Today is the 245th birthday of Ludwig van Beethoven. If you don't know who he is then I can't help you. Actually I could, but I refuse; the most iconic composer in history... you'd have to have been living under a rock your entire life or never seen a single Peanuts cartoon to have missed this information.

Ludwig Van Beethoven
Sebastian Niedlich via Compfight

What many people don't know about Beethoven is that he was also the first real professional musician. This one might take some explaining because I hear people throwing out names like Bach and Mozart and Palestrina... well, maybe not Palestrina as much, unless you're a big fan of old style yet calming choral mass music (which I am, but my wife absolutely hates).

I call Beethoven the first professional because he wasn't employed by a royal court, thus he didn't produce music on demand. Instead, whatever he wrote, he sold on his own, sometimes to more than one publisher. It signaled a great change in how musicians were compensated because now they could create music and take it directly to the masses. If the music was embraced, musicians made good money.

Also, with talent like his, he was given many financial stipends by some pretty rich and powerful people, which means you could count him as one of the earliest benefactors of donations to the arts. Truthfully, if he'd been a better money manager and hadn't had to deal with health issues for himself and his brother, he'd have died a pretty wealthy man.

Although Beethoven wrote tons of stuff throughout his life, including my favorites Moonlight Sonata, Pathétique Sonata, the 5th Piano Concerto and the Choral Fantasy, most people know him for his 9 symphonies. So, I thought I'd put together 9 motivational lessons we all can learn from his life:

1. Think of yourself in very good ways. Beethoven always thought of himself at the best composer in the world... and in my opinion he was.

2. Every complicated thing starts simply. Beethoven's music is built on what's known as motifs. He starts with a pattern and then builds on it; you can hear it in almost every single piece he writes, from the smallest pieces to the large symphonic masterpieces.

3. Trust your instincts in knowing when what you've done is just right. Beethoven was known to write pieces and then go back and work on them some more. He wasn't considered a perfectionist, which isn't always the best thing to be, but he also knew when he got things the way he wanted them to be.

4. Figure out what you feel your worth and then go for it. As mentioned above, Beethoven was pretty much the first music entrepreneur. He couldn't have done that without believing he was worth more than being a court musician.

5. Be flexible when opportunity arises. True, he wasn't a court musician, yet when aristocrats paid him to perform he did, even if it was a performance for one or two people. Seems the aristocracy was willing to pay him no matter what. 🙂

6. Don't let setbacks rule your life. We all know that Beethoven went deaf. While deaf, he still wrote a lot of music, including his 9th Symphony. He "heard" it inside his head and didn't let it stop him from composing.

7. Even when you think you're great, study from other greats. Beethoven studied with Joseph Haydn, Ignaz Schuppanzigh, Antonio Salieri (if you saw Amadeus this name should be familiar) and a few other teachers. He learned how to play and compose for the violin and how to do the same for vocal music. He probably would have been good without the training but he wanted to be great.

8. It's okay to change things up as time goes on; change is good. Beethoven's career is divided into 3 main periods of composition. His earliest works sounded a lot like the music he was used to listening to at the time, which reminded a lot of people of Mozart. The middle period expanded on all the things he'd learned from teachers; it ended in 1820, which was the end of what's known as the "classical" period. The final period led to what's known as the "romantic" period, and the music he composed after 1820 is considered the lead towards some of the most beautiful classical music ever produced in history by all artists of the time.

9. Teach people how to treat you, no matter who they are. Beethoven was known to have a lot of friends. He was also known to disdain what he considered bad behavior from anyone, including the aristocracy. If people talked while he played, he stopped (I use to do this also lol). If he wasn't being paid he'd refuse to play. He was both engaging and obstinate, depending on his moods but also on how people acted towards him. All of us deserve to be treated right by everyone, no matter status.

My favorite composer; now take these 9 things and have a great day!