Thursday, February 07, 2013


While watching this video of Mark O'Connor, Yo-Yo Ma and Edgar Meyer playing "College Hornpipe" I was tempted once again to put away the fiddle/violin and never touch it again. Who do I think I am? Some kind of Darol Anger wannabe? Then I remembered: of course I'm not. I'm just a guy trying late in life to learn something I wish every day I'd started trying to learn much sooner.

People use the term "wannabe" to deride the efforts of someone trying to perform something that someone much more prominent does much better. For instance, during the height of Lance Armstrong's career, a delivery truck driver referred to someone he thought was hogging the road in a flashy jersey and tight shorts as "a Lance wannabe." I heard that particular term from a number of other scornful motorists. Pick the name of someone famous in the field in question. Accuse the poor schlump doing the best they can in the same discipline of aspiring to be seen in the same spotlight. Instant dismissal.

The downside of recorded media is that any one of us gets to compare our efforts to the performances of the top people in any area that interests us. We can rate our own performances, although the first wave of auditions for American Idol shows that far too many people don't do it very well. For all that we can learn from watching and listening to the experts, many of us will never reach their level. You have to be fine with that.

To get better at something, find what expert guidance you can and then refuse to quit. Keep doing it. Someone who does not ride thinks a ten-mile ride sounds long and a 50-mile ride sounds like the realm of super athletes. Yet after a few months of consistent riding even longer distances will seem quite plausible. Sure, it's not as fast as in a car (most of the time) but cycling also trains your mind to a different sense of time. A non-rider won't believe how an hour on the bike can feel quicker than 30 minutes on the same route in a car.

The spoken or imagined judgment of onlookers can be more discouraging than the size of the mountain one has to climb to achieve basic competence, let alone impressive performances in subjects that may only seem difficult from outside.

"Who cares what people think?" you might say. True, you do have to shut out thoughts and opinions that hold you back. But people will feel freer to brush you aside if they've written you off as a poser. To a cyclist that can be dangerous. To a student musician not so much.

No one asks, but if they did ask me what I want to be I would just say, "better."


Steve A said...

The "wannabe" epithet is better used about something the tosser is ignorant about. Few toss out "driver wannabe" against a mom simply driving to the grocery store.

RANTWICK said...

"The spoken or imagined judgement of onlookers can be more discouraging..."

Well put, cafiend, and good to keep in mind. I liked that post quite a bit.

Wes said...

Not sure where he heard it, but a musician friend of mine told me this weekend that "The only thing worse than practicing something is sucking at it..."