I’m currently learning a new piece on the piano (Bumble Boogie by Jack Fina). It’s a challenge for me because, 1) it requires a fair amount of technique, 2) it’s fast, and 3) I’m not very good at the piano.
Don’t get me wrong—I’ll get it down! After a month and a half of working on it, I’m actually pretty close to performance level. But at this point, it’s still slightly beyond my current abilities.
That’s a phrase I want you to ... Continue Reading →
My piano is being tuned as I’m writing this. Don’t get me wrong…it didn’t sound out of tune. But it’s a valuable instrument, and I care about it. So I get it tuned twice a year, without fail. Now, I have this friend who I’ll call “George” (although his real name is Alan). “George” also has a nice piano. Mine’s a Steinway, his is a Baldwin. “George,” however, only gets his piano tuned when he thinks it sounds out of ... Continue Reading →
Have you ever felt overwhelmed when you’re under pressure?
I know—stupid question, right? Of course you’ve felt overwhelmed under pressure! The two kind of go hand in hand. That’s because when you’re in the middle of a high-pressure situation, it can sometimes be difficult to determine where the pressure’s coming from; it can seem like it’s coming from all around—from everywhere.
And, in fact, the pressure is often coming from multiple sources. You may, simultaneously, be under pressure from ... Continue Reading →
Have you ever felt pressure to produce, even when you know you’ve got what it takes?
I was just talking with a friend of mine—Bruce—who is also, like me, an amateur musician. Don’t get me wrong—we’ve both played professionally in the past. But now we each have full-time careers outside of music, although we still play with bands whenever we get the chance.
Bruce was telling me about a time a few years ago when he was visiting a friend of his, ... Continue Reading →
Remember Socrates? Greek fella, lived a long time ago, had a drinking problem (specifically with hemlock)? He also invented this thing called the Socratic Method. (Although, for the record, he didn’t call it that; it was his fan club, much later.)
Anyway, the Socratic Method is, very basically, a technique of asking a series of questions—the answers to which lead, inevitably, to the conclusion the questioner was aiming for in the first place. [Note to philosophy and classics majors: Yes, I ... Continue Reading →
For fifteen years, part of my job was to come up with creative ideas—every week, under extreme time pressure, with roughly a million people watching.
I was good at it.
But I didn’t start out being good at coming up with creative ideas under pressure. I had to learn.
In my case, creative ideas were necessary because I was the Executive Producer of a hit comedy TV show. In your case, creative ideas are necessary because the outcome of your situation may ... Continue Reading →
Back when I was in high school (or it might have been shortly after; I don’t really remember, and it doesn’t really matter), I got a part-time job at the Don Randall Music Store in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It was on my very first day that Mr. Randall—in a move that seemed almost like magic to me—taught me a great lesson.
It was the end of the day, and we had just closed the store and locked the glass front doors. There ... Continue Reading →
First question: Have you ever played poker? I mean real poker, with real money at stake. (“Real” money, of course, being a relative term—primarily relative to your current net worth.)
Second question: Have you ever been losing at poker, with real money at stake?
You play differently when you’re losing than when you’re winning, don’t you? That’s because there’s more pressure when you’re losing.
And when the pressure’s on—when the stakes are the highest—we tend to play more conservatively. We take fewer chances. ... Continue Reading →
Have you seen the movie Apollo 13? In case you’re unfamiliar with it, it is not the sequel to Apollos 1 through 12. It’s a nail-biter of a movie that tells the true story of the ill-fated—and almost disastrous—Apollo 13 mission to the moon. At the risk of ruining it for you, the crew of Apollo 13 never made it to the moon. Instead, they nearly died when an onboard explosion made it virtually impossible for them to return safely ... Continue Reading →