Below is a link to the free printable poster that sums up how your belief in whether talent is “natural” or a result of effort impacts your practice. A typo in the original has been corrected. (thanks, Bruce). This comes from chapter 6 in The Practice of Practice. (high-rez printable PDF)
Trumpeter George Recker used to say, “If you can’t sing it, you can’t play it.” It’s great advice. Here’s some similar great advice about singing and playing a horn, as well as several other great practice suggestions from Ted Nash, one of the great players (they’re all great) in the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.
If you’ve got 10 minutes, check out this quick animation from the good folks at RSAnimate about some interesting studies of motivation presented by Daniel Pink (taken from his book on motivation, Drive).
Even though the topic of this talk on motivation takes a business-oriented bent, I found myself using the ideas to assess my own relationship with practice and with music and with my other chief love, writing. Interesting that for mastery motivation he cites music.
Every moment of one’s existence one is growing into more or retreating into less.
~Norman Mailer (1923 – 2007)
If you have made mistakes, even serious ones, there is always another chance for you. What we call failure is not the falling down but the staying down.
~Mary Pickford (1893-1979)
Plumbing the depths of motivation is a long unending process. Previous posts in this blog contain other aspects of motivation, including some theories about why we persist in difficult tasks. Today I want to shoot from the hip and talk about my own informal experience with and opinions about motivation. No theory. No rigorously tested hypotheses beyond those done subconsciously or haphazardly. Just two things that are on my mind.
Attempting the impossible in order to improve is very different than attempting the impossible because you don’t know any better. A few posts ago when I wrote of the useful technique of chaining and backchaining, as an example I told the story of my disastrous high school attempt to play the Hummel Concerto in Eb 25 years ago. This was an example of not knowing any better, and the experience did a fair amount of damage to my teenage psyche and had a temporarily adverse affect on my pursuit of music.
Many years later, as I entered Northwestern University for a graduate degree in music education, I attempted another seemingly impossible music endeavor, but this time I was doing it consciously in order to improve, and was scared spitless.
One thing the research record tells us is that incentives and other forms of extrinsic motivation don’t work very well to motivate us, nor do punishments. Carrots and sticks only work if you’re an ass. Much better is motivation that comes from within, or intrinsic motivation. And sometimes training can be a hindrance, too, as you’ll see in the vid below. Because I’m buried in research, I don’t have much time this week to post a lengthy article, but this thought-provoking TED talk is a great way to see the real-world example of how incentives often mean horrible performance, and training isn’t always a good thing. Learn the simple reason why kindergarten kids beat out MBAs in a design challenge…