time. It’s my passion that makes me who I am.

Here’s the rest of the conversation from the van.

“Maddy, if you didn’t get so upset about the mistakes, you wouldn’t push yourself so hard to be better.”

“What do you mean?” She crossed her arms and sniffed.

“The thing that makes you hurt so much inside when you don’t get it right is the thing that makes you great when you finally master the piece. Hate piano today. Quit until the morning, and tomorrow take a deep breath, get back on the bench, and let your fingers fly across the keys because you are amazing.”

Passion and pain. What do you think?

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