Hi, I’m Ron, and I’m a perfectionist. There, I’ve said it! I feel better already! Of course I write in order to figure myself out; the banjo is simply a cover of “legitimacy,” a public rationale for writing down and exposing my private thoughts and feelings. Besides the self-cleansing act of writing/publishing, it is my sincere hope that at least somebody recognizes a bit of themselves in my musings, and that the resulting blogs are of some assistance to his/her own self-search.
I have a saying that helps when I get wrapped around the axle about something not going exactly as planned (which happens quite often): “I used to be an unhappy perfectionist; now I’m a happy imperfectionist.” I tell myself this, yet I continue to expect too much of myself (the very definition of insanity). At the very least, happiness is a noble goal.
I have another saying: “Always strive for perfection; never expect perfection.” I figure if I’m going to work toward something, I may as well strive to do it to the best of my ability, but since I expect to fall well-short, I need to cushion the inevitable crash landing. In all fairness to reality, this vicious cycle of optimism/disappointment has gradually softened throughout my search for self. There is hope; I am improving!
So, to the banjo! I grew up in a banjo band, and was blissfully ignorant/happy with my youthful “natural” ability to play chord melody. I could hear it, and I could play it, no sweat or study required! About the time that I was finally awakening as an adult though, I had the “good misfortune” of meeting and hearing Buddy Wachter. So much for any feelings of self-worth! Greatness cannot be un-heard.
I have a full litany of excuses for why that life-changing encounter didn’t produce the kind of hard work that would make me feel better about myself. I have often thought that I sabotaged myself by setting my goals un-achievably high so I wouldn’t have to try; “Oh well; great goal, but I guess I’m just not good enough.” The sad truth is that my truest excuse is that I didn’t really try, achievable or not. Before I could improve as a musician, I had to improve as a human being (this takes time); I do recognize that, and I can honestly say that I have paid my human-ness dues, and am now fully committed to maximizing what’s left of my potential.
Anyway, I envy those who seem to be satisfied with whatever level of musical skill they have achieved (or any other area of accomplishment). I recognize that the moment I am “happy”–or believe that I have “arrived”–is the moment that I stop progressing (“and I ain’t getting’ any younger!”). I simply need to deal with the occasional setback, and remind myself of my undeniably-steady progress.
Perfectionism is a frustrating dead end! You can’t truly eliminate it: All you can do is learn to use it in a constructive, forward-moving way (the goal); just don’t let it be a buzz kill (the expectation). That’s the best advice this Banjo Snob can give.