Scratching Your Way Out of a Room

Benjamin Verdery is not only a fantastic classical guitarist, but a fabulous teacher. I once heard him use this memorable analogy to encourage a student to work on technique.

When you try to play the guitar without proper technique, you might learn to play faster or more expressively, but it will be as if you were trying to get out of this room by scratching your way through the wall, when there’s a door right over there.

Benjamin Verdery was saying, in essence, “Your body’s biomechanics work a certain way. Until you align with that reality, results will be hard to come by.”

Many people are trying to scratch their way out of rooms. When they don’t make progress, they try scratching harder rather than looking for a door. They might even berate themselves for having inadequate fingernails. Some people hope there is no door, because then all that scratching would have been for nothing.

I’m not here to criticize anyone’s favorite techniques for living — although regular readers will know what has not worked for me. Let me just encourage you: if your technique has not worked for a year, a decade or more, maybe the problem is not with your application of the technique. Maybe it’s not that you haven’t tried hard enough. Maybe you are not inadequate. Maybe you just need a new technique — one that is more aligned with the reality of your situation.

Are you having power struggles with your children? If clamping down on them has not worked, maybe clamping down harder will not work either. Instead, you could learn what it would take to earn their respect, and do that.

Has prayer not worked? Maybe it’s not your lack of faith or devotion. Maybe praying harder will not change anything. Perhaps it’s time to take action on your own.

Has talk therapy not cured your depression? Maybe you don’t need to talk more. Perhaps you are serotonin-deprived and need medication.

Do you continue to have anger issues? Maybe trying harder to stifle yourself will not to help. Perhaps you just need to look at life differently so you don’t get angry in the first place.

I’m suggesting that you give yourself a break. Don’t make life harder than it has to be. If you haven’t been able to scratch your way through the wall, maybe there’s a door.

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