Speaking in Symphonies

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We are all swimming in noise. Of course you know this already. You experience this overload on a daily basis and you think of ways to not be part of the problem.

How do you engage others and connect them to all the incredible goodness you do? What gets you over the threshold and into the realm of real possibility?

As you ponder these questions, consider the college admissions work of MIT professor and author Cal Newport. He discovered that many students accepted into top-notch schools were not necessarily “ideal candidates” in the traditional sense. They didn’t have all the extra-curricular activities and over the top test scores. What these students did have was a true passion and vision that gave them depth of character and made them truly “interesting people”. More importantly, rather than getting bogged down in the act of “doing” just to pad their resumes, they allowed themselves space to explore and uncover areas in their lives that they found truly fascinating.

What happens when this occurs? Newport notes, “They don’t use activities to signal their qualities, they use them instead to transform themselves into more interesting people. In other words, what’s important about an activity is not its impressiveness, but its impact on your personality.”

He goes on to say, “Most students, when interviewed or when filling out their application, fall back on emphasizing their activities and the traits they signal. ‘Running my church youth group,’ they might say, ‘is another example of my leadership ability’.”

However, there are those who follow a different path. They don’t emphasize their activities or stress the qualities they supposedly reveal, instead they follow their true interests, and share that aspect of themselves. When you interact with students who are on this kind of journey you notice the genuineness of the interaction. It has the ability to create a powerful human connection that leaves a lasting impression.

I can think of no greater example of the intoxicating power of passion than this short video from conductor, Benjamin Zander. He offers a moving demonstration on how to inspire and change people. His passion gives him the ability to share his message, connect with his audience, and offer an experience that opens you up to the value and beauty of his work.

There may be hundreds of things you are good at, that you find interesting, or that you feel people want to hear, however, I recommend you step back from all of that and begin anew.

What do you get lost in? What are you truly amazing at? What is the vision welling up inside you? Connect to those pieces, and give yourself space and time to learn and grow. Deliver your message from that place of knowing and you’ll speak in symphonies.



  1. Barbara Jordan  June 28, 2011

    Wow, David! I am working on a blog with the same thesis: focus on what you, and only you, can do best. Jim Collins, in his book “Good to Great”, refers to the Hedgehog concept. It is very similar to your suggestion that “There may be hundreds of things you are good at, that you find interesting, or that you feel people want to hear. However, I recommend you step back from all of that…What do you get lost in? What are you truly amazing at? What is the vision welling up inside you? Connect to those pieces…”
    According to Collins, people who built great companies were hedgehogs. They simplify complexities into a single organizing idea, basic concept, and guiding principle. They focus on what is essential to this and ignore the rest. They understand what they can and cannot be the best at and stick with that. They don’t get distracted by areas that feed their ego or where they CANNOT be the best.
    On another note, have a great Birthday!

  2. David Diana  June 28, 2011

    I always wanted clarity around the Hedgehog Concept because I never read Good to Great. Thanks for finally making it all clear Barbara! And thanks for the birthday wishes!

  3. Ruth Dombrowski  June 29, 2011

    The Ted video was so great. You know I’m into classical music and could really relate to his Chopin analogy. Music helps us to get in touch with our senses and feel alive! AND the best part, there’s no guilt or a hangover!!!

  4. David Diana  June 30, 2011

    It was incredibly moving when he finally played the Chopin piece the way Chopin intended it, and after Ben explained it!

    BTW…his talk is a textbook example of how to present. I could go on and on about the process he used and why it was so impressive but I’ll have to wait another day for that one!

    Be well Ruth!

  5. Susan Giurleo  June 30, 2011

    David, I saw Ben’s wife, Rosamond, present at the Psychotherapy Networker conference in March – they are both so inspiring… Thanks for sharing this video and inspiration!

  6. David Diana  June 30, 2011

    Ah…the benefits of living in the Boston Metro area! I read their book, The Art of Possibility, so I would imagine she is just as incredible as her husband. Glad you enjoyed it Susan!

  7. Linda  July 2, 2011

    Hi David–

    Lovely site, here. My friend Daniel Franz mentioned you in a blog post comment, I believe it was…anyway, he asked if I was familiar with your work, and spoke of your ever-widening reach. I replied, “No, but with a name like David Diana, he’s bound to be a star!”

    Love the idea to narrow the focus, and not try and be all things to all people. One of my favorite lessons for reaching an audience, whether it be in business, in private practice, or the blogosphere is “there is no everyone.”

    I agree with Barbara’s comment that ego too often gets in the way. I’d rather not fall for the Master of Nothing trap, and find it essential to recognize those things you’re not so adept at, and pass the torch.

    I’m a huge fan of all things simple.

  8. David Diana  July 3, 2011

    Glad you enjoyed the article and the site Linda. I love the way Ben takes a topic like classical music and uses his love of music to show people the true essence of Classical Music. I saw therapy as an interesting parallel as we all try to show people how wonderful and beneficial are services are.

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