Hi everyone - starting a new short video series called What I'm Practicing... hope you enjoy and comment on what you are working on or would like help with!
Filtering by Category: productivity
I had a great visit recently out at Camp Pendleton, California, with the 1st Marine Division Band. I occasionally have the opportunity to visit our sister bands in the fleet, and take a week to do some training with them. What that means for us is, sitting in on band rehearsals, offering private lessons, master classes, and just doing a lot of playing together. The weeks have always ended up being great fun, and have given me a great appreciation for what our Marine fleet musicians do, and are responsible for, on a daily basis. They have a difficult job, and it encompasses way more than just playing their instruments!
One of the younger musicians posed a question to all of us in a master class that I have heard a number of times before, both in our trips to the fleet as well as in many other settings throughout my career. In fact, I have asked myself the question many times!
The question the young marine asked was: “How do you stay motivated to play and practice?” I don’t think he tagged on “especially when work is not very much fun sometimes”, but there was definitely a sense of frustration and exasperation this young man was feeling about being a musician as well as keeping up with his everyday “work” duties. So, here’s the answer I gave him….
First of all, forget what you were taught to feel OBLIGATED to do in your every day practice as a musician. Yes, you need to maintain your basic skills as a performer, but how you do that is now totally up to you. Many of us were taught one way of playing, warming up, practicing, etc. You are now on your own. You are not beholden to anyone! There is no teacher there to tell you what you are doing is wrong or unproductive, or that the music you’re playing isn’t really what you should be working on. Want to play along with movie soundtracks instead of practicing Rochut every day? Go for it! Want to learn a violin sonata on trumpet? Do it! The point is that your music making is only limited by your imagination.
Action: I want YOU, dear reader, to take a second to think. What is the FIRST thing that pops into your mind that you would like to play or do as a musician that you are not currently doing. Now, write that in the comments below. I want to see what everyone comes up with. See below for my own comment… This should be interesting… It can be anything, really.
So, after forgetting our obligations and thinking about what we really want, the second thing is to COLLABORATE. Music is way more fun when you include other people. Most definitely, there are times where we must practice alone for hours on end to develop new skills. No doubt. However, many things that are mundane or are simply “staying in shape”, or “getting in shape” are much more fun when you include other people. Don’t like trombone quartets? Start a brass quintet. Hate brass quintet? Form an R&B band. Whatever.
I didn’t phrase the next thing to this young man how I’ll say it now, because I didn’t want to sound rude to him at the time, but if you’re bored or unmotivated, it’s generally your OWN FAULT. If you have been pounding away on the same old thing and it has gotten stale, and you’ve neglected to change up your routine, then that’s on you. Find some new things to play. Check out a new warmup method. Find a new etude book. Work on a new solo. Make a recording. Get after it!
Hang out with other motivated people! One thing I get from my colleagues often, is that I get to be around their music making and see what motivates them. It both inspires and motivates me. The often quoted saying, “you’re the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with”, is very true. Find the people around you who ARE motivated, and spend some time with them. Play duets, buy them coffee, pick their brain, form an ensemble… Valor Brass has been around for 13 years now, and the motivation and encouragement we bring each other is a large reason.
So, I’m truly curious to hear what everyone else does, whether in music or in any other field, to stay motivated! Please, comment below, and let the ideas fly!
I always try to keep in mind another favorite saying: “Motivation is for amateurs!” I love that. In other words, just do the work, every day.
Drop me a line, let me know what you're up to!
The Virtual Trombonist
So, this summer, I decided to try out a new concept... In my life, I’ve been neither a morning nor a late night person, but rather I seem to be able to adjust to whatever the alarm clock says fairly easily. This is especially true if I wake up with any consistency.
After reading a book called Extreme Ownership and hearing an interview with the author on the Tim Ferriss show, I became convinced I needed to try an early wakeup in order to get some things in my life done. I am happiest when I start my day with a sense of accomplishment and don’t wait until late morning before I get to do any “work”. Traffic and school drop-off circumstances being what they are, I would often find myself not getting to any work or personal productivity before 9:30 or so every morning. Also, hitting the ground running at the whim of two energetic little boys sometimes left me, ahem, a little cranky!
Jocko Willink, the author of Extreme Ownership, usually puts out a tweet every morning about 0430 - it’s usually just a photo of the face of his watch with the time. I would continually see that photo in my twitter feed every morning as I had my coffee and breakfast with my family, and it made me begin to consider whether I, too, could take control of my day, and find a better sense of accomplishment by getting a bit of a jump on my daily work. I also thought that by getting up every day at 4:30, I might be forced to not stay up so late in order to have some “me time”, a habit that was perpetuating a cycle of tiredness and a feeling of not getting to things that are important to me during my day.
I started at the beginning of August, and I honestly thought I would make it about 5 days and quit. The first couple of days were a little hard, but I had an extensive personal project that motivated me, so I was able to keep at it. By the end of the week, shockingly, waking at 0430 felt quite normal, and I was habitually waking slightly before the alarm clock, which is normal for me when my body has a consistent schedule.
The funny thing was, I REALLY liked it. There’s nothing quite as great as a quiet house in the morning. I had time to accomplish a lot of personal work and projects, practice trombone (with a mute!), and just have some focused alone time at the start of my day, which has done wonders for me mentally. Here are some other benefits:
- I don’t feel stressed when it’s 9AM and I haven’t started anything that I need to do for the day
- I’m able to give my children the attention they need from the moment they wake up, and not be cranky and impatient during the early part of our day
- I’ve been able to do all my audio and video editing in the mornings, and spend evening time with my wife
- Trombone practice has been more consistent
- I have broken the cycle of staying up late, in order to have time to myself
- My bedtime has shifted earlier
- I’m no longer tempted to have that 3rd or 4th beer of the night, as I stay up late and get absorbed in working on some project or other. This has been a very important piece of the puzzle for me. It’s easy for me to eat or drink alcohol late in the day in order to “prolong the moment", and sometimes I would find myself with food or drink that I didn’t necessarily want, but was just having because I was up and didn’t want the “me time” to end.
One thing I decided early on was that if I got up at 4:30, and I felt tired as hell, then I would give myself a pass to go right back to bed, with no guilt. That has worked great. I don’t sweat it if I wake up and feel like I just can’t do it that particular day. It gives me some flexibility, and again, no guilt over not “achieving” something. I think it’s easy to get wrapped up in always getting things in, whether we are really up for it or not. I think this causes a lot of less-than-quality time spent doing things, whether it’s family time, trombone practice, or working out. Back in my Ironman days, I worked out many times when I should have just taken a nap, or slept in!
So, do me a favor… Do you have any routines, morning or otherwise, that help your productivity and happiness? I’m curious to hear what works for all of you! Leave a comment on the website or Facebook. I look forward to hearing from you! Oh, and if you need to get in touch, try me about 4:30 tomorrow morning, I’ll be up. 😃
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