Last night, as I labored at my drafting table to calligraph an Aramaic text on a ketubah print, I distracted my aching hand by listening to a Third Tribe seminar with Sonia Simone and Johnny B. Truant.
It was a fun interview, but one part in particular really stuck with me:
The reminder not to compare yourself to your heroes.
They’re your heroes precisely because they’re ahead of you on the path. It’s easy to think they’re just superior, that you’ll never be as good/as successful/as [fill in the blank], but in fact, they were once where you stand now.
Neither, Johnny and Sonia reminded me, should you compare yourself to where you want to be. The target is constantly moving and always just out of reach. That’s the point of having goals, in fact: to push yourself forward.
It’s great to have heroes and goals, but comparing yourself to your heroes, or to where you wish you were, can only lead to feelings of failure. Not useful!
Instead, Johnny and Sonia sagely advised, compare yourself to where you used to be.
Ah, yes, infinitely more useful!
Which naturally led me to thoughts of music camp.
“This one time, at band camp…”
Okay, maybe the connection isn’t so obvious. But bear with me.
Today in yoga (when I should have had a mind empty of all thoughts except lines of energy and breath [though of course I never should on myself]), my thoughts were indeed on music camp. On Saturday I head to California Coast Music Camp (CCMC) for the week, and I’m super-excited! This afternoon, as I stretched into utthita trikonasana, I contemplated the microphone technique/performance skills workshop I want to offer to help out less experienced campers who want to perform in the student concert.
Suddenly I flashed back to my first music camp experience, in 2002: Puget Sound Guitar Workshop. I was a newbie guitar player, still struggling to get my fingers to grab the most simple of chords before the song was onto the next change. And although I knew I could carry a tune — and indeed I led services for hundreds of people at my synagogue every year at the High Holy Days — I didn’t think of myself as a singer.
How far I’ve come!
Some specific examples:
Then: I could barely play guitar.
Now: I can actually accompany myself — with jazz chords, no less — in a way that isn’t horribly embarrassing.
Then: I didn’t even know what music theory was.
Now: I have a decent road map of music theory (and not only that, but I’ve discovered — thanks to music camp — that I love it!)
Then: I could carry a tune, but didn’t have a lot of understanding of or control over my “instrument.”
Now: I can do things with my voice I never thought possible!
Then: I was totally in awe of the professional level performances of some of the other students.
Now: I perform professionally myself!
Then: The idea of having my own CD seemed fantastical.
Now: I have my own CDs!
Then: The idea of writing my own songs seemed totally out of reach.
Now: I’ve not only written some original songs, but other singers have asked me if they could sing them!
Then: I remember sitting in on the performance skills class, feeling rather overwhelmed.
Now: I’m teaching performance skills!
Benign reality and baby steps
It’s so easy to get bogged down lamenting what I haven’t achieved yet, and how far away my goals seem. Re-framing my musical life in terms of how far I’ve come turned my entire perspective around.
In 8 years I’ve gone from “Oh, I’m not a musician,” to a paid, gigging singer with a growing body of original songs, 2 self-produced CDs and a mailing list of over 500 fans.
And that’s just my musical life. I’ve made similar strides in my business, my living situation, my self-growth.
Just like a big hike through a canyon or up a mountain, progress feels slow when you’re in the middle of it, but it can take your breath away when you stop for a second and look back at how far you’ve traveled.
All of this gives me hope and a renewed sense of commitment and energy. The race is not always to the swift. Baby step by baby step I’m moving myself forward.
I wonder where I’ll be in another 8 years?