Last year I decided I wanted to learn to play the guitar. I had no delusions of recording contracts or stadiums packed with fans - I simply wanted to be able to amuse the babe and occasionally accompany our impromptu singalongs.
I purchased a guitar and found a teacher. As the day of my first lesson approached, I grew excited. I was pleased to discover I recalled more than I expected from childhood piano lessons and a short stint playing the drums in my junior high jazz band. My instructor was encouraging and I walked out the door feeling energized. This is so fun! I thought. Why did I wait so long to get started?!?
I practiced faithfully throughout the week and quickly mastered the material. When our second lesson rolled around, I performed the assigned pieces and received more positive reinforcement. The pattern repeated itself for our third lesson, and I was hooked. I'm really getting the hang of this!
But when we met again, my instructor had something different in mind. "Give this a try," he suggested. "I'd like to see what you can do with it."
Feeling confident and relishing the idea of new horizons I sat down to play as soon as I returned home. But after 30 minutes of utter frustration, I put down my guitar and walked away. I declared the new assignment beyond my ability.
As the week went on, I found myself making excuses not to practice. I really should go through the babe's closet and take out the clothes she has outgrown. Maybe I should bake a pie...
The morning of my lesson, I did my best to force the information through my brain and into my fingers, but much like last a minute cram on the eve of an exam, my efforts proved futile.
I was embarrassed as I sat down to play, but as I fumbled through the piece, something amazing happened. My instructor didn't ridicule me. He didn't banish me from the studio. He didn't say I was wasting his time - or my own. Instead, he helped me accomplish what I had dismissed as impossible.
At various points between then and now, this scenario has repeated itself. While the easy lessons have been gratifying, I have learned far more in the weeks that have proved most challenging. And isn't that usually the case? To transcend our own (self-imposed) limitations and exceed our (narrow) expectations, we often need guidance from someone who has traveled the path before us.
Next time you feel you are facing an impossible challenge, consider whether a friend, mentor, or teacher can provide the encouragement you need. Allow a fellow traveler to help you reach new horizons...