So the other morning I was teaching my girls about the Beatles, and we put some of their early albums on, and I was totally surprised at how non-Beatle-ish many of the songs seemed. I grew up listening to the Beatles, but I hadn't even heard some of the songs on their first two albums, and it was interesting to me how when they stormed the Americas, their first album had three or four songs that we still remember, and maybe 8 that we don't remember at all.
This stuck with me, the idea that even a band so iconic as the Beatles could produce work that was ultimately forgettable, that they went through a progression not only of changing their sound, but also of GETTING BETTER at their craft. I've been thinking about this a lot recently as I'm at the two year anniversary of getting a smart phone and starting to carve as a profession. And while I am not the Beatles, I think what we can see in them is a universal truth, that the early stages of anyone, even after the initial learning process (and I know, I know, they went through the crucible playing incredibly long sets at that German club), the early stages are inconsistent. That if you stick with something you improve.
This is not the common narrative, however. Our culture idolizes the overnight sensation, the person discovered after years of honing their talent in obscurity, and then they make it big. Often, they make it big and then have a hard time following up that first success with real growth.
I can safely say that is not me. I'm definitely an incremental improvement kind of person. And so it gives me hope, actually, to hear the forgettable Beatles song and to think that what they had going is possible for me, the ability to grow into this thing I do. Carving spoons. Writing. That my best work is yet ahead of me.
It's funny to be inspired by the lackluster start of things, but I think this is a realistic perspective for anyone just starting out, since if you only look at the amazing work that comes after years of dedication, you can feel discouraged from even starting. I know this happens with me. It will be a long, long time before I'm ever the fiddle player I dream of being. Even if it became my main thing it would be six years. At the rate I'm going it will be more like 20. Still, it's good to remember how far I've come so that I don't lose sight of my own journey in the beautiful noise made by others.
And I actually find it encouraging to think that no matter how much I like the spoon I carved yesterday, I definitely haven't carved my White Album yet. I'm still in the night club, plotting my invasion.
My blog has evolved into a series of short essays on the nature of entrepreneurship, craftsmanship, and their overlap. If either of these topics is something you think about, you will probably like this.
One idea is as worthless as another until you actually do something about it, and then it is the action, not the word that matters. --Orson Scott Card