They jammed in three new homes at the corner on a lot where there used to be one. The builders had a basic decision to make: should the houses try to blend in, or stand out? They ended up with three radically different styles crowded together with no pause for breath in between. I guess they thought each buyer would want their home to be different, and they are - in a dissonant and jarring kind of way.
Being set apart from the crowd is a real THING. There’s a great pasta chain in Israel called “Spaghettini” whose success rides on this theme. Pasta comes in about 350 shapes and sizes each with a fancy Italian name. This is a profound business opportunity, given that all pasta is merely flour, water and eggs, and takes the same three minutes to boil. The restaurant chain showcases the pasta, in an impressive matrix glued to the wall. For no extra effort, they sell you the illusion of variety and they are very successful. The chance to curate your own combination means every patron thinks his particular dish is special.
I come from a large family and I know well the urge to stand out. Crowding drives one to radical individuality it would seem. You need to find a way to set yourself apart. This particular tendency is not only universal, it seems to beg that sage advice you get sooner or later: don’t compare yourself with others, it will only come to grief.
Guitar players might be particularly guilty of this. It comes with the territory that every player thinks he is the best. Not many guys join a band with the intention to play rhythm in the background. They all want to be the front man doing the crazy lead guitar solo with his teeth, and the crowd going crazy.
Steve’s Music in Toronto is unwittingly host to this perpetual game of guitar hero. There will be the inevitable face off across the room, and guitar players will start to duel it out. One will haul out some impressive licks, and someone else will answer back with something even better. This is truly unfortunate for staff, who know all too well, what tunes get hauled out of the guitar playing arsenal. Popular songs meant to impress are posted on the wall as a warning. Be kind to staff. Do NOT play Smoke on the Water, Stairway to Heaven, Blackbird, Sultans of Swing, Sweet Home Alabama, etc. Please.
Sadly, we are all in competition and we all want to stand out. Enter, YouTube. For any discipline that exists in the world, examples and tutorials are showcased on YouTube. There is so much guitar on YouTube that it has largely put guitar teachers out of business. There’s also a lot of stuff posted there to impress.
Most people post videos of themselves, but also of others who stand out as impressive. One YouTube channel showcased a five-year-old Chinese boy whose guitar playing will make you weep. If you think that you are competition, better perhaps to give up now because this kid plays effortlessly. His fingers dance over the frets without breaking a sweat and no doubt his Dragon Mom is very happy.
After viewing this kid play about a dozen songs, I was ready to cry “uncle” and throw my guitars out onto the road. Sadly, that’s the bottom line for pretty much any skill you might want to showcase - all roads inevitably lead to someone on YouTube who is doing it all better than you are.
My final conclusion, though it may be depressing - we are all rank amateurs in the end. You may indeed stand out - but like a sore thumb. The urge to be different comes home to roost. Burns doesn’t it? Don’t worry. Like the Chinese kid, your Mom still thinks you are special.