I used to teach piano/voice/songwriting at a music studio. At one point, I had over seventy students on my schedule. Most of them, as you could guess, were children, but I did have a pretty sizable amount of adults.
Every time I had that first lesson with an adult, it was the same thing: they’d come in, kind of embarrassed, almost like they were apologizing for not being 20 or 50 years younger. But here’s the thing: while Mozart gets all the press, I had several adult students that progressed and learned faster than most children. Adults do have advantages, you know, they have stronger, bigger fingers, they understand that one-eighth plus one-eighth equals one quarter and they don’t have to sing the alphabet song to figure out what comes after ‘C.’
But there are two big things that stand in the way of adult students. One is the whole time/scheduling thing, of course. Kids are used to having homework and practicing and they don’t have to worry about getting dinner on the table or taking care of sick relatives or anything like that.
But even putting that to the side, here’s the biggest thing: adults feel self-conscious about learning. It’s true! Kids make excuses about not practicing, sure, but they don’t apologize. If children make a mistake or play a song wrong, I can just show them where they messed up and they will correct it. An adult will actually say, “sorry” and then probably follow up with a reason why they made the mistake. If a beginning adult was waiting to start their lesson while an advanced kid was finishing up theirs, the adult would always feel so sheepish, even if the child had been taking lessons for three years and the adult only three months. And, while I have never had a child cancel a lesson because they didn’t think the song was ready and therefore “didn’t want to waste my time,” I think almost every adult student did at least once.
And I understand! I feel shy when trying to pronounce a tricky word in a new language and get frustrated when trying to understand HTML coding. “I should know this!” I think. But WHY should we? Even for the most accomplished person in the world, there are infinitely more things they don’t know than they do.
So here’s a challenge – embrace not knowing! Embrace not knowing how to use Tumblr, or sketch a face, or diaper a newborn or start your business! Learn like a kid – no apologies, no embarrassment. If not knowing something is holding you back from doing something you want or living a life you love, think of it – Mozart would have no idea how to use a toaster oven.
But he could learn…