Acknowledging your limitations and moving forward with grace and enthusiasm
Articles,  Method,  Performance

Acknowledging your limitations, and moving forward with grace and enthusiasm

Your life is simply at the point it’s at right now. Do you know why?

It’s a result of your decisions and experiences.

While many folks are content plodding along day by day, many musicians are constantly trying to better themselves. But it’s a hard slog, and extremely frustrating most of the time. Here are some reasons why:

You don’t know what you don’t know

Our lives to date are a culmination of our experiences, including learning, study, knowledge, action, decisions and influence. The thing is, if you have not experienced something, how can you know anything about it? In fact, how do you know it even exists as an option?

Acknowledging your limitations and moving forward with grace and enthusiasm

This is easy to identify as a musician.

Have you ever performed Gustav Mahler’s second symphony? A great many musicians will say yes (and have an opinion about it).

If you haven’t, answer this question:

Have you ever heard of Gustav Mahler? A great many more musicians will now add their voice to the chorus of “Yes!”

What about this one:

Have you ever heard of Alberto Ginastera? Just a handful of musicians will admit that they have – probably fellow Argentinians.

How can anyone expect you to know of Ginastera’s amazingly fun, jovial and exciting ballet “Estancia” with its delightful “Malambo” if you’ve not even heard it or heard of him? It’s impossible to know what you don’t know if someone doesn’t bring it into your realm of experience.

Yet we often feel bad about not knowing what someone else does…

You know you can do better

Performers spend much of their lives in frustration because we are constantly discovering what we don’t know, including how to pass on our passion to future generations.

Yes, that can definitely get annoying!

Why didn’t I know about Ginastera before? How come it took a colleague posting a performance video of that piece on their social media page for me to learn about this completely unknown composer from Argentina? What else has he written that I might like?

And then comes the really distracting thought process:

My goodness! What if I’d skipped over that post and ignored it, like so many others? Oh my – how many HAVE I skipped?

What am I missing out on?

And so begins the spiral of self-flagellation for being an ignorant musician who has spent more of his life doing things other than becoming a better musician.


Well, fortunately there is a way forward.

Why not use a method to eliminate the madness?

First, accept that we can’t know everything.

Next, accept that we can’t know everything we want to know.

Finally, choose something you do want to know more about, and perhaps even experience it yourself.

At what point, though, do you consider yourself knowing enough?

That’s hard, unless you create some sort of benchmark – an indication that you’ve reached a certain level of knowledge and experience to satiate a thirst. Of course, you may have several benchmarks to define different levels of expertise, but you need to choose what you find generally acceptable versus what might indicate proficiency or even mastery.

Letting go of the worry over whether or not you know enough about a specific element of music will help eliminate the madness that can come from constantly being frustrated and feeling as if you’re behind the 8-ball.

Here’s a TRIPLE WIN lesson:

(Succeed as a performer)

You are already an expert in something. There’s something you do or know as a musician that few others do or know. It’s good to share that as much as possible, but it’s also good to choose one new or different thing to dive more deeply into – whether or not you choose to become an expert in it.

Remember: you’re not going to be an expert in everything. A builder might be able to frame a house or install plumbing, but there are others out there who are probably far better at both! However, they may not have the planning, bartering and leadership skills the builder does. Those skills are what the builder chose to develop their expertise in.

So, in that new style of music, or high note technique, or lasagna recipe, or spring flower planting…decide ahead of time what is generally considered a ‘job well done’ and then head for that benchmark.