Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Is it worth it?

I'm convinced that the question, "Is it worth it?", is about the worst question you can ask of any new activity. Most activities are not worth the initial effort. Every guitar student is terrible at the guitar for the first two years. The effort seems worthless: there is no improvement in skill, the tune is equally difficult, and the hands continue to hurt. At that time, it seems like the effort is worthless. Success is too far away to be a consolation. This question is one reason why many people don't undertake to learn anything large.

It is easier to do things with immediate, visible benefit. Laziness is a part of the problem, though time constraints are perhaps the bigger issue. But in a world where average television viewing time is 3-4 hours, lack of time cannot be the whole story.

I was first introduced to this question in its dismissive form: "he must have a lot of free time". The implication is that the person must have a lot of free time to do something inconsequential. In reality, pursuing an activity for its own benefit is a great liberator: you are freed from the requirement of producing something of value, and you can do something for the pure joy of doing it. There is great satisfaction in doing something by yourself: producing something of value to you. The world might consider your songs mediocre and unrefined, but if you get pleasure producing them, you're creating satisfaction for yourself in the best way possible.

Initial effort does produce poor quality results. This blog is a prime example of quality over the years: today I cringe at some of the earlier posts. But back when I started writing, I was proud to post articles and have friends and family read it. Reading my old posts again, I wish I could delete some of them. But they remind me that my writing has evolved.

Luckily, when you start any activity, most of the world doesn't take interest. New guitar students are hard-pressed to find an audience. And that's great, because nobody notices how terrible you are, and you can produce something that gives you satisfaction.

If something gives you satisfaction and joy, it is worth the effort.