So last night you lugged your tiny piano across the room to my feet. You wanted to practice and I was delighted. Soon you’ll be going to piano lessons TWICE a week, since your teachers are now serving your school.
I was on the floor trying to persuade you to use FING-ER-NUH-MBER-ONE and daddy was at the table.
ME: Okay Ami, we’ve got to get this piano thing going because I want you to whup all the other kids in your class. First ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ then Scott Joplin’s Maple Leaf Rag. MUSH.
DADDY: Whoa, he does NOT have to be the best in his class. He just needs to learn piano.
ME: (covering your ears) Is you crazy? Don’t be talking this blasphemy in here. This boy needs to be number one. At all times.
DADDY: No. He doesn’t need to be at the top all the time …
ME: Yes he does. He needs to be at the top of every class and every lesson he’s taking. His best effort includes our best efforts, a teacher’s best efforts, a tutor’s best effort. All that effort should land him at the top more likely than not. And if it doesn’t? Somebody’s not giving their best effort. Should he look at the kids as rivals? No. And at this age, he won’t. But I want him to get used to putting his name at the top.
DADDY: Mama, what is wrong with you? This boy is two…
ME: He needs to know that his name should be at the top. Best. Effort.
DADDY: Don’t worry little man, you just enjoy learning.
ME: Daddy, you better stop talking crazy to my boy or I'mma show you finger number three.
I’m paraphrasing, but that’s the gist. I’m very interested in seeing if your father has this cumbaya crap flowing out of his mouth should you take to the football field. Somehow, I doubt that he would.
Somehow, I think your dad would be the one in the opposing stands with his shirt off yelling, “THAT’S MY MOTHERFUCKING SON PUTTING POINTS ON THAT ASS! BOW DOWN TO THE FIGHTING TAD-POLES, BIIITCH.”
That, however, is my plan for your chess matches.
But for real though: I’m totally kidding about the whup other kids part. You don’t want to go in with the energy of making other people WORSE. You want to go in the the attitude of being THE BEST YOU that you can be.
So Muffin-Stuffs, take piano lessons with the intent of being the best at it. Take classes with the intent of wringing EVERY BIT OF KNOWLEDGE out of it. And remember that part of the lesson is the ability to DEMONSTRATE the knowledge you have absorbed.
You will find that that challenge follows you throughout life. It’s not just what you know, it’s how you USE what you know. If you can master those two things, you’re golden. And you’ll be playing John Legend at mama’s cocktail parties in no time.
I didn’t get held to that standard until my teenage years. It didn’t always work, but I did understand when I was failing myself. In school, there is no reason your best efforts should land you anywhere but the top. I’m starting you with those thoughts now.
Should you get too cocky, remember that your mother calls you Muffin-Stuffs and has no qualms telling the paparazzi.
Do chess champions have paprazzi?