King Of The Blues Retrospective

Oct 1st, 2009
This post was originally written on the blog.

On Wednesday night, I participated in the district finals for Guitar Center King Of The Blues (video at the end of this post). I appreciate all the support, but I was not selected to advance to regional finals. I know some of you were hoping I’d advance, but such is the nature of competitions. I got everything out of this competition that I hoped for, so I’m more than happy to be back working on some lessons that you’ll hear about very soon.

Some people have expressed a bit of confusion as to why I’d enter a competition like this. Let me clear that up once and for all.

I did not enter to win. I did not enter because I want or need the respect. I actually detest seeing music being reduced to a comparison of skills. But I still had to participate. And here’s why.

I have the unusual problem of being simultaneously fearful of success and failure. This has kept me from doing anything terribly risky my whole life. At this point in my life, I have reached a point where I love what I do, I have many blessings for which I am thankful for. I have no reason to enter a competition.

But I was not considering NOT entering for the right reasons. The right reasons are what I listed above. My reasons for not entering would have been that I was scared of winning and scared of losing. I know that doesn’t make sense but let me see if I can explain it better.

I was scared of the success because success in this competition would certainly mean an interruption to a lesson production schedule that’s been planned for over a year now. The sponsorship, money, instruments, and attention are worth far less to me than making these lessons. Not to mention the fact that I have no idea how one acts when one is declared the ‘King of The Blues’ by a chain music store, and a guitar company who’s instruments you’ve never played. I don’t know what the expectations are, so it’s scary to me.

I was also scared of losing. What if I gave it my all, and still lost? This fear is what causes people like me to stop trying so that we have an excuse when we lose.

I entered this competition to confront both of those fears. It was uncomfortable to win the store finals. Because it forced me to drive 3 hours to and from the district finals, when I’d have rather been working on lessons. Losing the district finals was hard because I gave it my all, and I still lost.

As I drove home from the event, I had a very satisfied feeling that one can only get when you attempt something you’ve been avoiding your whole life. I had experienced a small amount of success which forced me to deal with the disruption that success brings. And I also have the chance to experience that strange feeling of having given your best effort yet having failed.

It’s a feeling I have not had too often. Since I’ve only really ever tried hard at things I knew I could win at, There have been very few times where I entered a relatively unknown situation like this, with all cylinders firing, and gotten the opportunity to experience such abrupt failure. 

I think this is a necessary part of life because it calls into question why we do things. Where do you draw your self-worth from? Is it from guitar? That’s great, because you’re going home. You didn’t win.  That’s an awful place to be if you’re relying on acclamation from judges to validate your skills and self-worth.

Three years ago, this would have been very hard to accept for me. Two years ago, I wouldn’t have entered at all. One year ago, I was too busy. This year, I had the time. I faced my fears. I experienced both. And I’m more thankful than ever that I don’t evaluate myself with the same criteria that I used to.

Lastly, I don’t know where you get your sense of self-worth from. But if I can offer one piece of advice. Don’t get it from your ability to be the best. You’ll be chasing that for the rest of your life. :-)