I learned an eye-opening lesson last week on the importance of having fun.
Music has always been a part of my life.
When I reached fifth grade, I talked my mom into letting me join my elementary school band.
My best friend played trumpet, so I decided I wanted to play trumpet as well.
I practice enthusiastically, learned to read music and continued to improve.
The best trumpet player in our elementary band was Rich Costey, who I befriended and spent many an hour of free time learning and playing music.
Apparently, Rich was much more talented than any of us knew at the time. He is now a Grammy-winning music recording engineer and producer.
When I got to high school, I traded band for choir.
Over those four years, I learned about singing different parts – just like playing different parts in band – and even learned how to sing harmonies.
In college, some friends and I formed a quartet.
We didn’t do much with it, but we had a lot of fun practicing and coming up with unique arrangements of some of the music we sang.
By the time I hit my early 20s, I was itching to play an instrument again, so I bought a cheap electric guitar.
I didn’t take any lessons, but there were other guitar players in my family, and they sometimes let me practice with them. They gave me pointers and taught me some songs.
I had a little one-bedroom apartment, and I would spend a lot of free time banging around on my guitar, teaching myself basics of songs I liked.
I’d have my own little “no-audience” concerts in my apartment, playing along – usually poorly – with my favorite songs. It didn’t matter, though. I was just having fun.
Somewhere along the line, I put down my guitar and never picked it back up. Years went by, and I eventually sold my guitar.
Last year, my wife – a very talented musician in her own right – bought me a beautiful black Les Paul guitar in hopes that it would rekindle my playing.
I began looking at books and articles about playing guitar. I was intent on some serious learning this time around.
I studied theory and scales and progressions and eventually just bogged myself down with overthinking. I was feeling discouraged.
Last week, with my wife’s encouragement, I signed up for a slide guitar workshop. I swallowed my fear of playing around people and feelings of inferiority and went to the workshop.
After the workshop, I sheepishly thanked the teacher for not making me feel stupid.
He told me that it’s not important how well I play, but just that I have fun playing, and that will make me better.
That sparked me. I realized that I needed to get back to doing what I did before.
This past weekend, I picked up my guitar and started learning a couple songs I’ve long wanted to learn.
I played along with them with just the basic chords, but I really enjoyed it.
The lesson I learned is when you pursue whatever passion you have, whether it’s a hobby or more, if you don’t make it fun, it will quickly become a chore. If you make it fun, you’ll improve.