February is a better month to start new year’s resolutions — keep January guessing. Ha! Not really, I spent last month finishing up a content plan for the year. So now it’s time to write.
Let’s see what’s on the agenda to write about… oh yes. Feedback. My current obsession. I’ll be talking and writing about it for… the rest of my life!
Today, I have a drum lesson. In case I didn’t mention, I have a very specific idea to start an 80’s cover band. I started taking drum lessons in October in preparation for said band.
It’s been nostalgic to re-create songs that formed the soundtrack to my childhood and adolescence. It’s been therapeutic, because there’s no more primal way to deal with the news cycle than to bang on things loudly and call it music. It’s been fascinating to compare my experience as an adult student learning an instrument (focus on enjoyment first, technique and skill building second) to my experience as a kid learning a new instrument (focus on building a foundation, technical facility, and creative expression).
And it’s been enlightening to feel the same sense of mild dread and anticipation for my lessons that I felt 30 years ago! Like so many things in life — music lessons and meetings with the boss and sessions with a business coach — success comes down to feedback: What feedback will I get today? Do I deserve it? What will I do with it?
In October, I was brand new to the drums. Feedback didn’t intimidate me, because I knew nothing and had zero experience. My main jobs were to be a sponge, and to practice on a rudimentary level. Just a few months in, I know more and am capable of more, and I am full of expectations:
I believe I have improved since last week and I hope it shows today.
Although I’ve improved, I have so much more to learn and want to pick up new knowledge.
I hope my teacher agrees that I have earned the right to move onto the next song (Van Halen!).
Balancing all this hope are my fears that those things won’t happen. Maybe I’ll flub my lesson and make a lot of mistakes, and my work won’t be evident. Maybe I won’t learn as many new exercises or skills as I want. Maybe we will spend ONE MORE WEEK on Madonna, even though I feel ready for Van Halen.
The collision between my hopes and fears creates anxiety about the feedback I might get today.
As grown-ups, who are largely the bosses of ourselves, we can work ourselves into very comfortable corners. We create safe, secure, feedback-free zones in our lives. Which are very cozy, but in our comfort and isolation, we become less responsive and connected to the world around us. We stop learning and growing.
I challenge all of us to not only climb out of our safe spaces, but also to seek out feedback, and grapple with the hard work of learning what feedback we need, what feedback we don’t, whose feedback we will act on, and why. I hope you’ll keep reading with me the next forty years or so, as I dive deep into this obsession of feedback. It’s pretty great stuff.