Tinkering is defined as an attempt to improve something in a casual way often to no useful effect.
Last week, I was sitting in my room tinkering on my keyboard. I was trying to learn a song that I had heard played at a tailgate a few days earlier. I do use the phrase “trying to learn” very loosely. The emphatic truth is that I’m in the infant phase of playing anything in its entirety. I struggle with fingering among other things, so I’m nowhere near the ballpark let alone in the ballpark.
So while I’m pecking away, my oldest son comes into my room like he’s in a hurry. He stands over my shoulder and questions why what I’m playing isn’t the homework that my piano teacher had given me for the week. What was he – a fly on the wall when my Maestro was telling me what to study? “You are not a TA. He doesn’t need your help” I insist. Still he waits for an answer, so I complain about the lack of fun in the assignment: SCALES. He patiently listens for the moment when I have to take a breath. Hearing the pause, he pounces on the opportunity to switch roles with me. He becomes the speaker and I the listener. He’s suddenly the voice of the teacher and I the complaining student. I let him give his lecture, then watch him leave the room like he just had a drop the mic moment. Feeling grown, I go right back to doing what I want to do which is not the assignment given to me. Fast forward a few days later to the night of my lesson, and I’m cramming as if I can retain information and improve my transitions through chord structures with one day’s practice.
My teacher comes in, takes his usual seat at the table and paws for the book that holds all the lessons from the day we began. He asks the question that I meet with willful dumbfoundedness. I know exactly what I was supposed to have been doing the previous week, but I feign ignorance nonetheless. My tactics are middle school-ish however. Years of teaching means that there isn’t much that I can do to fool a seasoned professional, so he ignores my temporary lapse of memory and asks if I’m ready. My hesitation is my answer. That and being too grown for faking it, I come clean and declare that something’s wrong.
Too challenging? No.
Too strict? No.
Boredom. There’s no fun in the FUNdamentals, so it’s hard for me to practice them.
He counter punches me with a gut blow, and it connects.
His conclusion: I lack discipline.
I’m shrouded with shame. I see myself doubled over in pain at the words although I’m still sitting straight up in the chair. I turn down the volume of his lecture, but don’t mute him completely. His lips are moving, words are projected my way, but my thoughts are somewhere else. A realization had just unfolded and it sounded like Jim Rohn when he said that the bridge between goals and accomplishment is discipline. If I have skill, knowledge, means, and motivation without discipline, then all I’ll ever do is TINKER (busy myself without useful results) at my goals instead of accomplish them.