On Jacob Jeffries amazing song “Something Good Ends” he sings about that terrible truth which comes to so many of us after a breakup: “Of course, we can’t be friends.” I remember the first time I learned that “Let’s be friends” after a breakup was a lie. Even though I’d been told, it took experiencing it to make me understand.
For the same reason, I’ve been stuck on a really hard three minute Chopin piece for 12 years. TWELVE YEARS on and off I’ve failed at it. Only now am I finally beginning to be able to play it through from start to finish.
This particular etude has a difficulty that lives in my blind spot. For as long as I’ve been a pianist I’ve felt that I was incompetent with my right hand. I’d play, but I wouldn’t feel like I was in control.
In order to solve the etude, it’s been necessary for me to finally discover the beginnings of a connection between my eyes, my right arm, and the keys. Over the years I’ve had flashes of it, but the entire concept was always elusive. Why didn’t I have it before now?
You’d think at least one of my four piano teachers would have told me, and maybe they did. But being told was never enough. I had to keep failing until I gained something that wasn’t already a part of me.
It may be tempting to think of learning as if you’re putting a jigsaw puzzle together. Little by little you add pieces until the picture becomes clear. I say no way, learning is NOT like that.
In life, you’re given only some of the pieces, and no guarantee that they all fit together. The only way you discover you’re missing pieces is by getting them. Then you can see why you couldn’t solve the problem before.
This is a cruel truth about life, and it’s the reason why no one can talk us through learning. Learning involves adding pieces to our puzzle that we didn’t know we were missing. We always feel like we have them all, like if we just get them in the right configuration we’re going to be able to solve the problem.
The truth is almost always that the solution to the problem lies outside our current awareness and resources. Luckily, failing repeatedly and paying attention while doing it provide us with new pieces, and so we are able to grow. But unless you know that this is how it works, frustration will always get the better of you.
Failing is not the same as being a failure. If you do enough of the first, you won’t be the second. You and failure can be friends!
News From a Jazz Musician Who Writes Books
Two new features from Transizion this week.
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Adam Cole is a Jazz Musician Who Writes Books. Fantasy author, music educator and performer, Adam chats weekly on the subject of listening, creativity and living your best life. To take a quiz on what kind of music warrior you are, please visit www.mymusicfriend.net