Sunday, January 4, 2015

Le ROI Est Mort, Vive Le ROI!

"The problem with music," Adam told me, "is that it is hard to determine the ROI."

I nodded, looking pensive.  He has his acronyms, I have mine.  And if I nod long enough, he will usually catch me up.

I nodded again.  I am pretty sure that he reads me well enough to know that the second nod (especially when I don't jump in with an unnecessary re-statement of what he just said) means that I am hopelessly lost, and need a little hint.

"See, if you can't measure your success in traditional ways," he explained further, "you don't know if your return on investment is a good one."

Got it.  Return On Investment. ROI.

I nodded again.

He's right.  That is why it is hard to justify buying myself a banjo.  Why Kathe struggles with the purchase of a keyboard that she has wanted to own. 

We can justify doing it 'for the kids'; they are learning and growing and finding themselves.  And even if the time spent playing the sousaphone doesn't result in the identification of the next virtuoso, it brings a richness of experience to the young life - a well roundedness that we want for our kids.

So why is it any different for us adults?

Why should it be any different?

What if it's not too late?

A couple of days ago, I bought a Craigslist keyboard for Kathe.  It cost me a whopping $25, and required a purchase of batteries.  After cleaning it up, I presented it to her. She was initially horrified at what it must have cost. And relieved when it was revealed to be an inexpensive purchase.

And yet, she has wanted to learn how to play the piano all her life.  Why is it that we are reluctant?

I suspect that Adam is right.  We are OK with investments with low ROI in kids.  It is part of the process of growing up - learning whether you have talent in ballet or soccer or sewing or football.  But for kids, you are diversifying the portfolio.

With adults, you have already identified your strengths.  And your weaknesses.  All possibilities of being a musical prodigy are past.  All chances of supporting yourself playing professional soccer - gone.  And so the chasing of that dream is seen as frivolous, because there is no chance of it providing a proper ROI. 

But in doing so, we devalue the dreams we have.  Of playing soccer.  Or learning about Mi Fei's dots in an Asian Art History class.  Or running the marathon. 

I believe, sincerely believe, that we need to push those boundaries, and do the things that make us uncomfortable, shake us up and bring us closer to the dream.


1 comment:

NOJuju said...

yes, yes, and more yes.