Monday, September 28, 2015

Question Everything: How good are you, really?

It's a really difficult question to ask...

First, whom are you asking?  Are they qualified to tell you?  Are they biased?  If you ask your parents, you might get a very different answer than if you ask your teacher(s).  Are they likely to dodge the question rather than answer it bluntly?  Most teachers I know would, at the very least, soften the critiques and highlight the positives - but is that an accurate picture of what they think of your abilities? 

If you ask someone who's only seen you a few times, you might get a much more honest answer, but they also have less context to judge you on .  If you ask someone who's watched you for years, the opposite might be true.  Which is better?  And what if the comments are unsolicited?  Do they have more or less weight?

Second, how did you phrase the question?  Because it's not an easy question, the more you qualify it, the more likely the results are affected, but that's not necessarily a bad thing .  For example, asking "Am I any good?" is a very open-ended question, which can let people pick what they want to focus on - your technique, your attitude, your solos, etc.  Asking "On a scale of 1-10, where would you say my striking technique on naname is?"  will get you a much more specific answer, but doesn't address all the other ways of striking, your form, your energy, etc.

Third, are you open to hearing the answer?  If you're thinking you're great and you hear "you suck", will you disregard what you heard?  Or the opposite, if someone tells you "you're great" but you think you suck...?  Will you take the comments at face value?  Do you know how that person gives feedback?

Some people need to really know you well before they're honest with you, some people will tell you what they think you want to hear, some people will be cryptic in their responses - how do you interpret that data?

Finally, what will you do with the information?  Are you looking for what you need to work more on?  If it's something you've heard before, will that make you more or less inclined to act on it?  Are you fishing for compliments to the point where the critique just becomes "noise"?  Are you going to remember what you heard in a week's time?

The answers to these questions are going to be different for each of us.  But what I've found in my experience is that the people that are truly good at what they do - regardless of the art - also have a REALLY good understanding of what their strengths and weaknesses are.  My theory is that the question of "how good am I?" is something they heard from teachers before, but is now something they ask of themselves, again and again.

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