Why Your Practice May Be Holding You Back

Posted on


Picasso Self Portrait (1972)

Here’s a radical thought – don’t practice so well.But wait! Isn’t careful practice what I am supposed to do, so I can play well, with a solid technique and mostly all the right notes?

The answer is of course, unless that’s the ONLY way you practice. Careful practice can be a trap. If our only focus is trying to play correctly, we will never learn to play much.

An example: My mother’s aunt, Aunt Floss, took piano lessons as a child. But her lessons didn’t leave her a life-long ability to play the piano. As an adult, she could only play one piece, “The Black Hawk Waltz.”  I remember many family gatherings when she would sit down to play “her piece.” It was never a polished performance, and as the years went by, she lost more and more of the piece until finally she couldn’t even remember how it started.

An different example: Pablo Picasso the Spanish cubist painter lived into his nineties, and was quoted as saying,  “I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it.”

“If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying hard enough,” is a sentiment ascribed to dozens of different individuals, musicians among them. Said another way, we can’t win if we don’t stretch ourselves. In fact, we keep ourselves from experiencing the full potential of our abilities. I believe that it is only through a willingness to make mistakes without regret on occasion that we increase our skill level.

I’m not suggesting that you stop practicing carefully, but I am encouraging you to step out of your comfort zone, to not let practice be a protective barrier between what you can do and what you might like to be able to do.

For those who you are still clinging to the “slow and steady” philosophy, I offer a couple of revisionist morals from the Tortoise and the Hare fable:

NEW MORAL 1: The tortoise may have won, but when he finally crossed the finish line, was anyone left to see it?

NEW MORAL 2: The hare shouldn’t have stopped to nap before he finished the race. He should have finished and then done something else productive with the rest of the day.

Where will you choose to make mistakes today?

Tags: , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *