My wife Paula is a terrible piano player.
She’s really awful.
As I watched her practice last night and helped her learn Für Elise, I thought to myself not only does she have no natural skill, but I don’t even think she has enough dexterity in her hands to play piano. It was like watching a 6 year old.
Here’s the funny thing though, I totally love it.
She’s always wanted to learn to play the piano and she decided that this is the year. Last night was her first day of playing piano. We’re video taping her every week to see her progress and we’re going to have house concerts during the year where she’ll perform in front of our friends. Sound scary? Sound like a lot of pressure? It probably will be.
Here’s the funny thing I’ve learned after playing music for 22 years. Everyone is terrible when they start.
All those singers who you think are talented start out learning to sing just like the rest of us. Even little kids who look so gifted were terrible when they started. Just like you, right?
Or do you think you’re different?
I’ve heard every excuse. “I’m not a singer”, “I’m not a guitar player”, “My hands are too small”, “My hands are too big”, “I don’t have time to practice”, “I don’t have a place to practice”, “I’m just not good at this”, “I don’t want to start something on New Years because everyone does”, blah blah blah blah blah…
The reason is very simple.
You don’t want to.
Maybe this shows up in other places. How many other things do you try to do, then talk yourself out of with any of the excuses listed above? How else is you not giving a shit playing out in your life?
Why not take a stand?
My truth is, your future will not be any different than your life today if you don’t change it right now. You’re never going to have more time, more money, more opportunity or more resources than you do at this moment.
There will never be a better time to start, and don’t forget that everyone is terrible when they start.
Do you know what it’s like to lose yourself playing music?
Maybe you do, and if you don’t, I wish you did.
It’s a feeling of total dissolution of self. You begin to play, then all of a sudden something shifts and there is no difference between you and the instrument.
You as you know it dissolves and all that’s left is a magnificent flow that you ride like a surfer rides the most perfect wave. Maybe you ride that wave for a few lines, maybe you ride it for an entire song, maybe you ride it for an entire day.
Now picture doing that in front of people, maybe hundreds of people. They get to ride the wave with you, as you lead them. To be moved and to move others.
There is nothing like it.
What if you lead your whole life never experiencing this? Would that be ok?
All you need is dedication and practice. It’s the most perfect system in the world. If you want to learn something, you work at it and you get better. Simple as that, yet we make it so complicated.
What is talent?
Most people have some misconception about what talent is, so let’s set the record straight.
Talent is a façade.
Talent is the result of a lot of practice. There are times when we see someone as talented and they didn’t seem to put in a lot of work, but the reality was they were probably just having fun while they were working, so they didn’t call it work. In fact, that’s my secret for success. Have fun while you work. You’re going to need to put in the work anyway, so if you can’t make it fun, you’re probably going to quit.
There is no better example of learning a skill one day at a time than Karen Cheng. She’s the girl in this video.
She figured it out. If you want to master something, practice it every day for a year. She even started a website where people can practice something for 100 days and post their progress by recording videos every day, but don’t just browse her website, use it! Pick something you’ve always wanted to learn and dedicate the next 100 days to making noticeable progress. All it takes is practice.
A Beautiful Moment
This morning, my wife sat down at the piano to practice, and a beautiful thing happened.
She was a tiny bit better than she was last night.
It was subtle, but we both noticed it. The exhilaration of progress swept over our bodies. Even after just 1 day, there is a noticeable difference in how she’s playing the piano. I was thrilled, because I know that once we get this feeling, we’re hooked, and she got it after only 1 day. There’s still a long road ahead, but she’s passed the first check point.
What if you just took a leap? What if you started learning something, and you found that beautiful moment where you see progress, then you kept going. You kept pushing until the next check point, and another, and another, and another.
What if success is just… sustained effort?