Exploring many options or following a rigid step-by-step path…
Here’s a short parable inspired by a dilemma that I’ve experienced while studying guitar (and still experience from time to time). It also seems to be common among my students.
Johnny B. started on a road trip.
After a little thought he planned out where he wanted to go. He got a map and charted the shortest and quickest route. Then he hit the road and hauled butt.
He decided on this trip that he didn’t want to take any detours or side trips. When he saw an interesting detour on the side of the road he mentally filed it away for later and continued on your way.
When he got tired he took as short of a break as absolutely necessary. Then he hit the road again with renewed focus on where he was going.
After completing his journey Johnny B. decided, being the philosophical type, to write down what the experience was like. They decided to list out the pros and cons of traveling in the manner that he did. It’s what he came up with:
- He experienced a sense of progress as he traveled and could easily look back on where he’d been and how close he was getting to his destination.
- He felt confident that he would get to his destination.
- Because of this he realized that this helped him to persevere even when he felt tired.
- At first staying focused and avoiding going off in different directions was difficult, but over time his “focus” muscle became stronger and it became easier as over time.
- Traveling wasn’t always fun. At one point he even considered throwing in the towel because he didn’t feel he was enjoying the trip.
- It was hard to stay focused. Even though it’s something that improved over time initially it wasn’t easy. This was especially true in his culture of short attention spans and expectations of quick gratification.
- It was also a bit difficult to decide where he wanted to go. It took some effort and introspection… not easy for Johnny since that’s not something he does often.
- At one point he felt fear that the road he had planned out wouldn’t actually lead to where he want to go.
- Even more surprising was that he felt a fear that he might fail. This is not something he’s had to deal with when he didn’t clearly set his sights on a specific destination.
So Johnny B., being not just a philosopher but also a natural born experimenter, decided to take another trip and do things a bit differently.
This time he had only a somewhat vague idea of where he was headed and started out in the direction that seemed like it would likely lead there.
As he went along he saw an interesting sign on the highway and decided to take the exit and follow it to see where it would lead. After exploring awhile he got back on the highway with his original intention. On the way to the highway he saw another interesting detour… So he headed off in that direction for a bit to explore.
This process continued as he sometimes got back on the highway and made some traction in the original direction, and at other times explored additional detours.
After this trip he wrote down his findings in the same manner.
- It’s fun to go off in new directions and try out different adventures.
- He didn’t have to deal as much with the fear of failing. Since it wasn’t clear where he was going it didn’t matter so much which path he took or if he actually arrived at all.
- At times he had more energy and inspiration because of the excitement of exploring new territories.
- It took less effort. When he began to feel bored with the “same ol’ road” it was easier to follow whatever caught his attention than to stay focused.
Ah, but as always there were…
- He missed being able to see his progress by looking back on where he’d been and how far he’d come.
- Constantly making decisions on which way to go ultimately took a lot of energy.
- He began to feel frustrated and discouraged when it seemed that he wasn’t getting “anywhere”.
- When he got discouraged he felt like turning around and going back home.
To be continued…
Before I write and release the part two of the story I want to hear from you.
Which was the best way to travel and which would you choose? Was this a reasonable representation describing a portion of the experience of learning guitar? Is there another way?
How would you minimize the cons and maximize the pros?