When that “jack-of-all-trades, master at none” becomes all too true, maybe it’s time to give “master of ONE” a try.
When I left Tae Kwon Do a few months ago, after yet another injury, the head instructor asked if I were leaving because my green belt test was coming up. Was I a person who quit when I was challenged too hard?
I was hugely indignant, but I admitted the thought had occurred to me.
Was I a quitter?
I’ve done a lot of thinking about what he said, coupled with reading an interesting article, “Mastery Plan” by Kelly Corrigan in the January 2009 issue of Oprah Magazine.
Corrigan reinvented herself in several disciplines–photography, journalist, author, playwright. She was the ultimate student, reveling in steep learning curves that produced spectacular results. Where learning a new discipline causes most students drop out at level one or two, she made it easily to level six or seven.
But never to levels eight, nine or ten.
She wonders if all the excitement of the reinventions, the ‘look at me, I’m good at this!’ moments, learning in leaps and bounds, avoiding the point where learning comes in tiny increments “… just might be a distraction from (her) greatest fear…”
Fear of failure.
She talks about the people who work more slowly, but create something of that lasts, something with true elegance, something of value. She wants that, too. But she’s not sure she can.
I wonder if part of my conflict with my art is fear, too–the fear I’ve already done my best work?
It feels too hard…
…Maybe it’s supposed to?
Thinking it might be time to move on to something else…
…So I can avoid the hard work that’s called for now?
It reminds me of being a parent. How hard it is, but exhilarating, especially when your kids are young. You’re exhausted, but you’re also rewarded every day with some new discovery, some new milestone they achieve.
Til they hit the teen years, and everything slows down. And gets really, really hard.
You learn to let go of expectations, and big successes. Your rewards are tinier–“She said thank you!” “He did the dishes the first time I asked!
But you also dig in–because as hard as it is to parent teens, as thankless as the job is, they actually need you more than ever.
You can’t stop being a parent just because it gets really, really hard. We may never know if we were a ‘great’ parent–but our best efforts will be ‘good enough'”. And it’s certainly worth our while to do our best.
Corrigan ends the decision to write a second book, determined to keep working at it til it truly reflects an indomitable spirit.
Which is, oddly, an attribute of black belt. Indomitable spirit.
Last night I talked with my Tae Kwon Do teachers about returning to practice.
It means much more work on my part. My teacher says he believes I’m capable of so much more than I believe I am. He says attitude is everything. I’m doubting myself, and the only person who can turn that around is….me.
Maybe he’s right.
I’m going to find out if I can turn this around. I want to find out.
Last night, I also decided to keep making my fiber art and jewelry. It feels right. For the first time in ages, I heard no negative voices in the wee hours of the night.
I’m not abandoning my new journey. Maybe the hospice will open up something else, and I look forward to exploring that. Something’s calling me there, and I want to find out what it is.
But just as I can study Tae Kwon Do and be a parent, I can explore this new venture and make my art. The art may change, it may not change. But maybe it will simply get even better.
Being a parent is teaching me, and Ms. Corrigan, how to be a more deeply creative person. How to create something of value that will really last, as an artist and a martial artist.