Planning is an essential part of your practice session. Imagine the planning that went into the video above, and ask yourself how much planning goes into your practice sessions. Every book I’ve read on practice, and every research article that looks into what musicians do when they practice mentions the importance of planning out your practice session. This includes broader plans like goals, as well as more specific things like exactly which pieces or skills you’re going to tackle and how you’re going to tackle them. This planning stage is only one part of a 3-stage process used by most of the people studied by McPherson and Zimmerman in a 2002 study. Here’s what it looks like:

Fail Better

In a previous post I spoke of the necessity of failure. I mentioned Buddha’s belief that the obstacle is the path, and when watching an interview with olympic speed skater Apolo Ohno, I’m reminded of it again, but in a different way. Here’s the thing:

After the 1500 meter race in which he won bronze, thereby becoming the most decorated American winter olympic athlete, Ohno said something interesting in an interview after the race. He was clearly happy, but spoke about a little bobble near the end of the race, when the Canadian skater bumped him as they went around a turn and Ohno’s skate stuttered. What did Ohno say in the interview? Did he blame the dastardly Canadian for bumping him? No. He took full responsibility for the stumble and wondered (I’m paraphrasing), “If I hadn’t messed up there I might have placed better.” Ohno is giving a perfect positive example of what researchers have called attribution theory, or what I like to call, The Blame Game. Here’s how it works: