The little blonde girl taps her rhythms. She takes a break from her piano song. Notes and melody fall apart over her broken rhythms. The only way back is to feel the pulse with the teacher.
We start. Our eyes scan the printed page. When she falls off she stops and catches up to where I am. I keep going no matter what. She starts big and strong. But eventually her movements get smaller, quieter and tiny. Only the tips of her hands move now. I can’t tell what’s happening.
“Keep your arms big,” I urge while trying not to stop the song.
A little better.
Then tiny motion again.
And then, finally I stop.
“Make your mistakes, BIIIIG!……”
I use a funny voice, stretching my hands wide to emphasize “BIG”.
She laughs at the voice.
She laughs at the absurdity of a teacher telling her the opposite of what most of us adults say to kids.
Make them big.
Humor breaks the spell of perfectionism. Her confidence buoyed. Less distracted with pleasing me. Freedom helps us soar.
Freedom to be herself.
Freedom to be confident.
Freedom to hit a wrong note.
She doesn’t know it, but she needs these wrong notes. She NEEDS to make mistakes to improve. And don’t we all need mistakes to improve. Even Beethoven at one time had to learn a new skill. A skill he didn’t have. A skill he faltered at. Bad hand shape. Weak finger strength. Faulty rhythm.
To succeed at learning a new skill you HAVE to make mistakes.
But to be honest, that student is a lot like me. I have played small. Afraid that I couldn’t keep up with the right life rhythms. I have played smaller and smaller.
Deeper relationships seem tricky? Easier not to say anything. To pass on that social gathering that would stretch me in a good way.
A new idea for business seems scary? Easier to pass on that necessary risk. And wonder, “What If?”
Next creative project seems daunting? I wonder if someone else could do a better job. But the idea still nags me.
So we will be the first ones. The first ones to offer grace to each other and say,
“You can make your mistakes BIIIIG with me.”
We will not freak out that we are all just figuring it out. And pick ourselves up and keep going.
Let’s give each other a chance
So when the little blonde drops her perfectionism at the door with her shoes and school bag – maybe I can too.
I might just have a chance to make music.
Photo credit Jesse Orrico