“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks, but I do fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” Bruce lee
After over a year of practice, the progress is obvious. Apparent also is the gap between my current ability and where I would like to be. Playing the piano is the target of my effort, now in my second year of lessons. Here is what I know: The needed skills to play a fairly simple piece of music requires hours of practice—experienced musicians will state that playing well does not occur just because you have the desire to learn a new instrument. Daily discipline of practice makes a difference. The time requirement is more than just a few minutes each day. And, the result of this dedicated effort is a level of satisfaction for my instructor as well as for me.
In the beginning, I learned that the location of each note on the music sheet represents a letter—C, D, E, F, G, A and B are the letters and are represented on the piano as actual keys. A translation process evolved. First, I saw the note on the music sheet. Next, I translated the note on paper to one of those seven letters. Then I translated the selected letter to an actual location of a key on the piano. Finally, and importantly, I pressed the key. The entire translation, involving multiple steps, took time. Because of this fact, early music pieces for a beginner are simpler to allow for the time to make the translations.
After daily practice for several months, the translation process required less time. I now see a note on the music sheet and just play the right note on the piano. A couple of steps have been eliminated. No thoughts about the letter and less thinking about the actual location of the key. Today, that process works almost flawlessly when I go back and play the simple songs that were part of my early practice and training. Still a work in progress for the newer more difficult pieces that contain multiple notes in the form of chords.
What I have described is a routine. One that involves memorization. Visual as well as muscle memory is utilized. And it works. Someone who cannot sing a lick, and whom my wife would describe as ‘musically challenged,’ can actually play a song on the piano…because of a memorized routine that I established as a habit.
I do not believe for a moment that I will ever be a concert pianist. Nor make money from playing this instrument. That is not my goal and it would be difficult, if perhaps impossible, for me to achieve. But, I can play the piano. And, that is saying something for me. And I can play it because of the passion I have for music and the support of a memorized routine. A well-formed habit is a powerful tool for success in life.
There is some science in how all this works in our brains. I do believe in the science part of this process. But for me, and perhaps for many of my readers, it represents common sense. Something our grandparents would share in a saying– like…
“We are our own potters, for our habits make us, and we make our habits.” Frederick Langbridge
Memorized actions are subconsciously enacted throughout almost every single minute every day. Habits. And many of these routines make life easier and more manageable. Getting ready for the day’s activities may include a number of practices. A shower, getting dressed, breakfast. All of these processes can be broken down into a number of steps that have been memorized and made part of our daily routine.
We perform an action that achieves something of value in our lives. We practice and practice. Eventually, it becomes a habit. And, like learning to play the piano, as we eliminate any translation steps, it even becomes easier and more efficient. Less time required. Better results.
Day-to-day, we give little thought to the vast number of habits we have formed that have become part of our daily existence. In fact, these routines comprise a huge portion of our available time each day. Amazing. Under the radar, right in front of us, is one of the most powerful principles for success ever created. The power of habits.
“You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” John C. Maxwell
A habit of brushing teeth, or making coffee without much thinking required is the same principle applied to getting an education or working diligently towards a major life-changing goal. Learning a new language, losing weight, transitioning to a new career, buying a car or home and endless important goals we want to accomplish.
The most important objectives related to the person we want to become, when analyzed, are a system of steps, memorized and practiced in a disciplined manner.
If you really want to learn a new language, you can actually do this. You can even target the date when you will become proficient. How? Identify steps in the process of learning and practice these steps daily until you have mastered them and the process becomes a habit. Losing weight, exercise, becoming a person of prayer are all descriptions that one can become through the powerful principle of habits.
At this point, I am considered a beginner in piano playing. Beginner. After a year of lessons. A whole year of practice. I am still considered a beginner. That accurate assessment, after all the hard work and effort, can be exasperating. I am reminded of my grandchildren on a long trip. “Are we there yet?” This is the same challenge we can see when we try to change a major element of our lives. After the first year of college, on the journey to a four-year degree, can be a challenging moment when we consider we are still a student, and have three more years. The most difficult courses occur in the third and fourth years. And yet, it is important to remember that the process for the other three years is similar to the first year. Attend classes, read and study. Daily discipline. Regular practice of the same routine.
Can I become an intermediate level piano player? Is advancement even possible? The answer is yes to both questions. And, for me, to even consider that possibility, seems unbelievable. If still alive five years from now, if still mentally and physically healthy, and importantly, if still practicing daily, I can be a much better piano player. More successful. Intermediate and on the road to an advanced proficiency. The very thought of this is inspiring. The formula to getting there is continuous daily practice and weekly lessons. I have already conquered the first and most important step in that journey. Successful habits.
Who do you want to be in the future? Do you have a dream?
What kind of regular routines do you need to adopt?
What does practice look like?
Are you willing to commit the time?
Today, I will explore the powerful principle of habit.