I’ve been talking to a lot of students recently. The ones who make it have one thing in common…

My mission is to teach you good practice strategies to help you succeed. I hope that if you practice well, you’ll start to see improvement which will fuel your optimism.

Here’s what I’m wondering: Can you decide to be optimistic? Or do you just wind up that way?

Ultimately, I don’t think there’s an easy answer.

I have some thoughts about this, but I’d love to hear what you think in a comment. Maybe your insight will help someone out there who’s struggling to keep going.

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Further learning

The Emotional Challenge of Fiddling

How To Enjoy Practicing Violin

Fiddling With A Growth Mindset

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24 responses to “Optimism

  1. Jason, Thank you for this ‘Song-Scale-Skill framework. It will be very helpful for me. It comes at a good time for me. My biggest challenge is to get a good sound. Thanks for all you do to keep us motivated.
    Robert Goode

  2. Optimism exists in some from birth born from either nurturing environments or necessity to. Even in challenging situations amidst setbacks and hardships, those with this trait survive. However, optimism is generally learned but you have to feel safe and secure – with yourself and the world around you to embrace it.

  3. I think optimism is somewhat of an inborn trait. Can it be learned? Perhaps. To me there are 2 kinds of optimism – 1. Always having a viewpoint that everything will turn out to the positive before even beginning something, and 2. Optimism created by seeing progress in something you are doing that, although you may have doubted what you could accomplish at first when you see you are making progress, it in turns fuels optimism which in turn fuels the desire to work more/harder toward what you want to accomplish.

  4. For me, optimism is an attitude and a choice. I’ve always been optimistic about most things in my life. Optimism has carried me through some difficult times in my life. And I’m a problem solver; I tend to believe that, no matter what, I can figure something out and find some sort of solution or pathway. Like most of us Fiddlehed students, I came to the fiddle later in life. I do like to set goals, but I really enjoy just being present with the fiddle sounds and the music. Makes me smile when I put that bow to the strings and just listen to the tones.

    Deliberate practice for me is the affirmation of all that’s optimistic. Just knowing I can follow those steps and find myself in the zone is optimistic. And I like what Debbie wrote — We have to be optimistic to have picked up the fiddle at whatever point in our lives we did so.

  5. I don’t think you can DECIDE to be an optimist any more than you can decide the sun will shine tomorrow. I believe it is possible to BECOME an optimist after experiencing life. You will never escape the bad stuff that happens in your life, but you CAN choose how you react to the bad stuff. That takes a lot of practice, believe me.

  6. If hope is a virtue, then optimism is surely a choice. I’ll even go so far as to suggest optimism is a kind of practice, an essential discipline. Optimism sees that some thing or situation can be made better, & then works on that improvement. Like many others here, I picked up my fiddle late. I’m not aiming for Carnegie Hall or the Grand Ole Opry. I want to make music and find happiness while I play. Everything about that is optimistic. And optimism’s sister is gratitude. So thank you all for being part of my community of music!

  7. I believe optimism can be turned on.I think it is a decision one makes inside their own spirit, mindset or what ever you choose to call it. It may only last an hour or few but it can be restarted. After enough restarts it becomes a pattern or habit.
    I have been in some dark places and determined to get out, I climbed an imaginary rope ladder made of fiddle strings and guitar frets. You can be optimistic if you choose to be.
    I’m 76 and I still get a feeling of accomplishment when I play a scale on my fiddle in proper intonation.

  8. I think optimism and a positive outlook on life is not really a choice, but closer to a personality trait. Inherent personality traits can be affected by life—especially early life events and how we are raised. All that being said I do think that we all have some choice about how we view the world and can make successful efforts at being more optimistic and positive—whether it’s about playing fiddle or anything else. Also, it depends on what we mean by successful. What that means is different for everyone. For me I hope to —at some point—be able to play on local jams and be as comfortable and have as much fun as I do playing guitar or banjo. My version of success is being good enough to have fun. I’m not shooting for being a virtuoso. Looking forward to Jason’s thoughts on this.

    1. It’s similar to a something I tell myself, “You’re fortunate if you know you’re fortunate.”

      A lot of people have better lives than they realize. The get upset by minor things. Me too, me three…

      I feel that optimism is a choice, but you’re fortunate if you come to a place where you have the mind, income level, time, etc. to make this choice.

      Maybe anybody can chose optimism. But it seems easier for some people…

      Also, I think it helps to know that you do have a choice. This is the core idea of a “Growth Mindset.”

  9. As a late bloomer, picked up a fiddle at 62, is to first be honest with yourself, brutally if needed. It is just a fact that I will not live long enough to be great. So I had to ask myself what was I hoping to achieve. I’ve arthritis, 2 kinds, my knuckles & fingers appear mutilated. I find optimism remembering the awe I feel when I start to play, knowing last time, I couldn’t get a particular thing correct. Next day or “a few more” depending on frustration, I find that somehow between then and now, my brain figured it out. Our brains are awe inspiring creations. My optimism comes from knowing that everytime I play, EVERYTIME, there is something I couldn’t do before that, unbeknownst to me, my brain figured out and even choreographed with my hands. Sometimes it’s a big thing, sometimes it’s very small but, everytime I start, something is possible that wasn’t before. It’s miraculous to me.

    I will never be really good but I love the feeling of the sounds I’m making. I like tuning. I tune down to the Hz, E-659.3, A-440.0 etc., then I check my fingering on 4th of previous string. I love feeling the vibration. I find optimism in knowing that every time I pick up my fiddle, I actually have a fiddle🤗, there will be something new. There will be something new about me.

  10. I agree with the theorem that you must choose to be optimistic and this choice becomes the path that leads you forward to greater and greater success.
    Although, sometimes we have to take this optimism in the face of a bad practice season, but we will persevere. 🎶

    1. I think it’s worth celebrating the fact that you did the practice. Period. Even if it didn’t feel that great.

      Steven Pressfield (The War of Art) says something along the lines of…The pros just show up and do the work.

  11. When I feel bad about how something is going,for example, the recording I made sounds terrible, I think of something that did go well- I have that tune memorized and now I can work on making it sound better.

    1. Optimism is a choice. A little inspiration can help with choosing optimism. Here is my story of how I was/ am able to chose to be optimistic.

      I knew a person who was in their 60s when I was in my 20s. This person took up ukulele as a hobby. This person said something to the effect of, “I might not live long enough to become a master ukulele player, but if I can stick with it for the next 10 years, then in 10 years I’ll be able say, “I’ve been playing for 10 years”, and in 15 years, I can say I’ve been playing for 15 years, and so on.”

      When I decided to start violin in my late 30s, I lot of people snickered and expressed their doubts regarding success starting “so late”, especially when hearing me play.

      I remembered that persons words from before and it helped push me to continue through the “screechy and out of tune times.” When things feel frustrating, I think about the bigger picture: “In 10 years, I’ll have been playing for 10 years. In 15 years, I’ll have been playing for 15.” Then I take a breath and keep trying.

  12. I think we choose to be optimistic. It’s easy to be discouraged after hearing someone who’s more advanced knock a piece out of the park. I am encouraged when I can break a song into smaller parts as in Jason’s lessons. Or practice one technique in slow mo. Take heart in improving one thing. Remember, even the slowest train eventually reaches the station..Deb S.

    1. “It’s easy to be discouraged after hearing someone who’s more advanced knock a piece out of the park.”

      I feel this when I see a five year old playing Foggy Mountain breakdown at 200 bpm 🤯

      I turn it around by thinking of all the creative work and bands and experiences I’ve been privileged to do over the years.

      It also helps me to feel simple gratitude for being able to create and appreciate music…something I’m also feeling from the other comments.