I realize they’re not mutually exclusive.
In my past, if someone was ‘no-nonsense’ with me, my feelings would be hurt, and I’d write them off as being a jerk. After all, I was bending over backwards to be nice to them. Didn’t that mean they owed me the same?
As time has gone on, I’ve learned (the hard way, more often than not), that I was trying to hide my own incompetence by acting ‘nice’. If I could charm the person, then maybe they wouldn’t hold me as accountable… maybe they’d let me off the hook.
Trouble is, that’s a two-way street. If I take my tires in to be rotated and the person helping me is incompetent, (loses lug nuts, takes an hour to do a 15-minute job, chats and jokes all the while, isn’t focused on what he’s doing, runs to the restroom a few times, etc.) then his acting ‘nice’ isn’t really making up for anything.
These days I’m realizing that I truly value competence over ‘nice’.
Don’t get me wrong… The best is when someone has technical skills AND social skills, and understands the spirit of true professionalism and customer service.
In my music, I can see the same thing manifesting. I used to try to hide my incompetence with lots of reverb, effects, distortion, smoke, and mirrors. In an effort to gloss over my poor sense of timing, I’d try all kinds of manipulation through software. Every time the results would turn out the same: substandard. (Like polishing a turd, as my father would say.)
Little by little, I’m learning to throw away the performances that aren’t right. (And I know when they’re not right.) Learning to strip away the unnecessary fluff and focus on the true spirit of whatever song I’m working on.
I’m not perfect. I’m not as technically proficient as I could be. But I’m continuing to hone my skills. Peel away the layers of the onion. Drop the fake smiles and cut to the heart of the matter, whatever is at hand.
And as this process continues to unfold, I find myself less and less willing I feel to suffer fools gladly. Or to expect others to suffer my foolishness.
At the end of the day, I think it’s better for everyone if I’m authentic. Friendly. Competent. Honest.
But if you’re out there, Mister Gruff Garage Attendant, please know that if I have to choose two of the three, I’ll take ‘competent’ and ‘honest’ over ‘friendly’ any day.
How about you, Gentle Reader? How does valuing competency play out in your life? In your art?