Ideas on Learning

The Most Important Question: Why am I doing this?


Kayla is a remarkable fiddler. From the first lesson she had with me, it was clear that she was motivated. I see it in other areas of her life, too. I get the feeling she does well in whatever she sets her mind to.


There is a piece of music that she became obsessed with — Bistro Fada. If you’ve seen Midnight in Paris, you’re familiar with it. It is fun, incredibly difficult and was a few levels ahead of where Kayla was when she decided to tackle it. She was determined to learn it.


With focus and a lot of hours, Kayla learned it. We played it together frequently and she performed it beautifully (when public performances were at thing!)


What came next was both disappointing and predictable. She lost the drive she had for violin.


After getting this song -- reaching the summit of a very tall mountain, if you will -- her motivation for practicing just dried up.


We had an extended conversation about how we spend our time, mandatory versus discretionary activities and the most important question we eventually have to ask: Why am I am doing this?


She was philosophical and introspective beyond her years. She spoke of her dogged pursuit of goals and a strong competitive streak.


(One of the benefits of learning music is that it gives students an opportunity to practice life. And this was an exceptional practice she was experiencing.)


Kayla loves conquering challenges. Her drive got her to a high level of playing. But it has run its course (for now, anyways). The fuel that drove her was not sustainable for the long run.


I’m not worried about Kayla quitting music. It is clear that she loves playing and people love playing with her. She loves children and working as a counselor at fiddle camp. She is playing at her church. She has more than enough skills to enjoy music without another lesson in her life.


Discovering what she likes doing beyond ‘succeeding’ is her next frontier. Is it writing music, performing, playing with friends or something else entirely?


At some point, we all hit a point in our lives where we ask the question— why are we doing this?


Years from now, Kayla will likely face the question again in some other area of life. But she’ll have more experience in answering it than most people her age.