Perfection in the Making

A good musician will practice until he stops making mistakes. A great musician practices until he can no longer make mistakes. ~ Robert Marsden

by Pete Ferguson

Last week I shared that my 14-year-old son has aspirations to get into The Juilliard School to further advance his career as a cellist and study to become a luthier to build and create stringed  instruments.

He is starting to realize that floating a dream is easy, but grabbing the oars to move forward on that dream is a lot of hard work.

While Mark currently plays seven days a week, he only spends about 45 minutes a day in deliberate or deep practice for the cello and 30 minutes M-F on the piano. The additional ten hours a week are with an orchestra in group practice.

To move to excellence, he is going to need a lot more. At least 2-3 hours a day of deliberate practice is what is recommended from the conductor of the Utah Youth Junior Symphony.

Virtually every psychological study that investigates expert “performers” – from chess grandmasters to concert pianists to brain surgeons – concludes that what separates these individuals from their peers is the amount of “deliberate practice” they are willing to endure. If there is an innate difference between Yo Yo Ma and a mediocre cellist, or between Tiger Woods and your golfing uncle, it is a willingness to practice, and not an innate aptitude for the cello or the 9 iron. ~  Jonah Lehrer

Michael Jordan was the first one on the court and the last one off. The Beatles cut their teeth playing through the entire night at a club – night after night.

Excellence in any area isn’t achieved by mere interest alone. Nor can it be achieved through having the best equipment. What separates the legends from the casual observers is the amount of time spent in deliberate practice.

Learn: What is your lifelong dream? What are you doing today to work towards that dream?

Act: Unfortunately, there is no substitute for time and effort. What action plans have you already initiated? What additional actions can you take to move you to excellence?

Share: Learn from those who are at a mastery level you want to achieve and ignore those who tell you it will be too hard or that you are not capable. Unless you are trying to play professional football at age 45, you likely have a good shot at what you want to achieve. Regardless, I hope you will have fun and gain new knowledge along the way.


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