I think that is the main reason why I am a cellist today.
When I was a teenager, I attended a bunch of music camps and workshops since (besides academics of course) I had no life beyond cello in high school. No sports. No boyfriend. Just cello. (Now that doesn't mean I was a big practicer. I was your typical teenager, not too keen on spending hours by myself playing through etudes--since that was what practicing meant to me back in the day).
Anyway, I found myself at a certain music camp with a very strict cello instructor. Needless to say, it wasn't much fun. The lessons with this guy were downright scary for me. One of our sessions ended with a his very cold statement:
"You have no business playing the cello. Quit now."
And then, devastation.
I just left his studio. I was speechless.
Needless to say, I never went back. And soon the devastation I had initially felt was replaced by a seething rage. Maybe my fury was directed towards the teacher. Maybe I was just mad at myself. I still can't be sure. But after that day, I was set on fire! I worked harder at cello than I ever had before, simply because I was told I couldn't cut it.
The anger fueled my new work ethic. I just had to prove that guy wrong. And later, I found myself working as hard as I could because I just wanted to. I started to like the process. The hard work stopped coming from a hostile place and just became a new habit of mine.
Along the way, there have been many more instances like this. (Keep in mind that I am not talking about constructive criticism, which I feel is a completely positive thing. It's like the person is investing in furthering your success by letting you know what you need to work on. I think criticism is totally different than someone telling you to just throw in the towel.) Each time someone said I couldn't make it, the words affected me like a gravitational slingshot. I flew away into my cello work with a burning blaze of intensity even greater than before.
But nothing affected me as greatly as the initial Naysayer did. He sparked the dawn of my devotion to playing the cello as a vocation.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago.
I am playing a chamber music concert. It's so much fun for me, and I am reminded how much I love what I do. Afterwards, I am surprised when a fellow cellist approaches to congratulate me backstage.
It's the teacher who told me to quit twenty years ago.
It's obvious he doesn't remember me. There's some congratulatory small talk. We shake hands.
It only occurs to me after he is gone that I should have thanked him for doing me such a favor all those years ago. After all, his saying "NO" to me gave me a reason to respond with a resounding 'YES!"
And here I am. Still a cellist... And I'm never going to quit.