Life is all about learning. I've always
been a big fan of education, formal and otherwise. Hell, I even started a
teaching career once upon a time. Sure, I didn't actually STICK with it but
let's just ignore that fact right now and leave it at: I like education.
Even so, I'm no longer convinced that
everyone needs so-called 'higher' education to be successful in their lives
(and thank goodness because it's getting ridiculously cost-prohibitive.) However, I do feel that
learning should still be a priority.
When we stop growing, we congeal like
that scummy film that forms on the top of hot chocolate when it cools down. I
happen to love hot chocolate and this scum absolutely ruins it. Therefore, congealing
So I'm always kind of curious about how
other people learn.
A very good friend of mine is the head of
songwriting at a really kick ass music school in England. He let me tag along
to watch one of his live sessions. They were working
(work-shopping?) a couple of original songs that individual students had
written. It was incredible to watch the creative process as they worked
together to arrange the music for a full band.
There were session players there to back
the students up (drums, guitar, bass, keyboard) and other students would
volunteer to provide backing vocals. The songwriter/singer would hand them all
some music and let them know what he/she wanted. And then.... they would just
go for it. Just balls out, super loud, play some music, give it everything, go
After playing it through a few times, the rest of the class would
then get involved with suggestions for (and forgive me for my vagueness here
but I'm NOT a musician) the tempo or style of each instrument, how many bars
the chorus should be, where the other instruments should come in and out.
It was the most truly collaborative thing
I think I've ever seen. Instead of clinging on to his/her own vision for this song that they had painstakingly written, the songwriter opened it up to the ideas and
input of a whole classroom full of peers. Some of the suggestions were
hilarious (add a disco feeling to the track) but even the ones that didn't
'work' seemed to lead them in new and better directions.
I learned a lot from watching them. Two
1) Let go of ownership. Sometimes we
(okay, I) hang on to things so tightly and are so protective of our creative
'babies' that we miss out on collaboration with others. Things can almost
always be better and loosening up our grip and letting others have input is a
great way to find your work going down some really interesting routes.
2) Mistakes aren't bad. This is
something that I've been thinking about a lot over the past few years. If I'm
not making mistakes out there, then I truly wonder if I'm even stretching
myself at all. Staying in a safe place is tempting but branching out, reaching,
trying something new and maybe laughably wrong (like disco, because let's be honest, disco is nearly always wrong) can lead to new
ideas, even when they themselves fail.
Failure is such a negative word and sure
if we 'stop' as soon as something doesn't go well because we feel personally
embarrassed or responsible or hurt by the failure, then I suppose it IS a
negative thing. But it's the stopping that's bad, not the failing. This is something that I need to remember. If we are trying things beyond our actual
abilities then some of the attempts aren't going to go so well. But, if we continue to push the
boundaries and test new ideas, a few of them are going to be so much more 'right'
than we could have done previously.
I thought a lot about this during the WSOP live
coverage last summer. I definitely felt the pressure of doing something new and
yeah, a little beyond what I felt comfortable with. But ultimately, I had
really great people to collaborate with and I trusted their input. I think
because of that, I learned a hell of a lot more than I would have by being
It's hard though. I like easy. I like simple. I
like safe. But these are not attributes that will push me to learn and grow.
I'm going to try to be more open to collaboration. This is definitely an area
where I need some growth, both in my work on-camera AND in my poker. Fear of
failure (or fear of appearing to fail) definitely constrain me and make it
hard for me to push forwards. But you know what, talking about it (or blogging
about it) takes the sting out of it.
And after all, learning is really what life is all about, in my humble opinion.