I may have already mentioned this analogy in an earlier posting but I want to give you the full treatment here. I try to tell this story to every child that gets an instrument from our shop. Feel free to use it if it works for you. I get a lot of positive feedback especially from parents about it.
I start off asking the young person if they have ever been on an airplane before. Nine times out of ten they have. This is how I tell the story with appropriate hand gestures and sound effects:
“What do the engines sound like when you first go out on the runway? It’s a soft whooshing sound isn’t it (I make the soft noise and they nod). Then the last plane ahead of you on the runway takes off and the tower tells you that you are clear to lift off. All of a sudden the engines get really loud don’t they (I make a roaring noise and they nod again). That’s because the pilot is pushing the throttle forward on the engines and giving them a lot of gas. The whole plane starts to shake. The next thing that the pilot does is that he takes his foot off the brake and you start to move forward – slowly at first but then faster and faster. The pilot pushes the throttle all the way forward and the engines get really loud. The engines are just gulping down the gas and the people and buildings and trucks outside start going by really fast. What is the next thing that happens? The nose of the plane starts to lift doesn’t it? And then you feel the back wheels lift off the runway and you start to climb into the air. You feel yourself pushed back into the seat because the plane is accelerating. The engines are working really hard and using lots of gas and you are at this high angle as you keep climbing. After a little while what happens? (Sometimes the child will say that the nose comes down and you level off or I tell them and they nod.) The engines go back to the soft whooshing sound and the pilot pulls back on the throttle because now you only need a little bit of gas to keep flying.”
“That’s just like learning to play a violin (cello, viola or whatever instrument they are learning). When you first start off you have to give it a lot of gas. You have to work at it and practice everyday. It is hard work because you are learning a new skill. You have to get used to a new position for your arm and get calluses on your fingers and learn where the notes are. But guess what? It doesn’t stay hard if you practice. The more you play the less like work and the more fun it becomes. That’s because you are learning to play songs, maybe even making up new songs. And people around you are saying, ‘Wow, that girl (boy) can really play that violin.’ Remember, if you practice hard at first it will get easier as you learn to play but if you just practice a little tiny bit and never really give it the gas then you are going to be stuck on the runway for the rest of your life. You don’t want that, do you?”
“You see, there are two types of birds. The eagles that soar up in the air and the turkeys that run around on the runway. So, do you want to soar up in the air and fly with the eagles or do you want to stay on the ground and run around with all the turkeys?”
I haven’t had a child yet that said they want to run with the turkeys. I think that it is a positive thing if we warn children that this new skill will take some work. Otherwise, they can become disillusioned when it isn’t as easy as it looks, because it never is. I actually borrowed this analogy from motivational speakers who talk about learning new skills in the market place but I embellish it heavily for the children. I hope that it helps you to inspire your young people. One last thing I tell children before they leave is that when they play Carnegie Hall for the first time they have to tell the audience that they would like to thank Mr. Birchfield for renting them their first instrument. I figure if I throw enough lines out their in the river I will eventually catch one fish!