Friday, January 21, 2011

Why It's Okay To Be Terrible

I just tweeted that I was learning "Mr. Jones" on the guitar by the Counting Crows. My sister was (is?) a big Counting Crows fan and said she wanted to hear me play it. My predictable response was that I was terrible and she would have to wait a long time to hear it.

It probably gets old hearing from me that I'm terrible. People probably think I'm fishing for compliments, or... well, they probably think I'm fishing for compliments.

Fact is, I've been playing guitar for about 7 months and only practice about half an hour each day. I'm slowly getting better, and am enjoying what I do. The girlfriend enjoys hearing me play, and I like learning a new skill.

There are lots of people who have been playing for years, with very basic skills, no sense of rhythm, and very little hope of improving. You could safely call those people terrible (unless they are much larger than you) without being contradicted.

If you put me beside one of those people you would be hard pressed to decide who is better. Yet, rather than call me terrible, you would probably say, "You're not bad for how long you've been playing," or, "I can hear how you've improved." The music is being judged on potential, not on it's present condition. Also, I'm probably much larger than you, although I would hope that this wouldn't colour your judgement.

That's actually fair, but irrelevant to what my skills are at this very moment. I'm okay with that, though. Look through Youtube videos and there are thousands of unskilled people showing off what they can do. Most of them are terrible, but some will get better, and some will get excellent. And they are all having fun with what they are doing at the moment.

You can't get good without being terrible at first, so you either have to be all right with being terrible for a while and work at getting better, or be in denial and think you're already great. Either way, as long as you're enjoying what you're doing, it's okay to be bad.


Jen said...

Good point! I took guitar lessons (needed someone else to give me structure for learning) for a few years and I'm not sure I ever got much past "Terrible" myself, but it was a great experience all the same. If you're having fun, you're definitely on the right track!

Steve said...

Thanks Jen. I've been taking lessons for about 3 months now for the same reason as you did. I'm hoping to stick with it but, like you say, it's a great experience regardless.

Jenna Adams said...

Love this! You know that quote, "The perfect is the enemy of the good"? I think people often prevent themselves from trying something because they can't guarantee they will be successful. (I certainly have been guilty of that.)
Well, it's so true that if you want to learn anything new, that requires being okay with being bad at first. It's a less self-conscious, more child-like perspective - and kids learn faster than anybody. Imagine if a baby said, "I'm not gonna try walking, because I may not be perfectly successful at it right off the bat"? ;)