#12 Love & Ignorance

Mastery is elusive.

I’ve mastered nothing. Thirty-nine years of life. I cook well enough not to starve. I code at a beginner’s beginner level. At best I’m a B minus singer, B songwriter, and D guitarist, and I think that’s being generous. As a writer, I can put words together that occasionally make sense.

But where would I be otherwise? What would I be doing?

I absolutely do not want to be here today. I’m tired, annoyed, sore, frustrated, worried. Posted up in a study room at the KC public library with Starbucks-toting med students and polite homeless charging their phones.

I find it ironic their respective drugs of choice (Adderall & Meth) are cousins.

This is the fourth location I’ve tried today. The high top tables and stools at the gym are uncomfortable, the Marriot lobby has too many distractions, as did Messenger Coffee.

Coding an app seems so far beyond my skills I can’t see the finish line. The new album is coming together nicely, but I still make far too many mistakes. Everything seems…inconvenient.

Recently listened to Lifeforce, a Tony Robbins book. Highly recommend for anyone who wants to improve their health, life, mindset, and more.

The spies in my phone listened too, and when I opened social media to post a video, there was a clip of Tony Robbins, about thirty years old by the looks of it.

It was very simple. Mr. Robbins was being interviewed about his approach, and he said that his life improved dramatically when he started asking better questions.

Instead worrying about what could go wrong, he asked “What if everything goes right?”.

Cliche. Trite. Over-simplified.

Also happens to be a core tenant of the mindset of the most successful motivational/transformational life coach in modern history. Could they be related?

I was thinking of that as I sat down to journal, which I also did not want to do. My handwriting is ugly, I don’t have a good system, I’ve journaled two days in a row after missing a week. To placate myself, I started reading back through old entries from a few months ago, and found a five page long diatribe titled “Love & Ignorance”.

I practice music about three hours a day, and progress feels like it moves slower that a snail moonwalking on an iceberg. My rant had come after watching a live music performance that blew me away.

The guitarist hit every note, accent, dynamic. The singer’s phrasing, tone, power, emotion…everything was just utter perfection.

As I sat watching, I realized I had a new appreciation. Less of an admiration, more of a kinship. I’ve been adding more and more difficult elements to this new album, things I hear in my mind and then spend hours, days, weeks, or even months trying to replicate in reality.

I’m hard on myself, and often in a cruel way. Maybe you are too. At times I feel like a phony or a fake, a loser. Scrub, schlub, wanna-be.

And then I go play a show, and people who seem to love my music more than I do say such kind and wonderful things. They relate to the lyrics, are moved by the music, and are brave and kind enough to share those things.

It’s then I realized what all that struggle and suffering is.

Love, and ignorance.

My dad is the best drummer I know. I bashed around a bit in my early teens, then gave it up after the first time I had to move and set up a drum set. Too much damn work. As dad would say “Should play the piccolo. Stick it in your pocket and go home”.

Guitar had zero appeal to me, even after I started writing songs. I just wanted to give them away, and tried. No one would take them, notably my mentor/best friend Aaron Traffas (check em out https://aarontraffasband.com/ ).

I ordered a guitar for my 21st birthday. It arrived on a Friday, and I cancelled a date to sit at home and try to play a G chord. Four months later, I was still trying.

The biggest thrill I could have ever dreamt of at the time was to play the open mic night at Gumby’s Pizza.

They went out of business before I ever made it.

A year and a half later, I finally made it to an open mic, run by Aaron Traffas. Everyone was playing Wagon Wheel and Hootie, and there I was – I knew seven songs, all originals.

I refused to cover other artists music. It had nothing to do with arrogance or wanting to showcase my own, it was entirely because I felt like I was doing an injustice to their music by replicating it so poorly.

My mindset was simple: if I play my own songs, no one can tell me it’s wrong.

I played my couple, and after Traffas came up and asked if I would like to open for his band the next night. A real gig at a real bar – Bobby T’s. It even had a stage, a real (sorta) music venue. Long way from open mic at a pizza joint where they have to move the pool table to put a mic stand.

I’d exceeded my wildest dreams by miles. The next night I debuted. I played five songs and broke three strings (one on Aaron’s Martin, which he kindly lent after seeing me struggle). It was awful and terrible. At the end of the night, despite every plea and protest I made otherwise, Aaron even paid me. Forty bucks, I think.

So I thought of that while watching this incredible performance. I realized that guy started and sucked too. He was an awful guitar place at one time. She couldn’t sing like that. Neither had any business believing they could do something beautiful, yet both did.

And as I felt that wave of kinship come over me, I wondered what gave me the right to believe I could play with the Aaron Traffas Band. What made me arrogant enough to think people would care what I had to say, would enjoy hearing me say it, and that it could become a livelihood. How could I share stages with my heroes, nearly all of which met or exceeded my expectations as decent people. Cody Johnson talked about his love for family, Cody Canada gave me his personal contact info while we we pissing in the urinals at Longhorns. Randy Rogers kept the student body president campaign shirt I gave him when I was 21, and still had it seven years later when I opened for him at the Wareham. Mike McClure and I found common ground over the joy of headstands in yoga and an appreciation for a good cat. Logan Mize offered to co-write, which I’ve yet to take him up on as I watch his star burn brighter and brighter every day.

And it wasn’t until a few weeks ago I actually felt like I belonged with these guys, and it’s all due to Love & Ignorance. When I opened for Aaron that first time, I wasn’t thinking about what could go wrong – the girl I was courting at the time was in the front row, and for all I knew I was playing the Super Bowl. I even rolled up one of the strings I broke and presented it to her like some trophy.

Somewhere along the line, a lot of us find ourselves in a cynical relationship with ourselves. We stop thinking about what could go right, we stop DREAMING, and start finding reasons to avoid any pain, stress, struggle or worry.

The last year and a half, since I quit my job and set out traveling the world, writing, playing music, and learning (slowly) to code, has been easily the most stressful time of my life. Mostly I show the cool stuff, because that’s…cool.

But when you take all your chips and bet on yourself, every spin of the wheel feels like life or death. Every day of less-than-stellar productivity feels wasted. Pressure, stress, worry.

And growth.

Growing PAINS.

It hurts to get better. You bleed, cry, bruise, limp, bemoan.

And then you grow.

All because you loved something, and were too ignorant to listen to the voices. Maybe it’s the voices of others, maybe your own.

Yesterday was fourteen years since I started my first band, and I genuinely feel like I’ve only started to play music in the last month.

Keep loving, don’t listen 🙂


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