Unless Your Phone Is in Airplane Mode, You Are Practicing like a Nazgûl

(The Attributes of Deliberate Practice: Focus and Concentration) In the ancient past, devices were forged with which the Dark Lord would enslave the race of men. The lure of these devices’ power would prove so overwhelming that none could resist, and these men would ultimately become corrupted and trapped, fading into disembodied Wraiths and permanently bound to the will of their master. “They are…neither living or dead. At all times they [are] drawn to the power of the one…. They will bear thee away to the houses of lamentation, beyond all darkness,…

Practicing Without Feedback is Like Bowling Through a Curtain

(The Attributes of Deliberate Practice: Continuous Feedback Loops) You Won’t Get Any Better, and You’ll Stop Caring In 1996, Ethan and Joel Coen went bowling. Or, more specifically, their film Fargo had just been released, and after its opening night showing they hosted the after-party at the Bryant Lake Bowl in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It was there that they cooked up the idea for their next movie — one which would ultimately rank among the most iconic cult classic movies of all time: The Big Lebowski. Lebowski turned 20 a few weeks ago, and…

Practice Between Comfort and Panic

(The Attributes of Deliberate Practice: Design and Intention) How many times have you ambled into your practice room, setup your instrument, gotten yourself situated, and then thought, “Okay…now what?” Yep — same here. That used to happen to me far too often. And here’s the bad news: whatever might happen after that, it’s not deliberate practice. That’s because one of the defining attributes of deliberate practice is that it’s designed. It’s planned out in advance, thoughtfully and intentionally, with a sense of both where you’re going and how you get there. It is…

The Deliberate Practice Book Club

An Avalanche of Understanding Back in 2008, I read a book that changed my life. It’s called Talent is Overrated, written by Geoff Colvin, and it’s partially based on Anders Ericsson’s research. In my previous post, I described this event as “my third inflection point,” in which I began working with John Tafoya, he recommended the book, and I subsequently embraced its practice methodologies under his guidance. That process was tremendously influential. It radically accelerated my improvement, and pointed my trajectory much higher. I want to dive more deeply into that experience,…

I Don’t Care How Good You Are — I Care About the Trajectory You’re Willing to Set

I was not born talented at the timpani To wit, there’s Mrs. Gustafson’s entirely accurate assessment. I was definitely weak due to lack of consistent practice. I was not a committed music student. This is partly because my entire career as a timpanist traces back to random occurrences. The first was in 1988: “Beverly Hills Cop” was in theaters, and for some reason my 4th grade music teacher created a version of its famous theme, “Axel F,” to play on his (then-brand new) Ensoniq synthesizer. I heard that tune and thought it…

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