Cover photo by Frank Claeys
The journey never ends. I am well into my fifties, and recently, I started taking guitar lessons again. I have lots of experience playing guitar and, I think I play quite well, so why take lessons? Why now? To what end? I consider myself an advanced intermediate player, but I want to improve and excel beyond that level. I am not satisfied at my current level, and I want to advance. I want to improve, and I want to progress.
I have a thirst for knowledge. Maybe that’s why I took a Digital Marketing Certificate a couple of years ago, at 54. And that’s probably why I enrolled this year – at my own considerable expense – into a Building Automation Systems (BAS) course, part-time and online. It’s what I sell for my employer, and I wanted to improve my knowledge of BAS, and therefore, hopefully, my performance at selling these systems. As you can imagine, they are complex and complicated, making advanced knowledge of these systems a competitive advantage. And it’s probably why I do a Spanish lesson on the Babel app every morning I can. Taking courses has become my strange obsession. Don’t ask me how many courses I have passwords for, that I don’t get around to very much. I know, it’s a very bad habit that shows that I am slightly disorganized. Still trying to improve on that aspect of my life though.
So, when you ask me about this or that TV show or sports event, and I give you a blank stare and a shrug, don’t take it personally; I’m not being smug. Between my more than full-time job, my blog, my videos, photography, and courses, I just don’t have much time available for it.
“Why pay for guitar lessons when there is so much free stuff available online?”
Yes, very true, and I do take advantage of the free knowledge and information as much as I can. But to me, that’s like saying, “there are so many fish in the ocean, just go out there and catch them.”
As anyone who has tried to fish, catching them is a lot of times easier said than done. A good guide, however, will use his or her skill and knowledge to take you to the best fishing spots, and will save you a whole lot of time and frustration. But of course, you will have to pay the guide to catch the fish that are still free. What’s better and what’s less expensive? Wasting time and money trying to find them on your own or taking advantage of a master fishing guide’s knowledge, skill, and experience?
There are lots of books available for free in any library, but knowing which books to read, and in what sequence will get you the degree. The experienced, skilled, and knowledgeable professor – if they are good at their job – will point you in the right direction and help you make the most sense of the knowledge contained within those books. They understand the context they were written in and can mold that information into a format that is more comprehensible and cohesive much better than the average layman with a library card can. The same is true for my guitar teachers. The pantry is full of delicious ingredients, but only a skilled and talented cook can logically put them together to make a proper meal.
Plus, nothing replaces the human touch of a teacher/coach watching you and listening to you as you progress. The immediate feedback and interchange of knowledge and experience is invaluable to me. It makes you progress so much faster and more efficiently than trying to go it totally alone. I liken it to the comparison between practicing alone and jamming with a group of friends. Practicing chords, scales, and exercises on my guitar are important things to do alone, but anytime I jam with friends, my experience grows exponentially. I learn from them and hopefully, they learn from me. The shared experience is an exceptional feeling. Nothing teaches you timing, rhythm, and HUMILITY better than playing with others, especially when their musical skill is just a little notch higher than yours. Learning new songs, learning your parts, and – as much as possible – learning your bandmates’ parts is crucial, but when it all comes together in a band setting, that’s when the real magic happens.
I am also an avid photographer, and the experience is similar. I like to learn all I can about the mechanics of photography from various sources, but nothing teaches me composition, exposure, and HUMILITY better than actually putting those things into practice and sharing my work with others. I do hope to take in-person photography lessons someday soon, but for now, books, magazines, and online newsletters are my teachers.
We humans are social creatures and most of us thrive best through social interaction, and the immediate feedback it brings. The recent pandemic of 2020-2022 has taught us just how important that social element is to our lives. Our modern-day world is wonderful in the way it has brought so much knowledge, information, and instant communication to our immediate grasp. As great as those things are, we simply cannot ignore the importance of in-person meetings. A meal with a friend. A drink with buddies. The card game on Saturday night. Sharing a joke with a mate. Watching TV with my wife. These are the things that make life worth living. So is learning.
The thirst for knowledge should never leave, no matter how old we are. My mother, in her nineties, recently took lessons on how to use her iPad better. Learning and reading are beautiful things. They expand your horizons and sharpen your mind. I truly believe the human brain is like a muscle. The more you use it, the better and stronger it becomes. I crave and love knowledge, reading, and learning new things. I am a committed life-long learner. Sharing your life with others is the icing on the cake.
Enjoy the road you’re travelling on and make the most of your time here on this troubled but beautiful world.
The journey never ends.