Wednesday, 1 April 2015

How lack of prudence can destroy your life

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. 

Irrational enthusiasm

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

Vivaldi's 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.

When 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.

Without 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

If 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. 

Unfortunately, he 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 Venice.

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. 

Although 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

Vivaldi's 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 Living

Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com

Image by dalbera under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us

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