The Remarkable Benefits of Taking On the Impossible

by Brad Isaac on September 5, 2006

One of my college audit courses was guitar. In my second year we were supposed to pick a song that we would play for our year-end jury.

In case you don’t know, a musical jury is a group of 3-4 music professors who sit staring at you as you attempt to pluck through an arrangement. Rumor was, they were bored out of their skulls during jury time because most other students picked the same song (Blackbird by the Beatles).

I don’t know what it is about me, but I never choose the easy way. I didn’t pick the same easy song like everyone else – it didn’t inspire me. Instead, I chose Gymnopédie, which wouldn’t be so difficult except that you tap harmonics at the same time you are finger-picking the slow emotional melody.

I wasn’t ready. Although I had nailed the harmonic part because of over practice in that area, I had under practiced the rest of the piece. It was uneven and I tended to rush the slow parts.

My instructor told me weeks prior I was trying to skip ahead. He warned I did not have the base needed to step up to the level this piece required. It was like going from bench-pressing 90lbs. to 160lbs without working up.

Point taken.

However, something interesting happened when I sat down to play my rendition of Gymnopédie. I’d love to say I nailed it. I would love to say the 3 professors gave me a standing ovation and that their lives were changed forever. Well, that didn’t happen.

Instead, I played my uneven rendition of it. I nailed the harmonics as usual, but the rhythm part was off tempo and in my mind sloppy.

Interestingly, the professors huddled and came back with the decision that my performance exceeded my classmates. Not because it was technically superior or even enjoyable to listen to. My mistakes were remarkably accepted as my “playing style” – Yes, I had planned that the entire time! My style was to miss notes and tempo :p. Ha-ha!

I still think I got away with something.

Building a base would have resulted in a better end product. But by taking on the impossible, I raised a few eyebrows. And since all they had to compare to my performance were renditions of Blackbird, there was no basis of comparison. So they had to give me the benefit of the doubt.

“Why would he attempt a song of this skill level if he wasn’t qualified?”

Thus, in their minds, my mistakes were differences of opinion on how the song should be played. — Can you imagine?

There is a saying that goes “Shoot for the moon because even if you miss, you will hit space.”

Take on the impossible. If you do stumble and fall, you will be one of the only ones at that level. The crowd in your league will be smaller. It’s much easier to look good in a group of 5 than a group of 500.

Technorati Tags: motivation, achievement, success

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B. Riley September 6, 2006 at 11:27 am

Blackbird was the first song I ever learned on guitar.

Brad Isaac September 6, 2006 at 11:39 am

:) there is nothing wrong with it as a song, it’s a good song.

September 6, 2006 at 8:52 pm

As a practitioner of mediocre guitar playing, I fell in love with Blackbird instantly. It was so easy to learn and every non-guitar player who heard me thought my skills were amazing (little did they know.)

I moved from there to anything by Tom Petty!

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