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They make it look so easy...

Photo - Smithsonian American Art Museum

Photo – Smithsonian American Art Museum

There’s an interesting phenomenon I’ve noticed that you probably have, too:  People that are really good at something make it look easy.  They make us think “Wow, that’s awesome. I could totally do that.”  Which is part of the allure and magnetism of masters.  And then we find out that things are rarely as easy as they appear, and we put our turntables / nunchaku / pogo stick / circuit boards in the closet, to gather dust with all the rest of our dreams and half-aspirations.

All of the people I’ve ever met / known / seen / studied who are masterful have a massive work ethic, and are willing to do all of the peripheral things that come with mastering their craft.  It’s not enough to be really good at something, we also have to be really good at creating relationships in our field, and getting what we do out to people so they can find it and (hopefully) be enriched by it.

On the surface, lots of things look easy, just like we all appear to have fantastical lives at casual glance.  But the mundanity of the day after day baby steps, the slow erosion of resistance as the river of our immense skill and talent begin flowing, that’s what we don’t see.  For everything that looks easy, there are thousands of hours of frustration, struggle, and floppity slopping that happen behind the scenes.  It’s the evolution from being a chump to being a champ.  The refinement of raw talent into polished skill.

It isn’t actually easy to do these things, even when we’ve mastered it.  It’s all trial and error; laymen just don’t notice the mistakes.  The willingness to make mistakes over and over again is a prerequisite for mastery, and it’s also a definition of practice.  Masters have failed more than most people are willing to try, and that collection of errors and mistakes becomes the foundation for what appears easy.  A wise woman recently said to me “no one really knows what they’re doing, we’re all just winging it.”

I currently have a prescription for a beat-a-day, and every day I start from nothing and create something, even it’s just four bars of blap blap hwagg, or pink noise through a filter.  Occasionally I plant a seed of genius, but most of them are simply playthings – lab experiments gone awry with white noise snare drums or instruments made of bleating animals and delays.  But with each passing day, new sounds appear, new techniques are discovered, and new rhythms pop out.  With each passing beat, I refine my sound, learn new things, and expand my skill.

I’m not sure I know what I’m doing.  But if I do it enough, the floodgates will open.  Even if this post is far from perfect, I’m 482 words, one essay, and one tweet closer to mastery.

Habits culminate in impeccability.

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