January 26, 2011

Feedback - What do you think?

I've beaten the "work hard" drum a couple of weeks in a row, so a slightly different bent today...It is important to motivate yourself and to work hard.  But Tony Schwartz suggests that there is another key to building toward greatness.  And this one requires a little help.

He points out the importance of seeking feedback from experts periodically.  Heavy emphasis on periodically.  This is not the same as a weekly lesson...

This input requires that you identify an expert and cultivate a relationship with that person.  They must be free to give you the benefit of their experience and you must be ready and willing to accept what they offer you. 

Ask for directed and specific feedback - this will highlight the areas to which you should devote more time and energy in the short term future.  You must craft the questions you will ask before you meet to work with your identified expert to assure that you get the feedback you want.  Going in unprepared will waste their time and thereby reduce the utility of the feedback you receive - help that person focus on the areas you'd like to explore.  Of course, building a relationship will also allow you to identify the areas in which you'd like to focus before meeting.  It is also important to explore the topic areas in which you would like help. 

No one person will be able to help you fine tune every aspect of your playing.  Therefore you must both tailor your request for help and the questions you ask to the specific areas that person can help you grow in and identify other people with whom you should work. 

Recognize some important aspects of asking an expert for help - this person is recognized by you and others as an expert which is why you seek their feedback - respect the inputs you receive, even if they are tough to swallow at first.  Do not mistake the feedback of your peers as being equivalent - experts are identified as such specifically because they are not peers (this is slightly different in very high levels of performance - but for most of us, it is accurate).  Note the feedback you received.  And be prepared to meet again. 

And between those meetings - grow, grow, grow!

January 19, 2011

I know, I know, I have to work hard....

Last time I exhorted you to accept that to become a better harper you will have to work hard. I know that's the last thing any of us wants to hear, especially because we already know it’s true.

But how do we get past the whining and complaining and get to the heart of the hard work of becoming better harpers? What is the secret? How do we make harp work a little less daunting?

Well, there are a number of experts who have broken this down into some components that will be helpful to move forward. And they all agree with each other on this point -

You must LOVE what you're doing.
That doesn't mean view it with fondness or be thrilled by the fact that it’s terribly exciting - you must LOVE it!

And you must be shockingly honest with yourself - Do you love playing the harp or do you just love telling people you play the harp? (there is nothing wrong with loving to tell other people that you play the harp, by the way - however, it will not sustain you to do all the hard work to play the harp better. It will only motivate you to tell better stories about playing the harp) . So examine your response to the question - do you LOVE playing the harp?

If you don’t love playing the harp, that's not a problem - but realize that without this sustaining love your motivation will fizzle, making it harder and harder for you to put in the time, to do the work, to exhibit the passion that others will. It will, however, free you to play the harp at the level you are able and to put your passion where it belongs.

Me, I’ll be here on my bench…

January 12, 2011

It's like GOLF

I love to play golf.  I enjoy just about everything about it - the fine day, the beautiful fairways, the immaculate greens, the twee little flags, the ponds (I just don't think they are deep enough to be hazards, at least where I play), the sandboxes (again, where I play the sand is not confined like it is in the bunkers on the Old Course at St. Andrews - so I think of them as sandboxes)... and I enjoy taking a relaxed walk with a few good friends through all this wonder. 

It is actually amazing that I love to play golf because I am so bad at it - AND I NEVER GET ANY BETTER...however, you will not hear me complain about my lack of progress - because I know what is required to become a better golfer and I am unwilling to do it.  I have CHOSEN not to become a better golfer. 

Now, playing the harp, well that's another matter entirely.  I do want to continue to get better at it, and I work diligently to do so.  I CHOOSE to put in the work and the time and the planning and the practice.

As I said before, I do not accept the myth that some people are more talented and therefore get a free pass to greatness.  I know that the brilliant performer, the superb workshop instructor, the blindingly outstanding composer all worked hard - and they have honed their craft.    And to be like them you have to have T-I-T-S -- Time In The Seat - that time is required to build your capability.

To get really good at playing the harp, you will have to push yourself.  And really, you have to do this for yourself - no one else will do it for you.  That's right, all that stands between you and brilliance, is you. 

Give yourself a hand - you're going to need it!

January 5, 2011

Deliberating Deliberateness

So, another year, another new start! What's your resolution? Have you vowed to practice more and to do so more often? Do you have a plan? Experts tell us you won't succeed in achieving your resolution without a plan. So, let’s make a plan to improve that practice.

First – no one gets a free ride

How are you different from Joshua Bell (aside from instrument selection) or Harpo Marx (arguably the best known harp player of the 20th century)? You aren’t. While talent or innate ability may help you enjoy playing the harp or might even have made it easier for you to learn at first, that talent won’t carry the day in the long run. Only hard work will.

It will take hard work

Once you’ve decided to work hard, all that’s left to decide is how to accomplish that. Over the next few weeks we’ll look at improving your practice deliberately – pushing the boundaries of the time you spend and how you fill that time. 

In the interim, if you have a specific question about your practice you’d like a look at, just send it to me in a comment and I’ll work it in.   And until then, make sure you’ve written your goals down and that you refer to them often – to keep yourself on track!

Interestingly, when I looked for a graphic for "hard work" almost every item included a hard hat - so find your mental hard hat and Let's Go!

Happy New Year!