I’ve been taking guitar lessons this year. It’s something I’ve wanted to do forever, and finally got around to it as a 2022 priority. And truly, I’m loving it so much, I’m absolutely kicking myself for waiting so long.
The place I’m going for lessons is great, and the teacher they matched me with is phenomenal. The first time I walked in, he was wearing a leopard print teddy bear fleece jacket, if you want to get a picture in your mind. But he’s also a classically educated musician, and accomplished bassist, a high school teacher, and an emerging engineer. He doesn’t really know who Dolly Parton is, but I’ll give him a pass because of the other stuff.
We’re six lessons in, and I’m actually making pretty good progress. I can play some basic riffs, the 12-bar blues, a strong C major scale, and even a little bit of my first official song-that-I-can-sing-along-with. Apparently, that’s pretty good for a beginner, so we’re moving quickly because I’m getting stuff so fast.
And yet – the persistent feeling of just not good enough endures.
We actually got to talking about it this week as I stumbled through making chord changes quickly enough to keep a song rolling. My teacher emphasized that guitar is really just numbers and geometric shapes, and once you learn them, you can play anything, it becomes muscle memory. I, of course, rolled my eyes and was all, “yeah, says you!”
But, as always, it’s just about practice.
Break it down into one shape at a time, master it. Move on to the next pattern, master it. Layer it together, master it.
We talked, too, a little bit about the misconception people have about really great musicians. People tend to think they have natural talent – and certainly, some do. But most of the time, it actually comes down to the above. These folks are committed to their craft, they spend more time with it than anyone else, they master the basics, they don’t give up when they fuck up. But that’s the part that no one sees, so they assume people just come out of the womb all Jimi Hendrix or Prince.
What really stuck with me from our conversation was my teacher sharing that basically, focusing on that mastery can have its own cost if you’re only doing it for the sake of it. He said that he used to have this misguided goal of being The Best Bass Player in Colorado, and it became a tunnel-vision, singular focus kind of thing. In the end, it distracted him from his joy in music and creativity. And he came to the abrupt realization, which allowed him to loosen up and have fun again, which people noticed even more than his technical skill:
There is no one Best, because what’s great to everyone is completely unique.
(Hi, this is the reason why people like Nickleback…?!?)
I couldn’t help but smile, because it’s absolutely true without question, and such a great reminder for literally everything in life.
You can’t be The Best Guitar Player. You can’t be The Best Parent. You can’t be The Best Lover. You can’t be The Best Leader. You can’t be The Best Cook. You can’t be The Best Coach.
The sooner we accept this, the sooner we can be wholeheartedly enough. Happy again. Joyful in everything that we do. Present. Full.
And really, if you think about it, the folks who are this kind of best are noticeable in your world. They’re not trying to be The Best for the sake of it, or according to some standardized rule of What The Best Is. They know they’re the best they can be, for their purposes, their values, and it fucking shines.
I don’t know about you, but I want to be that person again. And I’m going to work on getting the shapes and patterns right, one by one.
I want to do this everywhere in my life, slow and steady, focused on the basics, with an eye toward fun, and self-compassion for my screw-ups. And, don’t worry, I still plan on getting just good enough to play “Stuck in the Middle With You” on my scrappy little guitar at the campsite…one too many times for your taste, but the exact amount of times to make you chuckle and catch some of my simple joy.
Maybe this all feels a bit harsh, and you still want to be The Best. I get that. We live in a world that encourages this mentality. But maybe you can admit you’re a recovering just not good enough person, like me. And hey, I’m not here to tell you you’re good enough. I’m only here to invite you to know it yourself. So, maybe it’s time for us to really commit to recovery.
Maybe it’s time to shine, if only for ourselves. It really is the best.
If this does sound appealing to you, I’m creating a space to start talking about it, mastering the shapes, and adding the layers. Interested? Click here and you’ll be the first to know when it’s ready. You can also sign up for weekly emails here, or schedule a free call below to explore 1-1 coaching options.