Friday, April 18, 2008

The Journey

So I was teaching the other day, and in walks one of my students. In he walks, all happy and confident as if the last year and a half of struggling with his I'm-afraid-I-can't-do-it and his verge of quitting.

I've pushed him through the challenge, and now that he has it?

The last year and a half are forgotten.

He's all happy and confident, self-motivated and everything.

Mostly it's because he's just finished memorizing everything, so he just has a few loose ends to tie up before he can show off this amazing piece to his friends. See, learning advanced pieces is a bit like writing a novel.

We're talking looooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooong-term goal.

Kids just don't do long-term goals these days. And when faced with the fear that they won't be able to do it? They quit.

Heck. Even adults struggle with long-term goals.

Anyway, I was thinking. You know how they say actually finishing a novel puts you ahead of 90% of wannabe novelists?

Well, I'm thinking that doing any hugely long-term goal, like learning an advanced piece or writing a novel, puts you ahead of 90% of the population.

Adults and kids alike. Long-term goals are a HUGE challenge. They're just one of those things that can't be reasoned. You have to learn how to deal with the fear in your own way.

Learning how to work through fear is another biggie.

Just some thoughts. If I'm scarce the next two weeks, it's because these are the busiest of my year. I might have some old drafts saved up that I never posted, though.

So what long-term goals have you tackled? How did you work through the fear? What's the first memory you've had of a goal you thought you wouldn't be able to do, were certain you'd never be able to achieve, but did? How did you make it through?

Some kids are hard-wired from birth to be long-term goal-ers. (I've had two in my whole teaching career, and they both did AMAZING things.)

Were you like that? Is there a secret trick you have?

22 bonus scribbles:

Edie 4/18/2008 09:55:00 AM  

Spy, I think I'm one of those hard-wired to be a long-term goaler. Someone who perseveres. Or bullheaded. *g* I did quit writing for awhile, but I came back. Telling stories is what I want to do. It satisfies something inside me.

It must make you feel great to have helped this student become happy and confident. Especially when he was struggling not so long ago. :)

Mark Terry 4/18/2008 10:06:00 AM  

I'm probably like Edie, hardwired for long-term goals, too, although I wonder how much of that has to do with an excellent music education.

Long-term goals?

Want to make a living as a novelist.

This year that means complete two novels at least, the one I'm working on, The Fortress of Diamonds, and China Fire.

I want to earn my black belt. (Eventually; I'm a first brown now).

I want to run a half-marathon, specifically the Disney World Half-Marathon. When? Oh hell, we're talking LONG-TERM, right? Not for a couple years.

I'm sure there are others.

Erica Orloff 4/18/2008 10:07:00 AM  

Wow . . . great post.

I honestly can't count how many times I have met people who tell me, "I've got this great idea for a novel . . . I think I'm going to start it . . . " And then? Nothing.

I always figure if with four kids I can do it, anyone can. But I realize it is something more--and your post nails it. That ability to see something BIG, some big picture and do it.

You know, as silly as it sounds, I think one of my New Year's Resolutions does it for me. "Learn something new." EVERY long-term goal I have or ever had involved taking a chance and learning something new--and whether it's knitting, my garden, physics, astronomy, Buddhism, whatever . . . I know I won't be an expert (or even halfway decent) the second I take it up. That it's a LIFE-LONG journey for every single hobby I pick up (at least the ones I come to enjoy).


spyscribbler 4/18/2008 10:53:00 AM  

That's awesome, Edie! You are. You are one of the ones who inspires others. I think there are people who want it as much as you do, but just can't get over that hump. You have the perserverence, and that is SO difficult to teach.

spyscribbler 4/18/2008 10:58:00 AM  

Mark, I have a saying that no one really believes, and that's, "If you can learn to play the piano, you can learn to do anything."

I believe that, and see proof of it all the time.

I want to earn a black belt, too! I want to sooooo much, I can't even tell you. It's been almost two years, and I still lay in bed and go through my forms. Hopefully it'll pay off when my foot gets fixed.

I knew someone who ran the Disney Half-Marathon. It sounded way cool! I bet your kids would love going to "watch you!"

spyscribbler 4/18/2008 11:01:00 AM  

That's IT, Erica, that's it precisely! That's the hardest thing I try to teach the kids, and ... maybe it takes maturity to understand it.

They don't understand that the COOL part of piano is that you're never "done" learning. There's always more you don't know and more yet to learn ... and it's not the frustrating part, it's the cool part.

I mean, how boring would it be to know everything about something? Then you're done. That's it. Why continue? Worse, why bother?

Erica Orloff 4/18/2008 12:07:00 PM  

Hi Spy:
I used to hate being a novice at everything. Because I skipped grades in school, got a scholarship at a young age to college, I was always used to being a "winner" in a "goal-oriented" mindset. It wasn't until I had some wisdom under my belt that I started to get that the joy was in the journey, not rushing through to the finish line.

Mark Terry 4/18/2008 12:36:00 PM  

If anything, picking up a new instrument--in this case, guitar--has been a big reminder of why music is a life-long learning kind of thing. When I stopped playing piano, my freshman year in college, I had been at a plateau for a long time. I just wasn't going to improve much from a technique point of view. From a musical point of view, well, there's always room for improvement.

I'm sure I'll hit a technique's-not-gonna-improve-anymore point in time with guitar, but I keep running into things that SEEM simple but really aren't--strumming. I'm actually more comfortable with fingerstyle and I've been working on J.S. Bach's 2-part invention #13 (the top voice) on the guitar and although it has its tricky spots, it's not impossible.

But I'm also learning Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues" and there's this root-chord-chord, root-chord-chord strumming pattern that's driving me crazy. Peter, my teacher, said yesterday he thought I was improving and to remember that if I can master it in this song, I will have opened up a million more songs I could learn.

Each journey begins with a single... blah, blah, blah.

Melanie Avila 4/18/2008 01:38:00 PM  

Lately I feel like my entire life has become a long-term goal. As you know from my blog, things are taking longer than we expected. We knew all along this could take years, but we tossed those expectations aside at the first glimmer of it ending much sooner.

Looking at the big picture and thinking of it in terms of your post I realize we're still on the journey.

(Thanks for your comments, btw. You cracked me up.)

spyscribbler 4/18/2008 02:26:00 PM  

Erica, that's good to know. All the "books" say we should teach our kids to enjoy the journey. But maybe all we can do is plant the seeds, and hope they'll blossom when they're older.

spyscribbler 4/18/2008 02:35:00 PM  

Mark, for some reason, I love the beginning. It feels so free and ... just pure enthusiasm. When I started Taekwondo, it was just pure fun. Once ambition and goals creep in, my enthusiasm gets muddled up in all the adult "issues" we humans have.

I understand about piano. Every piece is a discovery of music now. I actually have worse technique now than when I was younger. It's just, I don't have five hours a day to practice. Well, I could make the time, but the cost/benefit just doesn't compute anymore.

Of course I still play, but mostly just to discover the music. Or to relax and put my world in order again, with Fugues.

Which brings me to the fact that I think baroque music on the guitar is THE coolest. Incidentally, I learned and memorized all the Inventions a few years back. I'm not sure why. I just wanted all of them. I can't remember which one #13 is. A minor?

spyscribbler 4/18/2008 02:37:00 PM  

Melanie, I hope very much it's not years for you! I'm hoping it'll be months. Goodness, I really am!

What are you going to call your blog when you get back to the States, LOL?

R.J. Keller 4/18/2008 04:48:00 PM  

I must be another hard-wired long-term goaler. I think part of it is sheer stubbornness. Don't tell me no/you can't.

Oddly enough, my next long-term (non-writing) goal is to learn to play the piano. It's one of those "I've always wanted to learn how to do it, but..." things, and I finally decided to get rid of the "but." Getting rid of the "butt with two T's" is another goal.

spyscribbler 4/18/2008 05:48:00 PM  

R.J., wow, that is cool! Good luck with the piano! I hope you have fun! I wish I were like you, hard-wired. I have to really push through my issues to achieve my long-term goals.

Leigh Russell 4/19/2008 07:29:00 AM  

We live in a throw away society. If something doesn't work, throw it away and get a new one. Mobile phone, car, washing machine... How long does anything last these days? Built in obsolescence necessarily underpins the consumer society. If artefacts lasted a lifetime, we would stop buying replacements. Sadly, this attitude seems to have spread to relationships. Instead of working to make them succeed, people split up and look for someone better. And yes, the pupils I teach are far more interested in their short term praise and rewards than the long term qualification at the end of the course.

We don't plant orchards for our grandchildren any more.

Mark Terry 4/19/2008 09:35:00 PM  

E major? Or E minor? Hmmm...

spyscribbler 4/19/2008 10:01:00 PM  

Leigh, that's an awesome quote! All you said really resonated with me. Somedays ... it feels hopeless. And then you put on your enthusiasm in the morning. I guess.

spyscribbler 4/19/2008 10:04:00 PM  

Well, the right hand starts on an E! Dude, that's quite a lively one. Didn't you just start guitar a year ago? That's way cool.

Btw, e minor is my favorite. And b minor.

Mark Terry 4/20/2008 10:11:00 AM  

Yeah, I started taking guitar lessons last June.

The A minor isn't impossible (I say that, but I haven't finished transcribing the last 6 measures for guitar yet), but it has its moments. As my guitar instructor has noted, Bach didn't write for guitar, so there can be some very strange technical issues in the music. The advantage in playing one voice of a 2-part invention is it's one note at a time. Before that I was working on Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring, and that can be a real pain on guitar because of holding some notes while playing others.

But in the invention, it's mostly straightforward, except from time to time the fingerings get wonky, to say the least.

spyscribbler 4/21/2008 04:00:00 PM  

Bach on the guitar is really cool. I also love it when saxophones play Baroque music.

I've always told myself I'm going to learn cello in my forties. I can't wait. I don't know why I set that age in my mind. I guess I assumed I'd be able to afford a cello in my forties.

Melanie Avila 4/21/2008 04:44:00 PM  

SS - I've asked myself that same question. I don't know why I'll call my blog... maybe How I Got the F Out of Mexico? lol.