The life of musician Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) provides a forceful illustration of the dire consequences of irrational enthusiasm. When Antonio was a child, his father, Giovanni Vivaldi, taught him to play the violin and took him around to perform in parties and ceremonies in Venice.
Those early contacts with
the commercial market for music encouraged Antonio Vivaldi to develop
his skills further. By the time he was 20 years old, he had become
proficient at several string and wind instruments; from all of them, it
was the violin that he played best.
Shortly after his 25th
birthday, he obtained an appointment as music teacher at a municipal
orphanage in Venice. The job involved teaching children to play the
violin, training them to sing in the orphanage choir, and writing
compositions for religious ceremonies.
Like most employees,
Vivaldi soon realized that his position was not going to make him rich.
Nevertheless, it provided him a stable income, a
growing reputation as composer and performer, and contacts in the
commercial music market that could prove profitable down the road.
Lack of prudence
career exemplifies the dark side of exuberant optimism. While other
musicians aimed at prologuing their appointments, he took
disproportionate risks. His wrong assessment of the market led him to
mistakes that wasted the assets that he had accumulated.
Vivaldi was in his thirties, the orphanage promoted him to musical
director in recognition of his excellent performance as teacher and
composer. The new position brought him a higher salary and the
possibility to devote more energies to commercial music ventures.
neglecting his job at the orphanage, Vivaldi branched out in the field
of opera, which at that time constituted the most remunerative genre for
composers. Venice possessed several theatres which competed with each
other for audience and novelty.
Opera was a
commercial market in which each new production could lead to large
profits or financial losses. Vivaldi composed several dozen operas with
varying success. A few of his pieces earned him substantial profits,
while others quickly fell into oblivion. In parallel, his position at
the orphanage continued to generate him a regular income.
What you can lose
Vivaldi had maintained his strategy, he would have become wealthy with
limited risk. His double role of musical director and opera entrepreneur
enabled him to get the best of both worlds. By devoting his days to
sacred music and his evenings to the theatre, he benefited from two
complementary incomes and enhanced his reputation.
became overenthusiastic and abandoned his well-structured life. Instead
of maintaining a balance between his two occupations, he began to devote
more efforts to the commercial market and seek commissions outside
During his forties and fifties, Vivaldi
travelled frequently in pursuit of better appointments. He performed in
Mantua, Milan, Rome, Trieste, Prague, and Vienna. His life became
exciting and exhausting, leaving him little time for teaching.
the commissions were quite lucrative, the money seemed to hardly cover
expenditures. Travelling was uncomfortable and expensive. The continuous
effort of chasing appointments in distant cities must have made Vivaldi
regret his orderly life in Venice. While he was in Vienna trying to
secure a new commission, he died in 1741, when he was 64 years old.
Perceiving reality objectively
excessive enthusiasm made him overrate the size and possibilities of
the commercial music market. If he had been more realistic, he would
have stayed in Venice and built on his assets. With less work and risk,
he could have led a comfortable life.
A wise man does his best to
avoid the delusion of exuberance. Appealing ventures in restricted
markets frequently end in disaster.
Never entrust fundamental decisions to your emotions. Growing consumer
demand provides an open door to success, while projects sustained only
by enthusiasm tend to have a dead-end.
For more information about rational living and personal development, I
refer you to my book The
10 Principles of Rational
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