The Long Now

Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you. –Carl Sandburg (1878 – 1967)
We must use time as a tool, not as a crutch.  –John F. Kennedy (1917 – 1963)

Some people want to build a massive 10,000 year clock inside a remote limestone mountain in Nevada. It’s a binary clock so accurate and revolutionary that some of its mechanisms have been patented. It self-corrects when it sees the noon sun.  Its bells will chime a different sound every day for 10,000 years! Brian Eno (yes, the music producer of U2 and others) and Danny Ellis came up with the algorithm for the bells. The Long Now Foundation’s admirable goal is no less than fundamentally changing human perspective on time. (their site; vid)

Want to learn more about the best ways to practice? Get an e-mail with a discount code when The Practice of Practice is published (June, 2014). To learn more about the book, check out a sample from The Practice of Practice.

Physicists have tried to tell us that time is an illusion created in part by our limited perception. We don’t quite believe the physicists because the illusion is so good. We can’t wrap our finite minds easily around the concept because human consciousness is so minuscule it can only fuzzily perceive the whole incompletely, as through a pinhole camera. Shadows on the cafe wall.

So what does this have to do with practice; music practice or any other type? How do you think of your own life? Do you imagine yourself playing your instrument in the future? Do you envision any other things you’ll be doing in the future? Turns out that researchers have shown that those who can clearly imagine/see themselves in the future playing their instrument, tend to persist significantly (yes, statistically significantly:-) better than those who do not see themselves in this way.

This implies that our imagined conceptions of the world can shape the physical world and carve it from the chaos, make it real. It’s an ability that can be frightening. Knowing that you can literally shape your world is a pretty huge responsibility, but why leave that responsibility with anyone but yourself? You can change reality. This is something saints and sages have been telling us for a long time.

So. Whether it’s music or some other important aspect of your life, how do you see yourself in five years? What will you have to do to get there? If you envision your relationship with music as lasting your entire life, you will have patience to spend on the time it will take to become great. You don’t have to tell anyone, but it would help to write it down. Put down your greatest dreams and the steps you’d need to achieve them. Don’t be shy. If you aren’t honest with yourself, you’ll always wonder, “What if?” Keep track of it all and how it changes and fill in the details as you ponder more deeply how to achieve what you’ve dreamed.

Here’s a short talk by Philip Zimbardo to get you thinking about your own relation with time. It might help you understand how your perception of time effects your life. Is your relationship with time balanced? Check it.

Want to learn more about the best ways to practice? Get an e-mail with a discount code when The Practice of Practice is published (June, 2014). To learn more about the book, check out a sample from The Practice of Practice.

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. akchelle says:

    Great advice, for musicians and everyone else!

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