For an audio version of this post click on the link below:
My son Andrew plays the cello. He takes lessons once a week from a teacher named Clay. I usually drive Andrew to lessons and sit right outside the room. This puts me in earshot of everything they are playing and discussing. During the lesson, Andrew learns about cello and music, and I learn about a lot of other things. I don’t want Clay to know this, because he might start charging for two students instead of one.
This past week I learned a really helpful lesson that I’d like to share with you. Andrew is working on learning to shift. I’m not exactly sure what that means, as I have no musical ability. But I think roughly it allows one to access more sounds on the cello and change keys. Again, don’t quote me on that. However, what this means to the listening mother who writes the check is that Andrew now makes a lot more mistakes on music that he was previously playing more easily. And it is because he now has to move his little hands further around the instrument. This is thought to be progress even when it doesn’t sound like such.
However, not only am I used to Andrew playing a song with fewer errors, so his Andrew. And so as he plays to a part that was previously flawless and now doesn’t quite hit the right note, he played more quietly, as if to minimize the mistaken sound in front of his teacher. After a few tries at that, Clay stopped him and said “Play loud. When you make a mistake go big and loud. As loud as you can.”
Before I allowed my “mama bear” instinct to take over this brut who was attempting to humiliate my child, I settled back to wait and see if there was more to come. And of course, there was. Clay went on to explain that, when you play quietly over the error, you are more likely to ignore it or even not hear it. By playing loudly through the mistake you notice it and therefore, know what needs to be corrected. Brilliant!
Sometimes we over focus on mistakes that are ridiculously small and no one cares about them. “My makeup isn’t perfect, the house has a dust bunny under the bed, my car has a microscopic scratch, or I gained 2 pounds on vacation. These preoccupations can take over our every thought and prevent us from being present in our lives. Ruminating serves no purpose. But other times we can have glaring non-productive, or even self-destructive patterns in our lives that we ignore, deny or even create a fortress between them and our consciousness. The proverbial elephant can be sitting in the room and we become masterful at throwing a cover over it and call it a table.
When the latter occurs, we miss the opportunity to use the mistake as a way to improve ourselves and our lives. Mistakes can be catastrophic or they can be thought of the way Thomas Edison did: learning the ways how not to do something in the service of learning how to do it right.
So if you are going to make some mistakes today- make them big and loud and see what you might learn from them.