Get Uncomfortable

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Recently, I’ve found myself in positions I’d really rather not be in. This goes for work life, day to day tasks and personal life. Being uncomfortable can be absolutely nerve-wracking for some people, and that’s actually a good thing! Some people may strongly disagree, but I’ll do my best to explain what I’m getting at here with a few short examples.

The other day, I decided to purchase a book. It’s called The Real Book and it has a collection of jazz standards that musicians should really give themselves time to learn. I’ve been playing guitar for 10 years this year and have branched out into other instruments. I’ve done 4 years of formal music school and played many gigs both domestic and international. Some people would consider me a very confident musician, but here’s where all that starts to trail off into something else. I went through a few of the standards and found out two things. One: I really enjoy playing the jazz standards I can play and two: there are a lot of chords in this god damn book that make me so frustrated and uneasy- not to mention all of these notes that I can’t sight read.

This makes me extremely uncomfortable. I’ve been playing music for 10 years and for some reason I’m all of a sudden stumped by a bunch of chords? Surely if I can pick up a metal song by ear within an hour I should be able to play jazzy chord progressions. Wrong.

This discomfort gives me the drive to want to move forward with my musicianship and mature as one. The unfortunate thing is that there are so many of us that take this feeling of discomfort and try to push it away and not use it to better themselves. If you’re comfortable then you’re in routine. If you’re in routine you’re not moving forward, and if you’re not moving forward then where are you? At the exact same place you were when you started to get comfortable. That feeling of being uncomfortable is your friend. Why should we settle for stagnation when we can move forward at the cost of a bit of stress?

I invited a friend of mine over a few hours before a gig. We played jazz standards. There was a lot I didn’t understand and a lot he understood. He tried to get me to play some funky chords and show me all kinds of chord replacements. I felt like an idiot for a split-second and then realized that I was no idiot. I’ve just been in my comfortable pentatonic solo power chord chug chug box for so long that I was unhappy with the fact that I couldn’t quite grasp fully what he was talking about. I took that feeling of being uncomfortable and did my best to turn it into energy to focus on learning and I did a pretty good job of keeping up with the jazz man. By the time I went up on stage to play classic rock, I felt like it was absolutely no problem at all.

There are a lot of uneasy feelings that I deal with every now and again. I used to have a tendency to push them to the back of my head and let them just sit there. Whenever I would encounter a situation that would call on one of those uneasy feelings, I’d panic and bail. I never really dealt with those uneasy emotions until I finally said stop. Over time, I’ve been forcing myself to just deal with these situations. Running away will just keep me from growing as a human being and that’s the last thing I want to do. My new years resolution is always to be better today than I was yesterday. How can I follow through with that without being uncomfortable every now and then? I can’t. So I embrace these feelings of discomfort and power through uncomfortable situations. The reward? I’ve gained a new skill. I can now deal with that problem when it comes up again and it will be easier next time. I didn’t know how to do said thing. I got uncomfortable at the thought of making a mistake. I made mistakes. I learned to do said thing. Problem solved.

Go out there and get uncomfortable. Okay, maybe not willingly, but do something you’ve been afraid to do. Say something you’ve been wanting  to say, but say it without trying to hurt people. Pick up that instrument you’ve been wanting to learn. Sing in the shower even though people said you can’t sing and for the sake of everyone on the planet, do it for no one other than yourself.

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