Gye Greene's Thoughts

Gye Greene's Thoughts (w/ apologies to The Smithereens and their similarly-titled album!)

Sunday, October 09, 2016

The fallacy or myth of wishing that your parents or mom had made you keep doing piano lessons

I occasionally hear someone say "I wish that my parents hadn't let me quit playing piano -- because then I'd know how to play the piano now."

If you break out the components, what the person is really saying is "I wish [person in authority who isn't me] had made me keep doing [task that requires cumulative discipline and effort over many years], because then I'd now have [desirable skill or characteristic]."

You could create other variations of this wish:

-I wish my parents had made me eat healthier food when I was a kid, because now I wouldn't be overweight (or, "less overweight").

-I wish my parents had made me go jogging twice a week, because then I'd have excellent cardiovascular right now.

-I wish my parents had made me lift weights three times a week, because then I'd have a great physique now.

-I wish I hadn't quit taking Spanish in 10th grade, because now I'd be a fluent speaker.

-I wish my parents had made me save and invest $50 a paycheck over the years -- because I'd have a pile of money by now.

-I wish I had taken swimming lessons as a kid -- so I'd know how to swim.  (This one is in a different category.  But the later section of this post is relevant.)

What all of the above overlook is:

-the amount of cumulative effort (drudgery?) that was avoided;

-that there was a reason that you didn't do "the beneficial thing" (i.e. you clearly didn't enjoy it, or didn't want to do it!);

-these laments typically put the responsibility on someone else, not yourself (e.g. "Why did my mom let me quit taking piano?") -- which shifts the responsibility away from yourself.

The rebuttal, of course, is:  Fine.  So:  do it now.  As an adult.

Let's say that you wish that you had stayed with piano until at least the end of high school -- rather than quitting when you were twelve.  Good:  start taking piano lessons again.  As a grownup, you're smarter and (presumably) have greater discipline than when you were a kid:  you'll progress faster in the six years now than you would've during your teen years.

You wish you'd started lifting weights when you were twenty.  You can't go back in time -- so start lifting weights now.

You wish you'd saved more, starting twenty years ago?  Fine:  start saving now -- and twenty years from now you'll be where you wish you were right now.

And etcetera.

Unless there were external forces at work (e.g. your family weren't able to keep paying for your ice skating lessons, so you had to stop), then the reason you stopped [name of lesson or activity] was that you didn't like it!  And, as an adult, you probably do have activities that you enjoy... spend time at... and (because of the time invested) are probably pretty knowledgeable and skilled.  (Bowling?  Golf?  Photography?  Model ship building?)

So:  to say that you wish you had stuck with something that you really didn't enjoy at the time, just so you could have that skill which you probably wouldn't make use of right now, anyhow -- just doesn't make sense.

That is:  let's say that you had stayed with your piano lessons until the end of high school.  Would you really be playing the piano right now, recreationally?  ReallyHonestly???

Probably not -- at least, not very often.

Put differently:  Elton John, Howard Jones, Regina Spektor, and others presumably enjoyed playing the piano -- and that's why they stuck with it.

And, to those that say "I don't have time":  well, that's possibly true -- if you're working two jobs, or working a job plus studying at university.  But if you have any sort of free time (after the kids are in bed -- if indeed you have any kids) -- how you spend your time is a choice:  your choice.

If you spend an hour a night watching t.v., or reading before you go to bed:  that's fine; that's legitimate.  But you could be studying Spanish, or doing a few push-ups, or following along to that yoga DVD, or practicing guitar.  And that's your choice.  And if you'd prefer to read or watch t.v.:  that's a choice as well.

And choices have consequences:  often, pretty easily anticipated ones.

And as a grown-up, you're not allowed to make choices -- and then complain about the (easily-foreseen) consequences of those choices:

Such as:

-Spend your money in ways you know you shouldn't -- and then complain that you're often short of money.

-Never exercise -- and then complain that you don't have the physique that you want.

-Eat all sorts of junk -- and then complain that you're overweight.

-Watch t.v. all evening -- and then complain that you don't possess [name of skill or ability].

No one can do it for you.  You are responsible for you.

And, yeah, that's unfair -- perhaps.  But, it is how it is.

And maybe there are situations outside your control that make it hard -- very hard.  (Maybe you do have to work two jobs...)  But, it's your life -- and you can either complain and be ineffectual -- or buck up and take control of your destiny.

Your airplane has crashed in the middle of the desert.  Do you (a) Sit around and complain about how unfair it is; or (b) Do everything you can to survive?

Your decision; your choice; your life.

And, yes:  I've not been in the situation myself, but I hear that quitting smoking is difficult -- very difficult.

But:  is "It's very difficult" a reason to not do work to achieve what you want?

And:  just so I don't sound like I'm Mister Perfect:  I've only come to this realization about five years ago.  I'm now in training for some very specific personal goals.  I don't work out as often as I want to -- and sometimes I slack off., or get busy  But ever time that I do manage to work out is a "win".

This afternoon I asked my teenage daughter if she wanted to go jogging with me, and my wife said "She hates jogging."  My response was, "I do too."

I don't like exercising.  But I want to be able to do a one-armed chin-up -- and that means that I need to do chin-ups and pull-ups with a weighted backpack, a few times a week, until I achieve my goal.  I've been doing it for a few years -- and I have many more years to go.  (I call it "applied OCD"...)

Whereas if I don't do my exercises, it's guaranteed that I won't achieve my goal.  No one else can do it for me.


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