A young violinist carrying his instrument case gets lost in New York. He stops by a street musician and asks for directions: “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?” The street musician answers: “Practice, my son, practice.”
I have always loved the 8 of Pentacles. I see it as being about Practice. It is shows a craftsman honing his skill by banging out the same pattern over and over. You are not perfect, you are improving. Recently, I saw an article on parenting that said we should encourage our children NOT by saying, “You can do it!” but by saying, “Practice.” Practice implies you will get better with time. To say, “You can do it!” says that maybe the next time, you will do it right, or if not then, eventually. SUDDENLY, you will do it right, after always doing it wrong. An idea guaranteed to make the child and anyone else who thinks like that crazy.
Practice means you don’t do it “right” suddenly. It says you will keep improving by repetition. The craftsman in the 8 of Pentacles is working at the same pattern, the same idea, over and over until he can do it well enough that he feels satisfied to move on to something else. Then he will start doing that over and over and better and better. In my deck of choice, the World Tree Tarot (www.worldtreeproducts.com) the craftsman has ruined two pentacles: one because the board cracked and one because his chisel slipped. Sometimes, I say, things go wrong but they aren’t your fault. Sometimes they go wrong, because you made a mistake. Either way, you must keep WORKING at it.
Years ago, I read a book called Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment (George Leonard, 1992.) In this book, the author discussed the Plateau. We work hard to get better at a craft or art and after a while we get the basics down. Then, frustratingly, we slow down. We are still able to DO what we are doing, but we are not getting better at it so very quickly. This is the point where so many give up on trying to learn something new. Instead, this is the point we must work HARDER. We still get better, but the breakthrough pace is now behind us. We are still IMPROVING, but more slowly. That is the main message of the 8 of Pentacles. Keep working at it, keep trying, it gets easier, and eventually you CAN do it—and do it well!
When people are asking me, as a reader, “When will I find love?” and I get this card, I tell them to shop. Meet a lot of people. Find out what you like. What you don’t like in a partner. Then see what happens. Some sigh and wish they didn’t have to shop. One even asked me, “Can’t I just FIND someone without all the looking?” Sorry, there is no substitute for it; you have to work at anything you really want.
If I am reading for someone (about love or goals) and the 8 of Pentacles comes out reversed (upside down) I remind them that there are no shortcuts to achieving what you want. If you start saying “I’ll take whatever,” I tell them, you will get “whatever”….and you WON’T like it. This is true in anything. We have to concentrate on what we are trying to achieve. Is it a pretty bauble or a good marriage, concentrate on what you want, and on what the goal is. You won’t do it perfect, sometimes you screw up and sometimes it gets screwed up and it wasn’t your fault. Success doesn’t come by doing it right, it comes by working at it. So no matter how frustrated you feel, KEEP GOING.