The perfect trap and the trap of perfect – End of the Day for September 9, 2014

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It is a week for practicing the arts, I guess, joe came to me tonight for help in learning how to play guitar for a song he wants to perform a little later in the year. Almost immediately he fell into the perfect trap or, more accurately, the trap of perfect. He was frustrated because he couldn’t immediately pick up the guitar and play the song. He couldn’t stand not being perfect. As anyone in the arts will tell you, though, you have to be able to suck at something first and then power your way through to good. You’ll probably never reach perfect, but it is a goal to keep in mind. You’ll never get anywhere, though, if you can’t stand not being perfect.

Guitar - Photo-A-Day for October 28, 2006

Most people simply stop when faced with the long period of practice required to get good at anything. That’s fine if that task doesn’t mean anything to you, but if you truly want to accomplish something, you have to accept the suck and keep practicing anyway. You have to accept that things are bad now, but will get better, if you keep trying. It can be difficult sometimes, sure, but I was able to show Joe tonight how in just a few hours we were able to go from only the most basic knowledge of some chords to working our way though the song — however rough. When practicing, these small steps, these small rewards are what you are seeking. You can’t jump to perfect immediately, so you have to take the small accomplishments as milestones along the way. Sure, the playing still sounds pretty bad, but he now remembers where to put his fingers for an F chord or a C chord and can move between them most of the time. These small rewards are what keep you trying, what keeps you moving and, most importably, what keeps you learning.

I can relate to Joe’s trouble with this process, as it is something I have had to deal with every day for 45+ years. There is always work involved in improving yourself, your life, your job, your talents and there are no shortcuts. Sometimes taking yourself out behind the woodshed and doing some serious “woodshedding” is the only way. You don’t have to do it in front of other people, but you do have to practice — again and again, over and over. It can be a tough road sometimes, but I always find myself in a better place when I do it.

Previously on End of the Day:

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