What I learned about money from Enrico Caruso

What I learned about money from Enrico Caruso

"You can do it all!! You don’t have to choose!!!"

"Just buckle down! Stop watching Netflix! Cut back on sleep! Eliminate food. Don't cheat yourself… DO EVERYTHING."

I've got a voice in my head that sounds like that. The voice in my head wants me to be a brilliant actor, an incredible singer, the best blogger, a life changing financial planner, and everyone's favourite friend.

I want all the things.

You see… I'm not the kind of guy who can do just 'one thing'. I like having multiple focuses… focusi?

And so I'm constantly in conflict with my want to do all of things, and my want to be great at all those things.

The smaller the focus, the larger the voice.

My teacher loves to point to the great tenors of the last 100 years: Caruso, Pavarotti, Wunderlich and say "the smaller the focus, the larger the voice".

The smaller the focus, the larger the voice.

For those of you who aren't opera singers, what she's trying to correct in me is how I always connect 'doing a lot' with 'success'.

I feel like if I'm working really hard with every part of my body… that's got to produce the greatest possible result.

But… as you might be able to guess… it doesn't.

Diversification is wonderful… until it isn't…

You see the impending life lesson, don't you?

For the great tenors, it was the careful honing of a very small focus that actually created these huge voices… not the 'do all the things with your body and your voice will be huge' technique that I worked on for years.

So what's a boy to do? Because the truth is that I really struggle with focus, both in my singing and in my life.

In fact doing only 'one thing' really drives me bonkers.

So I 'balance' a bunch of unrelated things: opera, musical theatre, financial planning, NBA podcasts and a deep love of sandwiches.

And on the surface that diversification seems great, like a wonderful rich life…

The problem comes in when I see my expectations for that diversification:

You don't have to be good at math to see that even giving 110% won't get me close to meeting those expectations…

So this is what usually happens:

I overwork on Monday trying to do too much. I spread myself so thin that it never feels like I'm making progress in any one area, and I end up at the end of the week really frustrated.

My focus is broad, and my voice feels small.

I feel like I'm failing to live up to those expectations of 'doing it all' and it’s easy to convince myself that none of the work matters. That I can't do it all, so I might as well not try.

But here's the truth that I’m constantly reminding myself of:

If you want to do it all. you can… it'll just go slowly.

The broader the focus, the smaller the voice.

I have limited time and energy every week. If I choose to split up those resources among a bunch of goals, there will be less to go around.

I either need to stop trying to do so many things OR change my expectations to match what's possible. That's the only way I'm going to stop feeling so frustrated all the time.

It's true in my big life goals, and it’s so true to anyone that's trying to balance multiple financial goals.

Maybe you want to pay off debt, save for retirement AND invest in your business.

If you want to do it all at once, it might look like this:

Which is fine, but it's all going to go slower.

Or you could shrink your focus:

Things happen much faster, but you can’t complain about not having enough money for auditions and supplies.

There are clearly pros and cons to both methods, and it really takes digging into your personal numbers to find the right strategy, but it's really important to know that the more things you want to do, the slower they will happen.

Which is fine, but some days it will feel like your going absolutely no where (I know those days so well).

If you really want to increase the power of your available resources, get as focused as possible.

Because Caruso knew what he was talking about…

… the smaller the focus… the louder the voice.

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Written by

Christopher Enns

Christopher Enns

Christopher Enns is a tenor and financial planner/coach who works specifically with artists helping them navigate the world of variable income, self-employment, and all the other crazy money stuff that comes with trying to make a living in the arts. As a tenor he has been seen on stage at the Canadian Opera Company, Opera Montreal, Opera Atelier, and works regularly creating new opera with groups like The Bicycle Opera Project. You can find more of his writing on money and a life in the arts at Rags to Reasonable - Money Help for Artists.

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