Sunday, March 7, 2010

On Being Challenged

Here is an interesting topic for thought…

Many of us progress down a path and become stuck in our ways. We do the same thing in the same old way at the same time over and over. We become ‘good enough’ at something that we can achieve decent results, but often lack the inner strength, passion, or drive to question our methods or evaluate our accomplishments objectively. We have reached mediocrity, drank of it deeply, and sleepily poured ourselves into the couch of laziness.

Then someone comes along who looks at us and says, “You can do better.” Sometimes that person is an inner voice of unresting perfection, and sometimes a human colleague.

If we think back on our activities, sports, crafts, arts, etc., I think most all of us at one time or another had someone poke us with the cattle-prod of challenge. Yes, it is ‘good enough,’ but it is not ‘right.’ That cast was just not quite right. Do it again…. and again. The head on that fly could be smaller or tighter, that wing straighter, that popper closer to the downed log.

Great practitioners of a sport or art, be they musicians, dancers, painters, sculptors, fly tiers or casters have one thing in common: an almost obsessive drive for perfection. Want to know how someone got so good? Ask them. Chances are that they challenge themselves every day, or are challenged by their peers.

The peer group we place ourselves in is also important to this concept. Is it no wonder that so many good casters came from the Golden Gate Casting Club? They inspired and challenged each other. They grabbed the whole collective by their bootstraps and raised the bar.

I have fished with some amazingly good anglers over the years; people whose abilities far exceed my own. Sometimes this can be frustrating, but it also can lead to inspiration and a rolling up of the sleeves as I strive to achieve a higher level.

This ‘challenge or inspiration’ cake must be devoured in small slices. If one is new to an activity, and watches an acknowledged expert perform, and then tries for all he or she is worth to mimic the level of performance, one is setting up for failure. Baby steps first. Small bites.

To those that challenged me to make my fly heads more even and tighter, my mends in the flyline more exact, my single-spey more precise, thank you. Most of you won’t know who you are, as you led by example, and I merely followed with inspiration born of your prowess.

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