It was a black electric guitar, the obvious choice for this conservative, shy, 11-year-old Texas girl.
His name was Sonny and clearly, he was going for the 80’s hair band look. When I mentioned that I wanted to play the guitar like Amy Grant, he didn’t even try to hide the fact that he had no earthly idea who I was talking about. But guitar teachers were scarce in my small town, so Sonny and I met every Wednesday at 6pm at the music shop in the mall, right across from Chick-fil-A.
I had pretty low guitar playing goals. I just wanted to be able to play along to my favorite songs like “El Shaddai”, “Baby Baby” and every song on the Lead Me On album.
Sonny was an expert. He knew how to play the guitar and I wanted to…play the guitar. This was going to be a match made on the stairway to heaven.
I figured I just needed to learn a few chords and I’d be good to go, but Sonny insisted I practice the Diatonic scale, the Pentatonic scale and five different blues riffs.
He went on and on about fingering and hammer pulls and blah, blah, blah.
I lasted about six months. Okay, three.
A few years later, my friend Becca came back from college on summer break with stories, songs, and a guitar in her car.
She’d only been playing for a few months. She wasn’t an expert. But I asked her to come over to teach me something anyway.
She taught me how to strum and play three chords – G, C and D.
Suddenly, the heavens opened and I could play along with every single song ever written in the history of the world. In the world of guitar playing, this is only a slight exaggeration. I have yet to meet a song I can’t play with those three chords.
In an hour, I learned everything I never learned from Sonny.
Those guitar lessons taught me that there will always be people who want me to do all. the. things. The things that are important to them. The perfect things. The best things. The expert-y people things.
But you don’t need to know everything to accomplish your one thing. And sometimes, the “exact way” is the surest way to do nothing at all, because the overwhelm of perfection can kill our passion.
So as you work on all your New Year’s Resolutions or your One Word or whatever sort of goals or ungoals you have for 2015, remember that you don’t need to do all. the. things. You only need to do the next thing.
Sometimes we turn child’s play into rocket science. We think that our first step needs to be our final step.
Relax. Find a friend who is just a bit ahead and take the next step. Progress is the real road to perfection.