As I have been growing as an artist, so is my desire to be around others like me. Because of this I am always looking for local venues that I may be interested in frequenting in my area. Eventually I stumbled upon an open mike night at a bar and thought, why not?
It was a nice enough place. It defiantly had the ‘neighborhood bar’ feel to it. Between the loose floor boards and crusty old guys, I couldn’t help but to feel kinda at home. I took a seat at in a booth and was greeted by a lovely waitress, whom I had the pleasure to share a few words with, and ordered a good ol’ amurican burger.
This was all well and good, but I was more excited to experience some of the local talent. See what my city had to offer for it’s music. Eventually nine rolled around and the open mike had officially begun. First was the guy who was actually coordinating the event. He walked onto the throw carpet and took a seat on the dusty wooden stool. He was a skinny, older man. You could tell that though he had been doing this a while, he still just as excited to be doing this today as he as twenty years ago. After he plugged in and gave the acoustic a few strums, he proceeded to play a couple of songs he had written years ago. Just getting to see the joy on this old, weary, mans face as he sang his song, I couldn’t help but to share his excitement.
After he played a couple of songs to warm up the crowd, the crowd being myself and maybe seven others, he handed it off to a much younger guy. He appeared to be about my age and had a cool sort of confidence about him. I wasn’t expecting to much from this new guy, but I was quickly shown otherwise. He was fully aware of every second, of every beat, of his songs. His hands moved effortlessly across the fret board and struck every note with laser precision.
I was thoroughly impressed! Then that excitement faded into disappointment and then envy. I caught myself feeling this way and I wondered why. I should be excited to see a musician my age kicking so much ass! Showing these older guys that we can keep up with them! I couldn’t help it though. I fell into the same pit fall that I often do. Comparing myself to someone else, and not liking the results.
My ability with my guitar often feels like how I measure my self worth. This may be one of my biggest struggles on my personal journey as a musician. The gritty reason behind it is that, I want to be able to keep up and maybe even show up other musicians. It’s terrible and trust me, it’s not something that I always like about myself. So when I see someone else, seemingly in a similar circumstance, play so much better then myself, I feel like some sort of failure.
This of course is not true. Who knows how long this guy has been playing and how much he experience he has. Personally I have been playing on and off for about four years. That is just the thing though, ‘I have been playing on and off for about four years’. Until about three months ago I didn’t take this whole music thing nearly as seriously as I do now. Of course I don’t have the same sort of experience and expertise as this guy. As far as I know he has been playing since he was three and toured with Aerosmith twice!
I know all of this in my head, but it is still a massive struggle for me personally to not compare myself to others. I feel like this is true for all of us in many ways.
For example if you are a tech person, you are probably always looking into the latest gear and upgrades that you can financially manage. If you have the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the S6 just came out. . . If you are honest with yourself you don’t really need the fancy new curved screen that has a total of two useful features, but it’s cool looking! Besides if you don’t spring for it, you will be (dun, dun, duuuunnnn) behind!
Or you may be a carpenter and you just finished building your first boat. You put months of effort and planing into it, not to mention smashing your thumb twice with a hammer. It may be a little rough around the edges, but you are proud of it none-the-less. Once you launch your creation at your local lake though, you find that carpenter Jim also just finished his boat but it has sweet cup holders! Not to mention a built in fridge and a hot tub!
Point being we always want to have the edge or the latest greatest thing. When we don’t, the little green envy monster comes out to wreck your shit.
I nearly let the envy I feel for this one guy ruin my nice evening out. The evening that I looked forward to because I wanted to be among my fellow musicians! The truth behind it is that there will always be someone better then you. You can work on something day in and day out and there will still be someone better then you. Someone who would have done it twice as well with half the effort.
The thing is though, you can’t let it get to you. Envy is a terrible little thing that can so easily tear apart relationships and possible friendships faster then anything else can. We, need to remember that everyone starts somewhere. Everyone starts out not knowing how to use a toilet, or knowing how to walk, how to hold down a chord on a guitar, how to upload a video, how to start a blog, how to drive, how to build a computer, how to make a stitch when knitting.
It’s ok because we all start off stupid! Everyone had to learn from something or someone else. Typically the person who you feel envy towards, isn’t intending that reaction. They are also people who have worked hard at what they do and want to show that off. Nothing wrong with that.
What is important is to remember is that you also shouldn’t confine yourself to one thing either. We are all to complicated to do that. While it is true that I identify myself as a musician I am also a cook, a writer(ish), a brother, a friend, a son, a lover of video games, a lover of nature, and so much more. When we realize this, then the whole “he’s better then me at that one thing, the one time” doesn’t seem as dire.
If you love something then you should still strive to be the best you can be, but remember to cut yourself some slack. Everyone is always learning all the time, and there is no such thing as a ‘master’ of something. Even though it is tempting, don’t let envy take over either. Just because someone is better at something then you doesn’t mean that you can’t have a friendship with them. Chances are they are just as thrilled about the subject as you are and would love to discuss it!