Are You Playing Music…or Just Notes?

Posted by:

award winning performance
See that guy on the left? The one at the Steinway? That’s Andras Schiff, one of the greatest concert pianists alive today. Andras and I have a few things in common: 1) we both play the piano; 2) we both play Steinways (although his preferred instrument is a Bosendorfer); 3) we’ve both had dinner with my sister (but not at the same time; I’ve never met Mr. Schiff, whereas I’ve met my sister several times).

I want to talk about #1. We both play the piano. We have that in common. Here’s where we differ:

I play notes; Andras Schiff plays music.

I enjoy playing the piano. I’ve played in a few bands, and I can play well enough to entertain myself, and—on a good day—others. But I’m not a master. Unlike Andras Shiff, my playing doesn’t rise to the level of award-winning performance.

Here’s the difference.

A hobbyist, like myself, learns enough to get by. A hobbyist learns to get the notes right. The high-water mark for the hobbyist is, “I played it all the way through without a single mistake!” For the hobbyist, that’s the end point. For the award-winning performer—for the master—it’s the beginning.

See, the notes on a page of music are like the words on a script. Some amateur actors memorize their lines and recite them back, in the proper order, on stage—and they call it acting. But a great actor will take those words and infuse them with emotion, depth, and meaning. They’ll make the words live and breathe. For the great actor, mere line memorization is the baseline—it’s the starting point. It’s what comes afterward that turns memorization into mastery.

“But Bill,” you say, “I’m not a concert pianist or an actor. I’m a businessperson. What does this have to do with me?”

Okay, first of all, you really need to learn to connect the dots for yourself. But second, for those of you who want the answer sheet, here it is.

In your work (and, frankly, in your life), are you playing music, or are you just playing notes? Are you committed to giving an award-winning performance every day, or are you just doing enough to get by? Are you fully engaged in pursuing big goals, or are you settling for average? Are you giving your clients (or your boss, or your spouse) your very best because that’s who you are, or are you doing just enough so that they don’t start looking for someone else?

I’m not saying you have to be a virtuoso in every aspect of your life. I’m happy being a piano hobbyist. Sure, I’d like to get better—and I will—but I’ll never become a master. But in the areas of my life where it really counts, I want to be an award-winning performer.

Take a look at the areas of your life where it really counts. Do it today. Then ask yourself this question: In those areas, are you truly committed to award-winning performance?

In those areas, are you playing music…or just notes?


About the Author:

29-time Emmy Award winner and Hall of Fame keynote speaker Bill Stainton, CSP is an expert on Innovation, Creativity, and Breakthrough Thinking. He helps leaders and their teams come up with innovative solutions — on demand — to their most challenging problems.
  Related Posts