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A Half Step Makes All the Difference

Updated: Sep 18, 2023

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By Andrea Lynn Cianflone

One of the perks of growing up in a musical family where my Mother owned a music business was having access to a myriad of instruments! I would find myself experimenting with the sweet sounds of a flute to the exalting tones of a trumpet or drawing a bow of silvery screeches against the violin. My sister and I had fun expressing ourselves in a multitude of creative ways and expanding the childhood imagination through musical games! We played a game which consisted of taking the sofa cushions off the couch, utilizing them as “boats.” The blue carpet in the house was the “ocean water” and the grand piano was a giant “shark.” My sister would alternate two notes on the lowest part of the piano, often C and C sharp, gradually escalating the tempo in what became our version of the Jaws theme song. When those alternating semitones were sounded, it triggered a response that the shark was approaching, and my sister would jump from the piano bench to my cushion to save me from the shark that capsized the boat.

If life could be so playful and simple…

I think it can be! I often wonder about those semitones of life, the triggers that influence positive or negative thoughts in the moment. Like the half steps on a piano (i.e. C to C sharp), the distance is not that far away, but the result can be so starkly different. Just try listening or playing a C to C sharp verses a whole step from C to D, and you will hear and feel the tonal and emotional difference. Thoughts in the head can teeter totter like those half steps: where sadness could have been gladness, where anger could have been forgiveness, and where fear could have been courage. A half step closer in my mind could have brought me to a soothing place I perceived as unreachable. I find that every decision I make in a day is really linked in the same formula: a half step closer to hope or a half step closer to despair. The choice is mine.

Take for example the time I shared what I believed to be an awesome product idea to a business colleague. The person began to question the idea in every single way that after five minutes of this dialogue, I was sure to find a way to convince myself not to launch the product. This is what despair does. It shreds hope. Some might argue that the questions were well-intentioned, keeping dreams ‘realistic.’ Perhaps the person was just being a skeptic! Call it what one may. If the idea is a reasonable, achievable goal, then why the need to break the optimism of what could be? Despair is like a slow death, and when applied to an idea, a goal, or action, it suffocates the breath of potentiality. When I find myself in those challenging moments of life where I’m teetering on the semitone that will capsize my boat, I embrace this guidepost to make an intentional choice to bring myself a half step closer to hope.


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