My eldest son was finishing up a piano lesson, and I was conversing this past Monday with his teacher as he was gathering his music, notebooks and other learning materials. She was explaining to me and to my son a phenomenon that inevitably happens with young learners.
‘You start out learning so quickly, and then you hit a plateau and stay put until, suddenly, you make a jump and improve,’ she said – more or less.
She and I then noted that we could say that same about so many dedicated tasks in life. I brought up weight-lifting – not from any personal expertise, per se, but because it’s pretty well known that it is typical for lifters to make big, measurable gains early on, then to hit a similar plateau of slower progress.
Going from zero to one is an infinitely large leap: you travel from nothing to something and you have crossed an enormous distance. But passing from one to wo is pretty humdrum, comparatively.
What this teacher and I next agreed upon was that the truly dedicated student of any discipline will push through these plateaus and make it to the next big gain. That’s the kind of people I want my kids to be, and it’s the kind of man I wish I could more consistently become.
It’s tough to push through the mundane, to work past those periods of time when things aren’t moving as quickly as we might desire. Historically, my patience has been in short supply, typically at those moments when I need it most.
How do we answer when life shows us a seemingly endless stretch of hard work, all with no really visible progress?
If we dig deep and focus upon how satisfying it is when we cross that long plateau and reach the next feature of our life’s landscape. You always hear those stories about individuals like Thomas Edison who tried 1,000 times and failed before inventing the electric light bulb. The Wright Brothers, same story: failure after failure, then a success that changed the world forever.
I’m not proposing that you or I are necessarily going to break ground on an invention or development that will have a light bulb/airplane level of impact upon the human race. But relative t each of our lives and experiences, we have appropriately-sized obstacles – and a healthy share of boredom – to overcome on our way to being our best.
Powering through the dry times, those days, weeks, months or even years when we’re running our fastest, but going seemly nowhere – that’s the test of our faith and fortitude.
One of the single greatest problems facing our world stems from folks not knowing what to do with themselves when things stay the same for too long. I’ll admit that some evenings, after we’ve put the kids to bed and go through the same routines of late chores, television and sleep that I sometimes think, ‘This again? When did we grow so settled, so boring?’
And it’s like the Good Lord hears me at times, and throws me a curveball, makes me switch up my routine and make room for new challenges. It is the that I think, ‘When will things finally get back to normal?’ There’s no pleasing some of us.
What I can say for myself is that my failures have defined me as clearly as my successes in so many cases. I have quit working out when things get boring, when I wasn’t getting instantaneous results. I’ve grown impatient and made poor personal and business decisions or made unnecessary changes in order to break life’s monotony.
But I sit in my living room and listen to my son work through a frustrating piece on the piano – sometimes it takes him several nights to get comfortable with a new selection of practice music – and it reminds me that continued resolve will take us to the other side of any problem. All it takes is a little patience.
Matt Pearl owns and operates newspapers in King City, Albany and Grant City.