I’ve always had trouble with “goal setting”. Ever since I was a youngster, I’ve been told that setting goals was the “secret” to success in any endeavor. Just as with that other truism, “Practice makes perfect,” it was handed down to me as one of the Facts of Life.
Problem #1: Just how do you set goals?
I wanted to succeed, so obviously I needed to set goals. Aside from passing on the “secret”, nobody told me just how one goes about doing it. Let’s, see … I want to succeed. At what? Okay, I want to be a concert violinist, an international superstar. Now what?
Problem #2: How do you come up with the perfect goal?
I know when I was really young I wanted to be a firefighter. And then a policeman. And later, a scientist. Those are goals, right? How perfect are those?
Problem #3: Once I’ve “set” my goal, I’m stuck with it … right?
What happens when I decide that I really don’t want to be a firefighter? Or a policeman? Scientist? Or even an internationally famous concert violinist?
Since I was unable to come up with the answers to these questions on my own; and since nobody ever answered these questions for me … I was doomed to a life full of failure.
Okay, so perhaps that was a bit of hyperbole. However, for many years I felt like a failure because I didn’t understand “goal setting.”
One day (and numerous self-help recordings later), I heard of a concept that struck a chord in me. It went like this: READY, FIRE, AIM.
You may have heard of the “Ready, Aim, Fire” phrase before, but this concept flipped the last two commands. FIRE before AIM. There was more to the concept, of course.
Get READY means prepare yourself. Point yourself in the right direction. You don’t even need a clear picture of your target, just a general idea of where it’s at. FIRE, of course, means to take action, head towards the target and pull the trigger. Finally, AIM means to evaluate your first shot, see where it hit and make an adjustment. Then you repeat the process, refining your results until, as your target becomes clearer, you come closer and closer to it until you finally hit it.
There are no boundaries to this concept. You don’t limit yourself to timeframes or specific, fixed “goals”. These may be useful tools, but they are only part of what it takes to hit your target. When you have a general idea of what you want, point yourself in that general direction and pull the trigger. Don’t wait, just do it. Walk a bit farther in that direction and see where your shot takes you. You may have been aiming for a career as a concert violinist, but now you find that you want to be a bit more active on stage than your classical career will allow.
So how about fiddle music? Don’t know anything about that, but it seems interesting. Go buy a book. Listen to some recordings. Play table-to-table fiddle music in a themed restaurant. Do that for a while and then evaluate your shot.
Hmmm, I’m getting a bit closer now. Things feel like they’re clicking. But it’s still not quite right.
Country Western band, playing in bars? Sure, why not. Accept an invitation to play in a local band. So what if you’ve never played this type of music before. Crash course in learning the songs, the style. Do it. Play some gigs, make some money. Yeah, this is starting to feel like the right thing. And yet ….
Okay, perhaps being in a band is a really cool thing, but why limit myself to just playing fiddle? Look at that guitar player, he’s having a lot of fun singing while he’s picking. Go for it! Learn the words, pick out some harmonies, grab a mic. Yes! That’s definitely better.
Not perfect yet, but that’s okay. I’m not setting any goals here, so I don’t need perfection. Just a direction to point myself in, then BANG!
I want to sing lead vocals. I learn a few songs, the other guys “allow” me to sing them … I’m loving this! Unfortunately, though, I find an obstacle: The band already has a lead singer, and he doesn’t want to share anything but a small portion of that duty with me. What to do?
Start my own band. Wow, now I’m really in the deep end of the pool. Never done this before, there’s a lot more to running a band … and they didn’t teach me anything remotely like what I need to know when I was in the University. Hmmm. Re-create the wheel? Okay, give it your best shot, mate.
Yeah, that didn’t work out too well. I’m pissing off a lot of people I need to depend on, turning into a real asshole. Okay, perhaps maybe I should talk to other bandleaders, learn from them. Wouldn’t have been able to do that without making those mistakes on my own, though. Wouldn’t have known what questions to ask. Now I do.
Now I have my own Country Western band, and I’m loving life! Everything is going great, I have a circuit of clubs I play on a regular basis, and I have bandmates I can depend on. Well, I assume I can depend on them, until one of them causes me so much grief I need to fire him. Too bad I can’t replace him with someone immediately, not that many guitar players in my little pool that aren’t already committed to something. I can fire him, but then I’d have to cancel months of gigs until I can find his replacement. What now?
It’s obvious I need to go somewhere with more musicians, more choices. California has millions of people, and thousands of musicians. Don’t know any of them? Point, shoot … and then aim.
I find myself in Southern California, playing in somebody else’s band … a Chris LeDoux style band that plays a lot of rodeos and high-end Country Clubs. It seems like a step backwards, in some ways, because it’s not “my” band, and I’m not singing as much as I would like. However, I am now in a position to make connections with scores of musicians hungry for work. After a while, I make my selections, leave the rodeo band, and head out on my own again. Success!
… At least, for a while. It’s fun, I’m feeling more connected with my “purpose” (whatever that is), but I’m still not feeling like I’ve hit the target. Why? Well, perhaps it’s because the target has changed. It’s not in the same place anymore. Still in the general direction I was heading, but .. not .. quite .. right.
Then a friend invites me to play with him in an Irish band. I’ve never played Irish music in my life, never really paid any attention to it. But I let him talk me into faking my way through a gig in Newport Beach. Best damn time I’ve had in my life, musically speaking. The music speaks to me, I fall in love with it, want more. I dive in head first, playing in someone else’s band, learning the music, learning the patois. Finding other musicians who also love the music. Make my selections, create my own band, and …
So that is what the concept of READY, FIRE, AIM means. You are not stuck with your first choice, your first “goal”. It doesn’t have to be perfect before you start, and you can refine your target, even completely change your target! Every step along the way is success. And you don’t have to wait for a clear picture of your target before you take the first step towards it.
And as for that other truism? Practice does NOT make perfect. Practice makes PERMANENT. But more on that in a later blog.
And that’s my ramble for today, folks. If you enjoyed this blog and are interested in other similar writings, please visit my fiddleosophy page on my Trad Tune Learning website. And please, share your comments with me. You’d be amazed at how much this old dog can learn from his fellow human travelers.