The Fable of the One-Handed Pianist

Every person with an email inbox and an enthusiastic mother has seen the video by now. No doubt your mom sent it to you, subject line: This Is SOOOO Inspiring!!!

Thanks to mothers like ours, it didn’t take long for the clip, a five-minute segment from “America’s Got Talent,” to go viral, amassing more than 300 million views in less than a week. Few people seem to remember his name (Todd Brown), but after watching him on TV, they’ll never forget what the man can do: play the piano with one hand.

On AGT, he performed a Chopin waltz, his one hand (his left), flying over the keyboard like a windshield wiper. The judges were flabbergasted; the audience cried; time stood still. During his post-performance interview, he inspired millions — including your mom — with a few simple words. “If I can do this with one hand, imagine what you’re capable of doing with two!”

He felt great about winning the big prize. He felt great about the 51-city concert tour booked in arenas around the country. He felt great about no longer being a highly-talented-yet-virtually-anonymous pianist. Being rich and famous was wonderful.

What was slightly less wonderful was a persistent niggling concern, like an itch in the middle of one’s back left unscratched. The One-Handed Pianist worried that the millions of people who now found him powerfully inspiring might find him somewhat less inspiring if they knew how, after carefully assessing his dead-end career playing show tunes in lobby bar of the local Sheraton, he figured he could attract exponentially more attention and money by surgically removing one of his hands.

People might not like that part. So the One-Handed Pianist doesn’t mention it.

 

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