There are many times in my life where I have had to start again. It’s required in anything one attempts to master.
In piano, it was Mrs. Grinberg teaching me the scales. First came proper posture. Feet dangling straight down from the bench, as they could not yet touch the floor. Wrists held straight and parallel to the keys. Fingers extended long with a slight bend so I could gently caress the black and white ivory teeth. As I plucked away moving up and down the scale, I attempted to maintain a steady rhythm. Each time I missed the beat of the metronome that tick-tocked behind the music, I was told to start again. Every time I hit a wrong note, I headed back to the beginning, this time hoping to complete the musical phrase without error.
The process was a little more painful in my skating lessons. On the slick surface radiating cold through my blades up into my boots, falling down usually preceded starting again. To master balancing on the sliver of an edge required a willingness to crash haphazardly, limbs flying in all directions, onto an unforgiving, frozen slab of water. My desire to soar free like a bird and spin crazy like a whirling dervish, past my thoughts and out beyond the limitations of my body overrode any fears of injury.
On a particular hard day where I fell too many times, I sighed in frustration at my coach. As I skated away, resigned that I was going to hit the ground yet again, Harriet reached out and gently grabbed my forearm, bringing me to an abrupt halt. “The day you stop falling, is the day you stop learning,” she said firmly.
Throughout my career as an amateur athlete in gymnastics, dance and competitive horse back riding and as a professional figure skater, the key to learning was my willingness to start again. Along the way, I was blessed with coaches, instructors, teachers and trainers who had the patience and discipline to hold me to high standards and stop me when my attempt at a skill failed. They cared enough to call me on my mistakes and to take me back to step one so I could try again. Each of them understood that mastery comes when one moves beyond intellectual understanding and embraces the skill in their muscle memory. Only then could I jump my horse from any take off point over fences that seemed too high, play a song beyond correct notes where it became music and leap into the air with the intention of spinning several gravity defying times knowing that when I landed my blade would be solidly underneath me.
I have spent most of my life learning to become really good at things. I am a mastery whore. I am drawn to others who are on the path to or have achieved it in their lives. Mastery requires patience, tenacity, endurance, commitment and repetition. Over time, I have developed those skills. I have learned the discipline it takes to start again. But most importantly, I continue to be willing to fall down.