Have you ever been watching someone accomplish something and you say or think, “How do they do that? There’s no way I could do that!”
I know I have!
When I am in those moments I begin to contemplate the number of hours it probably took to complete that task well. It is said that 10,000 hours of something is the expert mark. That is a HUGE commitment to something. That is 416 and 2/3 days of work or 1250 days of 8 hours every day- so for 3 and a half years straight, including weekends and holidays, you would practice 8 hours a day.
Like I said, HUGE commitment!
If you are an expert at anything or even really close to an expert at something, do you remember what it was like when you first tried that skill? Was it awkward and uncomfortable? Or did you feel like an expert out the gate?
My guess is that you were awkward and looked a little ridiculous trying. Yes? No?
For those who don’t know, I was a high-level bassoonist in a past life. I had a full scholarship to go to a music conservatory (of my choice) and chose to enlist as a Marine musician instead.
When I started playing an instrument in fourth grade, I was THE WORST clarinet player. Not just because I was in fourth grade, I was bad for a fourth grader. Something just didn’t click for me, and I don’t come from a long line of musicians (we are few and far between in my very large family).
I stuck out elementary school band and decided to play again in sixth grade when I moved up to junior high. I remember the first day of sixth grade band like it was yesterday. Mr. Hicksaw stood up in front of the students sitting at the cafeteria tables (because that was our band room), and told us about all the instruments we needed to fill out our more mature junior high band.
I took one look at the oboe (yes oboe), and thought “I can play that. It looks like a clarinet.” (Remember I could barely play the clarinet, but I was always up for a new adventure).
After he introduced the instruments, I went up and asked to play the oboe. Mr. Hicksaw only had one oboe and my more petite friend, Amy, wanted to play it too. Well, I was born 5’7” so he decided which of us would play which instrument based on my ability to carry the bassoon.
He said, “Amy, you can play the oboe. And L.J., you can play the big brother, the bassoon.” I said OK and he proceeded to show me how to put it together and teach me what the pieces were called.
In true L.J. fashion, I went home that night and told my mom I was playing a new instrument. When she asked what it was, I replied, “The bah? The bah-something, and it’s really big.”
The next day I went to class and couldn’t remember how to put it together.
I tell you that ridiculous story because I went from that in sixth grade to a paid musician by ninth grade and pretty much a pick of music conservatories (not Juliard, but still pretty good) by time I was in my senior year. The tremendous growth was based in opportunity, and that opportunity yielded more practice which helped me become an expert.
Had I given up on the bassoon when I didn’t remember how to put it together or didn’t show up for my first audition because I didn’t know how to play the audition piece (true story), I would have never had the opportunity to become an expert.
My bassoon expertise didn’t come over night. It took seven years, and when I “arrived” at that level, I needed to practice more to keep up with those around me and to continue to grow to another level. My expertise brought me to an audition for the Marine Band and making the best decision of my life.
That decision is still a part of my life every day because that decision introduced me to my ex-husband, and we had an amazing son together. The Marine Corps taught me so much over the 19 years I experienced with the Marine Corps as a Marine, a spouse, and a civilian employee.
If it hadn’t been for being an expert bassoonist, the Marine Corps may have never found me, and my life would be incomplete.
I encourage you to try that thing when your brain says, “There’s no way I could do that!”, to try anyway. Maybe you’re right, you can’t do it. And honestly, you probably are right to start with, so just expect that. And maybe you don’t ever want to try again. But more likely, you can’t do it but you’re willing to try again until you find if you truly enjoy it.
In the studio, we have people tell us all the time “I don’t (fill in the blank).” What they are really saying is “I’m afraid to try (fill in the blank) because I may:
· Look silly
· Be bad at it
· Not enjoy it
· Find that it’s hard
· Leave my comfort zone
Trust me, we ALL look silly from time to time. You should have seen me when I started yoga or golf…come to think of it, you can still see it when I play golf.
Trying something new will do more good than it can hurt your ego. Trying something new increases brain activity and introduces new neuropathways which makes you younger. Trying new things provides perspective and gives you an opportunity to focus in a way you never have before. If nothing else, trying something new gives you a good story to tell your friends over wine.
What is something you have been impressed with that you thought you could “never” do?
Go do that! Everyone starts somewhere….