Here's what I learned from reading about Oscar Peterson:
Humility counts: Despite his development into a world-class pianist, with "rapid-fast" keyboard hands, Peterson remained very modest, according to those who knew him best:
"He was very shy, very down to earth. You didn't know you were with a world musician by any means," said Hazel McCallion, a friend and the mayor of Mississauga, Ontario, a Toronto suburb where Peterson lived.
Other lessons that apply to finance, career development and personal growth:
- Get an early start: Peterson learned the piano as a child. His older sister--Daisy-- provided early lessons. By the age of 14, he started to perform on the radio.
- Set high standards: Reportedly, his father issued a challenge. His father's words: "You have to be the best, there is no second best." Oscar Peterson lived by that advice.
- Maintain discipline: Peterson maintained a demanding traveling and recording tour schedule. He played with some of the top musicians in the industry.
- Rebound from difficulties: Even after suffering a stroke during the 1990s, Peterson continued to perform. Despite his initial handicap, he continued to excel as a pianist: "Even with a weak left hand, critics said he outshone many pianists with two good ones," according to the Reuters report.
- Keep the Faith: "When I started I had great belief, and there were quite a few bruises and disappointments along the way, but I never lost the belief," according to a quote from Reuters published in 1999.
- Develop technical expertise. Peterson's technical mastery of the piano is legendary. He believed in developing a "musical vocabulary" through constant practice: "You learn to play the instrument so you have a musical vocabulary, and you practice to get your technique to the point you need to express yourself."
- Give back to the community: Peterson was involved in many social causes and worked hard to get minorities better represented in Canadian advertisements.
Sharon Harvey Rosenberg is the author of The Frugal Duchess of South Beach:How to Live Well and Save Money... Anywhere!, which will be published in May of 2008 by DPL Press.
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