November 4, 2015

Read widely

I’ll read just about anything, even if, in general, I’m not that interested in the overall topic.  I was recently reading an article in Men’s Health* magazine (see what I mean?) about Stephen Curry (basketball player).  Note, I'm not a huge basketball fan (ok, really, it's my least favorite sport to play or watch). But this short article focused on how he worked hard to make it in his profession.   

Now you might think that professional basketball has nothing to do with playing the harp, but what he said resonated with me so I wanted to be sure you saw it. 

Apparently he wasn’t yet “basketball sized” as a freshman in high school so he had to work especially hard to get in to play (also, his father was a pro basketball player so you know that right off the bat he was going to have to be better than good to make the cut).  It was what else he said that captivated me:

He spent a long time dedicated to crafting his skills.  He’s quoted as saying, “It’s still a work in progress but with anything, if you stick with it and keep working at it, eventually you’ll figure it out.”!!! This is a man, considered to be at the top of the heap in his profession, who understands that fundamentals are called that because they support everything else you do while performing.  And he also understands that development isn't a "one and done" proposition but rather the result of steady, consistent, intelligent work.

He also talked about doing specific things to make his practice harder than his performance – he practices on gravel so when he gets to the court, working the ball will be easier.  This is the same as practicing in the dark, while people talk to you, on a scary carpet, in a variety of places, or some combination of these, so that when you’re in the gig you’re prepared and can play well.

The other thing he said that really struck me was this, “You either put the work in and reap the benefits….or you try to take shortcuts….But it doesn’t work that way…” Yikes – so true! We all know that no one wants to play exercises, but they do have a direct impact on your later ability to play.

The underpinnings of practice are the same, whether you play basketball or the harp.  What you put in shows up in your results.  The inverse is also true – if you don’t do the work, you’ll only get part of the way.  This is true whether you are a full time professional, a part time professional, or an amateur content to play for the cats and the drapes.  Be as good as you can make yourself, know where you are going so you can get your hard work in and enjoy the rewards of good performance. 

*Men's Health, November 2015

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