The Next Level
What inspires me is not mastery.
I was talking to a friend of mine about my choice to play jazz guitar. The initial stages of learning this skill are quite slow, as I’m just collecting chords and playing them on the guitar (sometimes quite sloppily).
“It’ll be cool when you can just make your fingers dance around the guitar like a pro,” he said.
I smiled and nodded, but deep down I felt an intense sense of disagreement with that statement.
Sure, the idea of being able to jiggle around the guitar, to play solos that make heads spin and fires start, to maybe even join in a jam session with other musicians… all of it is exciting to me.
But what’s most exciting to me is not the dream, it’s simply conquering the step I’m currently on. And for now, that’s memorizing 27 chords (their names, and how to play them). I don’t care what’s beyond that at this point.
Think of an aspiring writer, perhaps a young J.K. Rowling. She doesn’t necessarily dream of being one of the famous writers in the world. She dreams of finishing her first novel. No, she dreams of finishing her first chapter for that novel. Maybe even the first sentence. After that, maybe it’s just getting her book in front of agents, and then getting a deal, and then…
It’s discouraging and even disingenuous to define for a learner the meaning of “mastery” for their craft, whether you have experience in that craft or not. It’s misleading. Because a pro will tell you that the target is always moving, and that mastery is not some kind of target you will one day hit.
There are little mini-targets, and the road never ends.