Never Compare Yourself To Others
When you compare yourself to others you are looking to win something. To be smarter, more creative, better than, looked up to more than the next person. It is an act of our own injured ego. Others around you notice this even if it is not a conscious part of their thinking. In the short and long run, this will injure us, as the people that are better than you may have a bigger ego than you and want to crush you. The person that is not as good as you will notice your contempt for them.
It is important to remember that people are doing the best that they can. Yes, they can be better if they didn't have the hurdles put in front of them by themselves, family, friends, and enemies. I seem to remember there is a saying about walking in someone else's shoes.
Wouldn't it be nice if we could all let our jealousies and egocentric thoughts go and help one another? This is a nice thought but not likely to happen.
So we are left with improving ourselves, and not looking down on someone that doesn't have our tools or drive. To do that we must see them as people and not as competitors, and whenever possible help them as gently as we can. And while we are improving ourselves as musicians and human beings we learn from those that have more tools than us. We can learn quite a lot by listening and not talking. And there is nothing wrong with asking an occasional question.
Comparing yourself to others keeps you busy thinking about interpersonal relationships, and not about music, practicing, and performing. It is a waste of your time to compare yourself to others.
Now, comparing yourself to the general standard of a group you might be performing with is different because it entices you to pull your own weight in rehearsals and performances.
But wait, it is important to remember that those other musicians may have a different interest in music than you. They may feel more or less of a desire to work at the same level or higher than the ensemble.
The level of the ensemble and its members' desire to keep the standard becomes more important and obvious as we age, and the musicians with less interest will drop out.
Now let me contradict myself!
Jazz Musicians like to have cut sessions during a jam session where they try and play better than everyone else. Then there are always the conventions for each instrument where the display hall sounds like everyone trying to play their best lick better than the other 200 people in the hall. All a hangover from competitive learning.
The school band or orchestra director's way of keeping a standard is a competition which makes improvement personal. Though not teaching the love of music, instead, this method does work for competitive students. It is the fastest way for a music director to improve an ensemble but not a very pleasant one for the members.
I know why it doesn't happen, but what if? What if in a band every member in the section had to play 1st for a week, 2nd for a week, and 3rd for a week. Would that be a wake-up call? Of course, most of the section would likely quit out of embarrassment. Is that good or bad? Is it worth a one-time trial? Well, it was just a thought.
All people are so completely different from one another that I think it is amazing. Just look closely at the people around you and you will understand what I am saying. Their looks, their thinking, and everything about them are radically different. Yet somehow when playing music they have to come to come together and play music. Some like the competitive approach and some shun it. There is not much you can do about it except lead by example. i.e. playing the best you can every time you take your instrument out.
Music is not like football, basketball, or, any sport. Music is only a team effort when rehearsing or performing. So practice is a solitary action most of the time, as opposed to team sports where you practice daily with the people you perform with.
So how do you learn to practice alone when no one teaches you how to deal with your special solitary time. Are you practicing to win the first chair in your ensemble? Or are you using your solitary time to learn about yourself and train yourself in the discipline of music, while studying music as an art, and as you improve your perspective is enhanced? You can teach yourself through introspection and experimentation to be better at your craft/art.
You are creating beauty and whether you learn that through competition, or inspiration, always keep in your mind the beauty of silence and introspection along with learning your notes and concept.
A private instructor always helps your discipline (which is different from competition) in your practice/alone time. Bear in mind your teacher is teaching you their concept, which is good and bad. The good is that almost all of us sound like someone else before we sound like ourselves. The bad thing is if you pick the wrong private teacher and don't realize it, you will have their concept. Of course, as we get older and leave our first teachers we know more about what we are looking for and can pick our private teachers with more knowledge about whom we want to be artistically.
When starting music young, parents become very important in selecting a teacher and overseeing our practice. I can tell you from experience that some practicing we enjoy, and some we don't. But it is important to do what the private teacher is asking and your parents are monitoring.
The best thing about private teachers is they don't have a reason to make you practice for a competitive reason. They teach you music and art and leave the rest to providence.
Remember like others, you bring uniqueness to music, and always remember how important your unique playing is as a part of your success.
So my last suggestion is that you learn to want to play better and practice better, without competition in mind, but with artistic beauty as the centerpiece of your time. We are all students and as my friend Manny reminded me today, we learn something every day. And some days we learn a lot. So, PAY ATTENTENTION!
Always be happy with where you are at, while you are trying to get to where you want to be.