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Growth and Fixed

My mom loved Elvis. She even went to one of his concerts in Vegas when I was a kid and brought back an LP. So it was obvious that I had to learn "Love me Tender", her favorite Elvis song, in my 9th-grade guitar class. I practiced for weeks in order to impress and endear myself to my mom. There was, however, the occasional detour into "Stair Way to Heaven" and "Smoke on the Water".

The day came when I was ready to surprise my mom with the practiced tune. My brother happened to be home as well, so late in the afternoon, before dinner, I performed. The result of that performance has stuck with me all these years. Both my mom and brother laughed me out of the room. They said it didn't sound a bit like it was supposed to, and that was that.

To this day I have a fixed mindset about my ability to play music. I know intellectually that I can learn, and Carol Dweck in her book, Mindset talks about this. I pick up the harmonica once in a while and can play a few basic melodies, but for the most part, I know that deep down inside, I am blocked. I believe it's true that with enough effort, one can learn anything, but I'm not willing to overcome the added barrier from years of telling myself the false story that I was born with; I can't learn to play music.

We were also taught that we weren't a creative family and that there's no point in trying to draw or sing or make art because that's not who we are. We were blue-collar working people. Luckily, I had teachers and adults along the way that encouraged me in the right way.

To this day, I have to work to overcome my fixed mindset. I think that's why I work so hard at making art. Hard work was a value that I learned early on as the son of a man that praised the ability to do manual labor. So I bring a strong work ethic into my practice, but over the years I have come to understand that hard work isn't enough. I actively challenge my assumptions, I keep myself off balance by creating problems that I have to find ways to solve. Discomfort and staying just on the edge of failure have sustained me for a long time. I'm still not bored and I continue to nurture a growth mindset.


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