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Maybe it’s because Northern has made the odd nice comment about Queen or maybe it’s because Morrissey made me realise my teenage years of angst were utterly pointless, but I seem to have suddenly become quite smitten with all things ‘The Smiths’ as of late.
The latest episode happened when I was reading a newspaper and came across this quote by good – but not quite as good as many claim – Smiths guitarist, Johnny Marr:
Now I am not being nice because the twangler on ‘hits’ like ‘Girlfriend In A Coma’ and ‘Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now’ lives in Portland and has been known to play with some W+K’ers, it’s because I absolutely love the last line of his quote …
“… it’s about being great at something purely for the sake of being great at it”.
In these days where there seems to be a preoccupation with achieving fame, the sheer joy of being good at something seems to have been relegated to a bygone age.
Of course I know that’s not really the case, but I do feel there are a lot of people who believe ‘fame’ – regardless how they get it – will bestow the lifestyle and adulation they seek [or think they deserve] rather than working bloody hard to be good at something that may or may not give them rewards as a byproduct of their skill and effort.
But even that definition strays too far from the point Mr Marr is making.
Being good at something, just because it feels good to be good at something seems to becoming more and more of an alien attitude.
I’m guilty of it.
When I learnt the guitar, I did it because I wanted to be a rockstar.
Money … fame … women.
Sure, I also wanted to write songs and play them with my bandmates, but the ‘benefits’ of stardom were definitely a major influence in my decision to pick up the 6 string.
I used to look at old guys who were playing in bands [ie: people who are my current age] as a bit pathetic.
I used to think they were hanging on to a dream they’d never, ever, ever achieve and it was all a bit sad.
But now I’m at their age, I realise it’s no longer about that, it’s about pure enjoyment.
That regardless of what might – or probably might not – happen, the joy of doing something you love, like and are quite good at, is fulfilling enough.
Sure, there are better guitarists out there than me.
Guitarists who will achieve success, money and fame … but that’s OK, because just being able to play to a good standard is OK with me.
It’s a demonstration that I committed myself to something.
Didn’t take the easy option.
Didn’t give up.
It’s the fact I can play the guitar that makes me happy.
Of course it’s nice if others recognise that, but that isn’t important.
Neither is the case that a long time ago, I played guitar for a few semi-famous people.
The fact is, one of the greatest gifts is that I found something that gave me – and gives me – pleasure through a constant feeling of challenge and achievement and that is not to be underestimated.
Throughout my life I have met people who have planned their life so well.
They knew their next step … they knew the skills they needed to acquire to get where they wanted to go … they worked everything out in excruciating detail.
I used to sort-of envy these people.
I used to wonder what was wrong with me because I sort of bumbled along, choosing things that interested me rather than necessarily rewarded me.
But now I realise what I did was OK, because it was less about efficiency of progress and more about feeling emotionally satisfied.
I’m not saying what I did/do was better than what others did/do, I’m just saying it is an OK approach as well.
And that’s why I love that Johnny Marr quote so much, because in an industry that seems to celebrate those people who have gained the highest job title or have been put on the latest hype pedestal, the real stars are the folk who simply get on with what they do.
Who take pride in a job well done because that’s the standards they operate by.
Not for progress or cash incentives, but because they believe that’s what’s right.
They view it as a testimony to their hard work and experience.
That being good at something is – to a large extent – good enough.
There’s loads of these people, walking down the corridors.
Sure, some sit at the top tables too … but most are people who let other people shine through their abilities at doing something well.
I am not one of these people.
I want to be.
I try to be.
But I’m not.
I write a blog and court attention.
I try to do it for the right reasons – I genuinely do – but, let’s be honest, I also do it because for some mad fucking reason, it’s also become quite good for my career.
To be honest, it’s pretty sad and pathetic.
And that’s why I am so glad I play the guitar.
Sure, I might have started it for the wrong reasons – or some wrong reasons – but now I do it because I just enjoy the feeling of being quite good at it.
As much as this world tries to push us to only focus on the things that will help us progress, being good at something purely for the sake of being good at something is something worthy of praise and applause so next time someone tells you that what you want to do has no real commercial value to others, tell them they’re missing the point, because it’s not about the commercial value to others, it’s about the emotional value to yourself.
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