Friday, March 1, 2013

Postcards From My Childhood Part 7: Competition

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"The child is the father of the man", they say. Surprisingly, I understood this even as a child. And so I sent forward to my elder self some thoughts and images which I knew would be helpful, and which I suspected I'd otherwise forget.

When I was 17 years old, I auditioned for the Eastman School of Music. I was told that of a hundred trombonists auditioning, only three would be selected. Hearing that completely psyched me out. I did not play well.

I wound up attending the University of Rochester, with which Eastman is associated. And I took a bunch of classes, and played in ensembles, at Eastman, so I had a chance to hear those three kids. And I was absolutely shocked to find that they weren't all that good!

I pondered it, and decided that, of the 100 kids, something like 70 must have been cloddishly untalented, 25 were good-not-great, and 5 were very good, like me, but had been psyched out. So the three best of the "good-not-great" pack won (clunk!). My conclusion (and the postcard) was: just because there's heavy competition doesn't mean winning is necessarily difficult.

Eventually, I realized that all competition is a self-defeating illusion. Just 1. be the best, and 2. do your best...and let the chips fall. If you're not the best, you ought to be way less concerned with competing, and way more concerned with getting better!

See also this.

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