The ukulele effect
A few years ago I bought a ukulele. I still don’t play it very well, but it definitely makes me laugh out loud. At myself.
The ukulele has magical power over me. I just hold it in against my belly and I’m transported: to a silly plane on a silly planet, where I’m surrounded by other silly humans — all strumming the same silly songs.
I took piano lessons as a kid, but I lived in Miami and was a fresh-air freak. I couldn’t take the piano to the beach, or play it under a coconut palm. So I quit.
Decades later, I am teaching myself new tricks.
After a bad breakup, I took up knitting. But trust me, there’s nothing fun or funny about “un-knitting” (a.k.a. “tinking”) when it’s time to correct a mistake. And there’s way too much time to blame the bum who put you in the fix to begin with.
When my son and I were about the same size (he, 14; I, 54) I salvaged us a unicycle. With ski poles for support, we streaked the basement walls with rubber skid marks. He found his balance — eventually — but I couldn’t get over the fear of falling. At my age, broken bones would take ages to heal.
So, the ukulele it is.
Which brings me to the point of this little ditty: why learning new, small things makes such a big difference.
Return on investment. The simpler the task, the bigger the R.O.I. Take the ukulele. In two or three hours, you can learn four chords. And from there, an infinite number of songs. You’ll probably feel just as awesome after learning to juggle. Or to dance. Or to start a fire from scratch.
Order-of-magnitude cool. There are few things more timeless or cool than the ukulele. But there are other tricks you can learn that will impress your friends — and your kids’ friends. Whistle really loud through your fingers. Crochet a beanie. Do wacky things with a hula hoop.
Stand out in the resume pile. But for Peter, Paul and Mary’s sake, don’t oversell—this or any other skill. The hiring manager just might pull a ukulele out from under her desk and ask you to play!
I’m still working up the courage to play my ukulele in public. I desperately want to take it to the park and play it under a tree. Or bring it camping and strum it by the fire with friends.
And I want to make new friends who have ukuleles and aren’t afraid to take them places.
But for now, I’ve signed up for lessons. I practice in private. And I giggle alone, late into the night.