Almosting It: Hey, it worked for Little Walter! (and me)’S NEW YEARS DAY and I know a bunch of you are struggling already to keep those resolutions.

Here’s my advice: Be happy if you’re “almosting it,” which I explained in Monday’s column. For me, adopting that strategy has meant that I have tackled some new things that I wouldn’t have otherwise, without worrying about being perfect.

For example, all my life, I’ve been pretty helpless musically. Whenever I go to church, the hymnal seems to fall open to “How Can I Keep From Singing.” But when my son was a Cub Scout, one of their projects was to learn a song on a musical instrument, and that happened to be the month I chose to help with the program. I’ve always loved the idea of the harmonica, and resolved that I would learn how to play something like Red River Valley so I could help the Cubs earn their badge that month.

At the time, I had a long daily commute and a broken radio in the car, so I was able to practice every day. (Hey, it couldn’t be any more dangerous than texting!) And before long, I was tooting out some recognizable tunes, good enough for fun around the campfire.

My real goal, truth be told, is to play the blues like Little Walter.

Here’s a true story: Marion “Little” Walter Jacobs (1930-1968) dropped out of school at age 12 and roamed through the country dreaming of becoming a guitarist. Today, we would call him homeless—a street kid. He wasn’t that good with a guitar but he kept trying. He focused on his harmonica—but that instrument didn’t have a chance against the big amps at R&B shows. As he kept experimenting, he hit on one innovation: cupping a microphone and playing right into it. But, he still wasn’t the standout we celebrate today. He kept almosting it. Finally, he hit on his second innovation: maxing out his amp—even beyond the normal settings—until he was blowing sounds no one had heard before.

Want to see Little Walter? Click here to visit YouTube and watch his short Hall of Fame clip.

Of course I know that I’ll never rival such a giant—and that’s my point. I don’t need to reach Little Walter’s fame. I’m satisfied with my own versions of Shenandoah and Danny Boy. And this week, maybe I’ll see if I can pick out Auld Lang Syne.

That would be good enough for me.

How about you? How are you almosting it?

Please, leave a Comment below.

Originally published at, an experiment in civil dialogue about American values.

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