In this week’s post I wanted to talk about the myth that I find young musicians (and some older) falling prey. That is the myth of arrival. That myth says that you can reach a point in your development (regardless of what skill, gift or talent) where you have “arrived” and there is nothing left to improve or that it is pointless to try and improve. Unfortunately, this place of arrival is subjective. Who really determines if you have “made it?” Do you determine that? Your teacher/mentor? Your family? Critics? I truly believe if you were to poll a room of musicians they would probably come up with different answers. Hopefully, at least one, would answer what I believe to be true: There is no place of arrival.
We will always have areas in our playing and improvisational abilities that can be better. That is why we practice. I have heard stories of jazz greats in their 90’s still practicing. When asked why in the world they were still practicing at their age there response was something like this: “I am always learning.”
A problem we face as musicians is we let the rewards of reaching our goals numb our development. We get accolade, a good review, a promotion, a better gig, a high-five/pat on the back, etc. then become complacent and give less effort to try and grow. The myth of “I have arrived” sinks in. Granted, not everyone falls prey to that myth. But, that does not mean the temptation to fall into it is not there. I have seen some give in to that myth after playing and practicing for a month to those that have been playing for 30+ years.
How do we avoid falling into this trap? I wish I could say it is simple, but it is not. We have to constantly push ourselves towards improvement. Don’t get me wrong, we need to enjoy those moments when we reach our goals. Celebrate them! But, don’t live there! Find a good teacher, mentor or friend that will help keep you in check and encourage you to reach farther.
From one musician to another-I am in this with you. I know there is much more to learn and much to improve in my playing. If you have falling prey to this myth you CAN get out. Take inventory of your playing and be honest. Find things to work on and improve. Then take action and watch for the trap of the arrival myth when you bust through your next goals!