Finding Motivation through "Grey's Anatomy"

Who would have ever thought that I’d be telling you that binging on Netflix will help your practice? Yeah, I never thought I would be either! As a musician, it is really hard to stay motivated while being socially distanced from others. My main source of motivation comes from feeding off of other musicians, so being isolated for 6 months could have taken a toll on my playing. But here’s the thing, it didn’t, and I have Grey’s Anatomy to thank for that!

Let me start by explaining my experience with quarantine. I started off really motivated and excited for all this extra time that I would have to practice. I was hopeful this wasn’t going to be a longterm event, so I went all in practicing for my senior recital. Then my senior recital was cancelled…

Stab in the gut…

My summer festival was moved online.

Stab in the gut…

My summer recitals had to be either virtual or cancelled.

Stab in the gut…

All of my performance motivations to keep practicing just vanished. I even started hard core questioning why I majored in performance, what music will even look like after this, what am I supposed to do with life now, etc… I was in a funk!

Now you’re probably thinking, how in the world can Grey’s Anatomy improve your motivation? I still don’t get it. I’m getting there!

So in my funk, I started watching Grey’s Anatomy because what else was I supposed to do? At first it was just a way to pass the time. After some time I was hooked. Day in and day out I was surrounded by the great Christina Yang, Meredith Grey, and Derek Shepherd. You see, one overarching theme from Grey’s, and the practice of medicine in general, is the concept of striving for greatness. Surgeons can’t just be okay at surgery. They have to be great. Their determination to be great brought to the surface my drive to be great as a musician. This is something that I’ve always had, it just went into hibernation for a few months.

I’ve always viewed the study of music to be of very similar mindset to the study of medicine ever since I read this Karl Paulnack quote:

“If we were a medical school, and you were here as a med student practicing appendectomies, you’d take your work very seriously because you would imagine that some night at two AM someone is going to waltz into your emergency room and you’re going to have to save their life.

Well, my friends, someday at 8 PM someone is going to walk into your concert hall and bring you a mind that is confused, a heart that is overwhelmed, a soul that is weary. Whether they go out whole again will depend partly on how well you do your craft.”

I strive for this mindset with every performance, every phrase, every note. This is why I do music and Grey’s Anatomy helped me uncover this truth for myself when I needed it the most.

Reality is, we don’t know when we’ll be able to perform like we used to again. Maybe we’ll never be able to go back to what we used to. There are so many unknowns that even planning a day ahead can be too much. Some days may be unbearable with isolation mixed with political unrest mixed with COVID mixed with… you get the idea. Find your motivation. Find your calm.

One prolific scene in Grey’s Anatomy is when Derek Shepherd is tasked with removing a tumor that most doctors wouldn’t even begin to attempt. The risk of killing the patient is very high. Derek even told the patient there’s no way he would do it and the patient comes back with this response:

“But Derek, there’s always a way. When things look like there’s no way, there’s a way.

To do the impossible. To survive the unsurvivable. There’s always a way. And you? You and I have this in common. You’re inspired. In the face of the impossible, you’re inspired. So if I can offer one piece of advice to the world’s foremost neurosurgeon:

Today, if you become frightened, instead, become inspired.”

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