Listen, you suck at pretty much everything you do, and for your whole life, you will suck at most of what you do. You probably have tried a lot of things and sucked at them so you stayed sucky, which is cool! There might even be something that you actually pursued for a while, like playing basketball or learning to draw or playing guitar, but you probably still suck at those things. It’s okay to suck at things; or at least I hope it is because I suck at A LOT of things. But what separates the people who do things well from the people who suck is the tenacity to succeed multiple times.
I tried skateboarding for a while, and I even keep a little bit of it in my life in the form of longboarding (which is NOT the same as skateboarding no matter what that one guy from college says), but I sort of gave up. I watched so many YouTube videos of how to push off right and the basics of ollying and whatnot, and I even succeeded with a few basic tricks a few times, but I still gave up. I tasted some success and still quit. It isn’t enough to succeed a few times, for your moral or your muscle memory. I’m not a psychologist or professional teacher of any skill, but I believe that you need to do something right twice as many times and twice as often as you mess up for you to have broken the bad habit of failure. So with the olly example, if you screwed it up and didn’t land it just how you should have 28 times then you need to do it right at least 56 times, probably more.
I have taken lessons in various things (an instrument, a sport, others) and one of the things that I don’t understand is when people are working on a skill and trying it over and over and once they succeed once they say “alright, I did it, now I don’t have to work on that anymore” (in more or less words). The clincher comes later when that skill is put to the test and they play the measure wrong or make uneven cuts in the meat or put the wrong spin on the ball. They may be confused and blame the lighting or the knife or the racket when they really ought to blame their laziness and ignorance. Doing something correctly once is not good enough; not even close. Practice over and over and over and over. Then maybe you’ll suck a little less. You can’t be good enough, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. In fact, it means that you absolutely have to try.
iHeart Radio is a tired amalgamation of the worst parts of radio and music recommending apps. I think we can all agree that Pandora used to rule the land, back when 15 year olds used it to listen to music and older people still listened to the radio, or worse, simply silence… then! boom! Spotify. The world was changed forever as a vast bank of music was limitlessly accessible to anyone with $10 and a smartphone. The ability to search and listen to any song without restriction seemed too good to be true. I remember taking a long look in the mirror and said to myself “Doremus, if you respect yourself at all and value the ability to find endless new music and swoon over your favorites you will get Spotify premium”, and I never looked back. Best $10 I spend every month. Spotify is the best and I will fight you about that. In case it weren’t evident, I kind of like to fight so hmu bruh.
The copy cats began to survey and seek a chink in Spotify’s melodic armor and make a better version. iTunes Music reinvented itself to remain relevant in a world of searchable, playable, and downloadable music and basically ended up with Spotify with a white color scheme instead of black. Some people live and die by the Apple sword and will stick with iTunes Music which is fine I guess. My question is this: Who looked at modern radio (some would say an industry in poor shape and desperately seeking to remain relevant) and decided to simply amalgamate a bunch of mediocre radio stations into an app. One of iHeart Radio’s favorite claim is “America’s most loved free music app” , which may be true because music shouldn’t be free. (I know some of you right now are screaming at your screen telling me how Spotify screws over artists and pays them next to nothing for people listening to their music; but people will steal music anyway and this way it is legal, helps them a little bit, and allows me to explore thousands of bands I would never have found before and go see them when they tour near me. Live music pays much better than a couple thousand listens on Spotify or the radio.)
Long story short, radio is dying. It is grossly overinflated with repetitive commercials. A small list of sold out songs plague the actually successful radio stations because the only time people listed to the radio is in the car so they only need like 30-45 min of music to repeat and fill that commute time. Honestly, most people just plug in that aux cord anyway. At a job I’ve been doing over the last week we have been listening to a few different radio stations, all in the same genre but different stations. I now know like 8 or 9 songs in that genre that I didn’t know before, but I’m sure they aren’t the most important songs in that genre or the ones people will remember in 2 years, they are just what was cool this week and who’s record label pressed their song into several hundred radio stations.
Here’s the long and short: radio is lame and an app the collects radio stations is a collection of lame. Refuse to accept this collection of lame. Be better than iHeart Radio or you will just be a collection of lame too.
I’ve got a lot of trophies, but I haven’t accomplished anything. Sure I participated in a handful of sports and competitions as a kid, and I was thrilled when I got the trophy with my name on it; but all that thrill died when I saw 23 others with that same trophy, most of which, in my opinion, hadn’t worked as hard as I had. There are only one or two accolades that I have received that I am actually proud of and when they come up or I have a moment of self-absorption and brag, people seem only mildly impressed. As their attention fades I try to shock them with how rare the accomplishment is or how hard it is to earn. Still their eyes glaze over as their brain searches for a way to bring the conversation back to be about them. I don’t blame them. I do the same.
Our society has reveled in the idea that everyone is a special flower and deserves endless praise for even the most mundane and mediocre accomplishments. Competing in a middle school spelling bee and getting 7th place; playing a game of football and getting a sack but letting the RB slip by easily 4 times; performing in your studio’s piano recital and playing with reasonable accuracy. These are certainly worth celebrating, and I think it is essential for us to try new things and strive to be successful and get better at our craft, whether it is spelling or tackling or playing piano, but they are attempts, not conquests. They should be looked at as a step in the right direction, but not the end goal.
It is easy to think of yourself as a success if you only look at the positives. Sure you spelled dichotomous and adjudicator correctly, but you missed acquiesce. And you made a nice play that one time after your hand got stepped on and you were fueled by rage, but you forgot to wrap up the tackle and cost the team several dozen yards. And you performed “Appalachian Spring” pretty well, but you missed the scale run in measure 23 that you practiced just enough to get right one time. These are pursuits of greatness, but they have not reached it yet. Parents should praise their kids and tell them they are proud of them; but most everyone else in their lives, especially their teachers/coaches/whatever should constantly expect and demand more. Praise, past a certain point, coddles and restricts ambition.
This does not just apply to children, though it is most evident and harmful at that age. When the only information on a task a person receives is positive they assume that the level they performed the task at is adequate or even above what is expected. I am all for positive reinforcement, and am not suggesting we only speak on weaknesses and areas of failure, but without a clear direction to improve and a sense that improvement is necessary, there will be none.
Praise is overrated and, for me personally, the less I get the more I improve. It makes the rare kernel of approval all the more potent.