You’re listening to a piece of music and it sounds so simple and easy that you say to yourself, “I can do that.” But can you really? And if you can, how come you haven’t yet?
Taking a first person perspective of someone else’s perspective can be both good and bad. It’s good that you can step inside another person’s experience, an ability that can foster compassion and empathy. But it can be bad when you don’t differentiate between the two perspectives, yours and the other’s, resulting in an almost narcissistic view of the world.
“I Can Do That” Syndrome also shows up when someone has “book smarts” but no actual experience. When you’ve read a great book about how to write lyrics and you think the work has been done.
This applies to more than just music too. A business person reads a book about copywriting and thinks, “I can write a sales letter and make a million bucks.” But great copywriters study a long time and do something else that business person hasn’t done yet, they write… A LOT.
Great songs are written by songwriters who have written lots of songs. Great voices come from people who sing all the time. Timeless symphonies are composed by musicians who have written a lot more than one symphony.
It’s a trick of the mind to experience something remarkable and believe that we too can do that. It happens to me all the time. “I could write a funny TV show. I could direct a blockbuster movie. I could cook this restaurant meal.”
Well, maybe I could. But not the first time. Probably not the second either. It may take longer than I have patience for.
The point of the story? There’s something to be said for people who specialize—who find something they love and stick to it, gaining the wisdom only time can bring.
Maybe you could sing, dance, compose, direct, paint, cook, be a successful serial entrepreneur, get washboard abs, play in the NBA, design a hot line of clothes, write a novel, run for office, raise a happy family, be a great spouse, start a non-profit, end world hunger…
But the hardest thing to do is to commit to one thing and stick with it until the very end.
David Niall Wilson says
Too true. I long ago said this about publishing a magazine. After thirteen issues, I found that I COULD do it, but it wasn’t my “one” thing – which has proven to be writing, though I play guitar and sing and write songs…I never fool myself into thinking it’s something you just DO…and if it was, what fun would that be?
Graham English says
You bring up a good point, David. Sometimes you don’t know what that “one thing” is until you try other things. And we shouldn’t beat ourselves up over it. But we could speed up the process—try to fail fast—to find that one thing.
Excellent article and a great reminder for all of us! I think what you are describing is the effortlessness that comes from practice, persistence and the subsequent excellence of someone dedicated to their craft. They are effortlessly performing something and the ease at which they execute it (i.e. their mastery of it) creates the illusion that’s it’s easy. Deceptive indeed!!
Thanks for this one Graham 🙂
the whole art of music is to make it seem easy as if anyone could do it! If you are preforming and you are showing a great struggle to make music how could anyone enjoy it. they would be to busy trying to empathize with your struggle to enjoy anything the music had to communicate. practice and do well!
I own a contemporary art gallery and encounter this often when someone comes in and looks at an abstract piece. It drives me mental.