So today one of my most favorite bloggers ever, Mr. Money Mustache, wrote a great article titled “The Surprising Effects of Small Efforts Over Time,” about how doing little things over a long period of time really starts to add up. This makes sense in terms of money, with compounding interest. But I like how his article frames this up in terms of tangible things. For him, it was building an addition on a house.
I immediately thought of an experience in my own life: learning a song on the piano. I played the piano a lot growing up and at the beginning of college. When I moved and no longer had easy access to a piano, I really fell off the bandwagon. But recently, Mr WWW and I acquired a piano in our home, and have both been playing again. The issue is that my schedule isn’t as open or flexible right now as it has been in the past. Meaning, I can’t block out significant time to practice, like an hour each day.
I started out just playing for 10 minutes or so before I left for work in the morning, and then for maybe 30 minutes on lazy Saturday mornings. After getting up to speed on several easier songs I had learned in the past, I decided to learn a new song I’d never played before: The Maple Leaf Rag by Scott Joplin.
Ragtime has been something I’ve always loved, but never had played. And it has such a learning curve! But I started just one hand at a time. And now I can play the first page of the song with both hands together. What?!?! I remain surprised every time I play it. It was weird because, every time I would end my practice session I felt like I had barely made progress. I felt like I wasn’t respecting my music, because I should put more of an effort on practicing longer and harder. But in the end, I was respecting my music a whole lot more than if I had just given up. It doesn’t have to be “all or nothing;” more like “slow and steady wins the race.”
So that’s pretty cool.
It is a good thing to be thinking about now, as I am embarking on an adventure to shift my career more towards a software edge (versus firmware). I have been working through some tutorials on Android app development, to brush up on my Java while simultaneously pick up some app dev skills. I was up late working on it last night, and getting a little overwhelmed. There is *alot* of new material to remember in app development, and I started to ask myself “Why am I even trying this? There is no way I will be able to actually ever do anything with this. I will never be able to remember all of this. Who am I kidding.”
So all this negative self-talk is a pretty bad thing. And frankly, it is also silly! I am doing this for me! To learn! To have more skills to market around. To maybe do some fun freelance work and learn even more. So, who cares if it is confusing right now? When I started Maple Leaf Rag, I was like “Who am I kidding, I never learned how to play ragtime with a teacher, so I don’t think I will ever be able to get the hang of this song, ever. Why am I wasting my time?” But the thing is I WASN’T wasting my time at all! I can play the first page now! One day soon I will be able to write a baby little Android app on my own. I just need to give it time, and have fun learning a little more each day.