Pursue the Difficult, the Easy Will Follow

One of my myriad hobbies is birdwatching, or ‘birding’ to the dyed-in-the-wool birder. One of the main areas of interest to a birder is adding to his or her life list. A life list is the list of bird species you have seen at some point in your life.  Mine currently stands at about 150, a far cry from some who boast many hundreds and even thousands. I think the largest life list I have heard of is like 8,000! (For a little perspective, there are only roughly 10,000 species of birds on Earth!) As you see, some folks take this pretty seriously, hopping from one hot spot to another in search of more species to sight.

There is one thing I well remember a famous birder saying about how to succeed: go after the difficult species and the common ones will naturally get added to your life list in the course of searching for the more elusive birds.

This is how we should also approach practice. Do you dwell too much on practicing the easy stuff? It’s good to get warmed up with, and I also simply enjoy playing simpler stuff just to hear it (remember that is the ultimate reason for playing music – to hear and enjoy it!) But after awhile, it’s time to move on into the more challenging stuff on your list of techniques and songs. That’s how we will stretch and grow musically.

Pursue the difficult and the easy will follow.

It is a paradoxical but profoundly true and important principle of life that the most likely way to reach a goal is to be aiming not at that goal itself but at some more ambitious goal beyond it.

Arnold Toynbee

About Phill Gibson

I'm from Huntsville, Alabama where I work as a Software Engineer and part-time banjo instructor. My wife Miiko and I worship at Rivertree Downtown. I've been playing various instruments since my teen years. I started mandolin and dulcimer at about age 17 and banjo at 20. I love just about all kinds of music. In terms of banjo styles, I play and teach Scruggs, melodic, clawhammer, and 2-finger styles. I'm also very keen on theology, being a Trail Care Partner with the Land Trust of North Alabama, photography, urban planning, architecture, astronomy, ATM (amateur telescope making), birding, martial arts, and about 30 other distracting hobbies to a (mercifully) lesser extent.
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2 Responses to Pursue the Difficult, the Easy Will Follow

  1. dghalbr says:

    Good advice! I wish I had this as my motivation 10 years ago…

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