Having written about skill acquisition in the latest newsletter, I thought I would lead you through the ups and downs of some of the things I’ve done in terms of skills growth over the last few years.

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This is partly to give you examples to make it a bit more real, to show that it is not all plain sailing (however well you plan and prepare) but also to share some examples of it going well. I’ll start with a current skill acquisition story which is still ongoing.

Last autumn, I realised that my inability to play a drum kit was holding me back in a percussion setting and so I finally bit the bullet. Since learning to play a djembe with the Jobarteh family in The Gambia I have played in a variety of (mainly church-based) settings since then.

I’ve now had a few lessons from a highly recommended local guy called Neil and my church graciously allowed me access to their kit to practise. I’ve since bought my own little electronic kit and have been making some small progresses. It’s not as hard as I thought it might be.

But of course I’m still not as good as I want to be. This is partly through not practising as much as I would like but also that some of my practice is very unfocussed and in fact amounts to little more than messing about on the drums. This is fine for getting more experience but isn’t helping me improve much.

Now the next phase in the pain is to play in public. In fact I was in church a few weeks ago and there was an obvious vacancy at the drum kit on stage. I felt a poke from a friend behind who was suggesting in reasonably forceful terms that I should get myself up there. I resisted the ‘suggestion’.

I know, though, that if I am to keep improving I need some external stimulus to encourage and motivate me. It won’t be easy but to get better, recognise my achievement and feel the satisfaction of the learning and growth, I will play in church sometime soon. There, I’ve written it now and have further cut down my chances of it not happening.

In order to help this to happen I’ve been in touch with one of the worship leaders and talked to her last week. And the guy responsible for the music in church has offered to give me some help. I’m finding people who I want to hold me accountable to put a little bit more pressure on.

It’s an ongoing process but I’m enjoying it and getting better. Once I’ve played in public for the first time then I will reset my goal to keep pushing me onwards. Since I have no set ideas at the moment about how good I want to get, I am happy to take it a step at a time. For now it’s simply about enjoyment and deliberate learning.