No One Gets There on Their Own

(The Attributes of Deliberate Practice: Effective Teachers, Coaches, and Mentors) Proceed with Gratitude My 5th grade teacher was Mr. Shermock. His full name was Jim Shermock, but like so many other students now out in the world, I could never imagine calling him by his first name. The indelible imprint he left on my life has meant that, no matter how far I’ve gone beyond 5th grade (or high school or college), my feelings of gratitude and respect have coarsed along as powerfully as a subterranean river. Hence, Mr. Shermock. Much like…

The Diminishing Returns of Practicing on Empty

(The Attributes of Deliberate Practice: Physical Limits and Sleep-Replenishing) Have you ever fallen asleep standing up? I have. I was a freshman at Gustavus Adolphus College. My course load was too heavy, my time-management skills not yet adequate to the task, and I compensated by burning the candle at both ends…and in the middle. I was basically the college-freshman version of Prince Valium from SPACEBALLS. One particularly rough morning, I trudged down to my dorm’s communal bathroom facilities. The shower stalls were narrow brick-encased enclaves, like upright sarcophagi. I blasted the hot…

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…

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