Ralph Gardner Jr.


Sept. 23, 2014 9:21 p.m. ET

Nancy M. Williams in the Midtown offices of Sing for Hope, a nonprofit where she volunteers. Andrew Lamberson for The Wall Street Journal

If you've gone to the best schools, and become a success in the eyes of the world, yet still feel a nagging void in your soul, there are valuable lessons to learn from Nancy M. Williams.
"I wasn't feeling very fulfilled," she remembers of her 30s when she worked as a marketing executive for companies such as Virgin Mobile USA and AT&T Inc. "I had a big office and a secretary and a staff of product managers. When I talked, people listened. But I felt something was missing. When I'd get to the office, I'd push the revolving door and it sucked the energy out of me."
Ms. Williams holds a bachelor's degree in quantitative economics from Stanford and an M.B.A. from Harvard.
That may sound impressive. Except that her education didn't really prepare her for what she decided, during an early midlife crisis, she really wanted to do: play the piano again.
Such a midcourse correction would sound like a heavy lift for anyone—no matter how talented they were previously in the working world.
But Ms. Williams faced an added obstacle: She has significant hearing loss.
"When I was diagnosed at 6, I had a mild high frequency loss," she said. "Mild is a misnomer. It's heartbreaking. Over the years, my hearing loss has slowly worsened.

'I feel very peaceful,' Ms. Williams said of playing the piano. Andrew Lamberson for The Wall Street Journal

"It can be frustrating for family members," she added, referring to her husband, David Theobald, and their children—a 14-year-old son and a daughter, 12. "I can't hear somebody speaking from the other room. Either I have to find you, or you have to find me." Read more here: