Monday, February 28, 2011

Fulfilling expectations vs. mastery

After my last guitar class I remember why I finally got out of school: after a point a class doesn't make you better at something but encourages mediocrity. Passing a class means doing enough to get a C. Or in my case, I'd always fulfill the teacher's expectations to the letter and get an A. In this case, that means doing the blues scale at a slow tempo with the rest of the class. Passable in the teacher's eyes and technically correct, but very boring and not something most people want to hear.

Fulfilling the teacher's expectations and truly mastering something are usually two very different things. Mastery is playing every note with emotion and precision, and having people actually want to hear you play instead of covering their ears. Mastery takes struggle, time and practice, finding mentors to challenge you at every point to be better, and not settling for mediocrity. I have fulfilled many teachers' expectations but there have been very few disciplines I've cared about deeply enough to try to master. Writing is probably the one I've struggled with longest, though "mastery" is not the word I'd use for the point I'm at with it.

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