Carnegie Hall

Carnegie Hall

There is an old joke that goes something like this:
TOURIST: “Excuse me sir, could you tell me how to get to Carnegie Hall?”
NATIVE NEW YORKER: “Practice, practice, practice”

The thing is, there was a time when no one got to perform at Carnegie Hall unless they were absolute tops in their field. To be invited meant that you had ‘made it’ in your performance genre. It’s still one of the top venues in the world for live performances. If Carnegie hall invites you to perform, your only excuse for saying no is being dead.

So, people who want to make things go to the internet to find out how. There are specialized websites, YouTube, Pinterest, instructables, craftsy, and so many more! It’s exciting! That guy did it in five minutes! It looked so easy! Ah, there’s the rub…
What you don’t see is the two hours of prep time and the five failed attempts. You don’t see the twenty-seven other similar-but-not-as-complicated things he made over the last year. You don’t see the scraps of practice swatches filling his trash can. All you see in the six minute video is the five minutes of final assembly. It’s not intended to deceive, but it does so anyway, because that guy has put in his practice time.

Watching Eddie Van Halen perform one of his amazing guitar solos isn’t going to suddenly make you be able to do the same the first time you pick up a guitar.
Watching Pablo Picasso paint isn’t going to magically impart his knowledge or talent to you.
Watching Michael Jordan dunk a basketball isn’t going to metaphysically impart his work ethic to you.

Watching an artist, performer or athlete can impart knowledge about what they do, it’s a vital step in learning to do a thing yourself. But you must do, over and over and over again, to gain the skill. Your hands and body must go through the physical motions, become comfortable with them. It doesn’t matter if it’s drawing, painting, carving, modeling, sewing, knitting, weaving, running, throwing, dribbling, passing, getting the right chord, hitting the right note, speaking the right words with the correct meter, pitch and accent…. It must be done over, and over, and over, until you get it right. Then keep going until you do it better. And then keep going until you are the one showing off your skill.

I often remind my students about the fact that Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. He had no innate talent for the game. So he went home and started practicing, hard, daily, and never ever quit until he retired from the NBA. He got there through hard work and determination, not talent. Innate talent is incredibly rare. Most people viewed as talented, are in fact just very hard workers.

So yes, you can play guitar or sew a dress or dunk a basketball, but it’s going to take a lot of practice. No technology exists (yet, I’m waiting on those Matrix downloads) that one POOF! will magically enable you to do the thing perfectly the first time and every time.

So when Yoda says “Do or do not, there is no try”, what he really means is: ‘You will do badly, many times. Then you will do mediocre, many times. Then you will do good, many times, then you will do great, and not stop, for if you do you will slip back into good, then mediocre, then bad’.

YouTube is not Carnegie Hall, it’s more like a small town community theater. Sure, there are real concerts and performances that people pay money to see there, but there are also those kids who wrote their own play that had to beg their own parents to come and watch. And the show was at 3PM on a Tuesday and free.
Take anything on YouTube with a grain of salt and some background research. Sponsored by a business or materials company? Probably have lots of practice and will give a good lesson or advice. Sell their products with good customer reviews? Probably good advice. Obviously filmed with a phone camera and say “um” every four seconds? Might know what they are doing, but poor communication skills mean it’s probably a waste of your time. Radically different approach, not using safety gear or ventilation, say things like “well I don’t have an [tool] so I used [kitchen implement]”? Chances are they don’t know their butt from hot rocks, skip it.
I’ve seen displays of good work or talent ruined by an inability to communicate, which is frustrating. I’ve seen people who obviously weren’t skilled enough to be teaching others, but apparently had the over-inflated egotistical notion that they did possess the talent, which is annoying. This is the downside to YouTube tutorials, anyone can post, there is no vetting, no required criteria, just a video and a means to upload it.

There are websites with reliable tutorials and videos, but they vet their authors. Craftsy, instructables and make all have pretty reliable authors on a wide range of subjects and projects. There are hundreds more that are more specialized for specific crafting genres like knitting, woodworking, car repair and then some. These are often a better first step than just going straight to the Tube for your instructions.



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2 responses to “Carnegie Hall

  1. Looking forward to seeing what you have to do with the blog . . .

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