As a child and young adult, I was most definitely afraid of conflict and competition. One of my favorite sayings—which also served as an excuse not to try—was “competition makes losers of all but a few.” I’m afraid I never learned proper sportsmanship from my Little League/Babe Ruth League baseball coaches (the only team sport I ever played); learning to lose gracefully is just as important as learning to win gracefully. I never learned the basics of teamwork either; oh, I’m sure they taught some form of it, but it never “took” with this stubborn young loner.
Fast-forward to adult life: Like many folks, I spent most of my working life jumping from one career ladder to another, only—rather than going from success to bigger success—I made the jump before I could achieve much of anything, often landing on a lower rung than I had been on! I would get bored and become stagnated in my job (don’t we all?), but more importantly, I would start having success or seeing it on the horizon and then get scared. I managed to achieve a barely-high-enough rank to retire from the Military, thus saving me from the “fixed income” of Social Security in my old age.
What’s wrong with success? Well, finding it means you will soon meet conflict and competition; “Beating you to the punch is the key to my success.” I remember a life analogy of humans compared to a bunch of crabs in a pot. Though the pot has low sides, none of the crabs can get out because, in the process of climbing out, they all continuously pull each other back into the pot. This analogy describes very well my old pessimistic outlook on life.
Of course, ultimate escape from the human crab-pot-of-life requires cooperation! “Here, you hold your position, I’ll climb over you to get out, and then I’ll help you out!” Because I never learned the basics of teamwork, I was unable to recognize when (or even if) a hand was being offered to me, or to see the opportunity to extend my own hand.
Fast-forward to present day: Writing a blog is just begging for conflict! I could not have been so bold just 10 years ago. The hardest part was beginning; the next hardest part is continuing, especially after meeting a bit of resistance, i.e., disagreement. “You mean, not everyone shares my viewpoint? How could this possibly be?”
So, what did I think would happen? Everybody would agree 100% with me, and I would become a mountain-top banjo guru? While being a bit naïve regarding my abilities and banjo-world view, I knew going in that I was about to come face-to-face with that dreaded conflict/competition. Somehow, I knew that I was ready to face it and to grow from it, and boy have I!
Conflict is the wind in the sails of success! I have spent the majority of my life stuck in the doldrums, afraid to put an oar in the water, lest there be a riptide. While I am not a sailor (something I was meant to be, I think), I do understand very well the concept of “tacking against the wind”; take the wind that is blowing against you, and turn it in your favor.
Growing up in a banjo band was probably the best thing for a conflict-avoider like me! Banjo bands are all about “everybody plays, everybody wins.” This would be fine and dandy if I was happy being a banjo band chord melody strummer, but I’m not! This is not meant to take anything away from those who are happy with that; I just want more. I find that my democratic, non-competitive upbringing has made it difficult to break through; trying to be a “soloist” has thrown me in the path of competition. Just like writing a blog, it has forced me to man-up and just do it!
On a side subject, I have realized that most of the “competition” is in my mind; the banjo world is so accepting—perhaps too accepting—of anyone who has the courage to get on stage by themselves. This actually kind of bothers me; if competition is so good for progress (as it’s well-proven to be), then what does the lack of it do for the four-sting banjo? As far as I’m concerned, it has caused us to stagnate, and has hastened our continuing downfall. Conflict begets progress. While it still stings when I hear it, I have greatly benefitted from the rare critical assessment of my playing or writing skill; I need it, and so does the four-string banjo!
Anyway, one of my ulterior motives with this particular blog is say that I will be taking a break from controversial, conflict-causing subjects for a while. In this day and age of political and social turmoil, there is just no room for anything but positive banjo vibes; all the world—banjo or otherwise—needs is another negative voice! I will not tip my hand as to my particular political bent (if you know me, you probably know it). Regardless of political persuasion, I am a sensitive, caring person who would prefer to retain his friendships, and who would do anything to help the banjo attain and keep a positive image.