In our society we are currently living with an undercurrent of fear that permeates much of what many of us do. Some of us are afraid of the consequences of giving sanctuary to Syrian refugees because a trace few might be terrorists, while some of us fear the consequences of not helping the Syrians by giving the Middle East yet another reason to hate us. Some of us fear people who are different than we are, and even more are experiencing fear of what our government might become. We fear so many things, but mostly things we perceive as being beyond our control. These are the fears that keep us up at night because we feel impotent, that there’s nothing we can do to change something or prevent something from happening. Fear can be a paralyzing factor for many of us, and can prevent us from taking risks in our lives. Let’s face it, anything that is worthwhile in life involves some form of risk taking, and often fear gets in the way of our making necessary leaps to get to a higher plane of existence, whether it’s work, love, or even self-improvement. As musicians and human beings, the only way we will grow and become better than we were yesterday is through taking informed risks today and tomorrow.
The only way people become better at doing something is by doing it. Most people can accept that as a logical premise because we’ve seen it proven repeatedly. Despite this many people become too comfortable in their bubble, and they work very hard to maintain that bubble of comfort to the point that they will not leave it, even if they want to. If you want to become a better tennis player, you don’t play people who aren’t as good as you, or even those on your same level. You need to seek out players who are better than you are, players that force you to up your level, and push you to become better. You learn from the experience, and it’s the same way with being a musician. If you want to learn how to improvise solos, you put in the practice time, yes, but then you must at some point get together with some like minded players and jump off that ledge.
You also need to be prepared to fail, and know that this is going to be the case. Do it anyway, and keep doing it. Eventually growth will occur and you’ll find yourself improving, your confidence will become greater and your comfort level will expand. Once you reach a point where you are comfortable, are getting good results, and consistency, then you can start looking for the next level’s worth of challenges, the next ledge to jump off. Does this mean you ditch your band? Not necessarily, because work is work, but there might come a point where you need to move on in order to keep growing, learning, and becoming the best musician you are capable of. You might want to keep a comfort zone, a safe area that you can return to that provides you with needed support.
Fear serves its purpose and as such is not something that should be ignored. After all, it has helped keep our species alive for thousands of years, and can warn us about potentially hazardous situations on many different levels. However, we can’t permit fear to dictate whether or not we do something that could be highly beneficial for us. Yes, sometimes we will fall flat on our faces, but we need to be able to determine whether or not the potential payout of taking the risk and succeeding is worth the risk being taken. There is often truth in clichés and the one that states, “nothing risked, nothing gained” is pretty accurate. If you want to move forward you have to take the first step, and then follow it up with the next and so forth. Otherwise, you are going to go absolutely nowhere.
Remember, when you do decide to take a risk it is usually a pretty good idea to make an informed decision to take that step. Scope out what is involved, give yourself a solid honest critique of where you are in relationship to the target, and then assess whether you are on a good ledge to leap from in accordance with your current abilities. If you’re just starting out on bass, and a spot opens up for the Saturday Night Live band, auditioning for that position simply doesn’t make sense simply from a repertoire requirements perspective alone, but finding a slot with a group of garage band jammers might be the actual appropriate leap to make. Be honest with yourself, take some risks, and commit yourself to growth.