Society Is Just Individuals Interacting

I love music of almost all types, to greater or lesser degrees. I’ve been a member of amateur singing groups for several decades, mostly barbershop quartets and choruses, but I never developed a proficiency with a musical instrument. I am not a professional musician, and it was one of those things that I never took the time to develop, though we always had a piano and other instruments in the house. My children were good musicians and one is now a professional, but for me, I could only have so many hobbies.

Many years ago I did get an acoustic guitar and started to practice regularly, but that went by the wayside, and it sat in the closet for many years. I now have a lot of time at home caring for my wife, so a few months ago, I got it out and made a commitment to play at least a little bit every day. After building up fingertip calluses and finger muscles, I am having fun learning songs and singing along. I am learning things about music that hadn’t dawned on me all this time.

When I first learn a chord, I have to look at my fingers and figure out how to position them most comfortably so they ring clearly. For new transitions between chords, I have to do the same. Eventually they feel more natural, and I don’t have to think about them much. The old saying is true that practice makes permanent, as long as it is consistent over time.

I need to practice a song over and over until I get it right. Professionals musicians, on the other hand, practice over and over and over until they can’t get it wrong. That’s why they are the pros. It may sound natural and fresh in a performance, but that sound comes from many hours of unnatural rehearsal to make it sound and look natural.

That doesn’t just go for musicians, it goes for any endeavor. I remember reading about the best kicker in professional soccer. Though he was already the best, he still stayed an hour after team practice just kicking the ball over and over, making fine adjustments to perfect specific shots. Many pros in sports have stated some version of “the more I practice, the luckier I get,” but we all know it’s not luck.

A fine cabinet maker has spent many years honing a variety of skills to make a consistently high quality product. Physicians, lawyers, and accountants spend countless hours learning their profession so they can be competent at caring for patients or advising clients. In fact, anyone who has a high level of success has likely paid a high price in time, effort, money, and maybe even sacrifice of family relationships. Business owners often go through the agony of bankruptcy before they learn the lessons needed for a high level of success.

Professionals can earn a living only because they are part of an organized society that has proper institutions and infrastructure in place, but society itself is but millions of individuals going about their lives, pursuing their own interests the best they know how, and interacting with others who do the same. They are both a cause and an effect of the results that come from the incredibly dynamic, massively complex system called society that progresses without anyone steering or directing its course.

Without society, many or most professionals would not have buyers for their goods and services. The flip side is that without people pursuing their own interests and doing their best at it, practicing until they can’t get it wrong, giving value while getting value, there would be no advanced society or the culture and prosperity that accompany it.

Dan McLaughlin is the author of “Compassion and Truth-Why Good Intentions Don’t Equal Good Results.” Follow him at daniel-mclaughlin.com