I’ve been a fan of the baby steps approach to building gumption for awhile now. Instead of scaring the pants off yourself trying to do something massively challenging, you try getting yourself where you want to go one little step at a time. Recently, a friend of mine has been unwittingly proving how well this works – with a group of men.
He wanted a chance to play his bass guitar more often with other amateur musicians, so he set up a space in his house for the necessary amps and mics, and a drum kit. Then he started asking friends and colleagues – in fact, almost anybody he met who voiced even a small desire to make music – if they’d like to come and jam. Totally casual, no gig to aim for, no performance pressures.
Some people who said yes were already playing and knew they were competent. Others started off with a list of caveats to lower everyone’s expectation of them (including their own): I haven’t played in a long time, I can only play a little bit, I don’t remember much music, I’m not very good. Etcetera. I’m sure you can think up a bunch of lines you’d come up with too, if you were doing something like this.
And here’s what happened.
Barely a few weeks into this weekly jam experiment, the guitarist who claimed he couldn’t play very well was ripping through a guitar solo like a pro rocker. The drummer who only wanted to participate in a song or two is now going for it with unrestrained gusto. And my friend, who knew he could play but didn’t feel he could sing, is belting out lead vocals.
This is a brilliant example of baby steps in action. But it wasn’t just baby steps that made it possible for these guys to realize their music-making dreams.
First of all, they said yes. They said yes to something they felt they could manage – the first, crucial baby step that gets the subsequent steps in motion.
They had a non-judgmental environment in which to experiment. A place in which they felt they could potentially fail without it being the end of the world – which reduced their ‘what’s the worst that could happen’ risk.
They had a cheerleader and a mentor in my friend – someone who could show them that going for this music-making adventure was possible and likely to be fun, even if it was scary.
I created The Practical Woman’s Guide to Living an Adventuresome Life for women, for a whole lot of good reasons. But it’s always been clear to me that men need gumption too and we all suffer similar barriers to getting it. These guys happen to be a great illustration of that shared challenge, and how to get past it.
It wouldn’t at all surprise me if they started looking for gigs to play in front of audiences soon, because adventure is like that; once you step beyond what you think is your threshold of capability, you discover you’re capable of anything.
Man or woman.