I am changing my blog a bit. I will still be writing posts, but as well I am planning to start cross posting from other authors providing a breif of their article, some thoughts, and links to those articles. Why am I doing this? In short there is a tremendous amount of really great writers writing about our field, and things adjacent to it (mental training, etc) so I want to highlight that, and curate a collection of those thoughts.
The first one.
What is Your “Average Speed” in Your Life, Your Health, and Your Work?
By James Clear
James Clear is an author, photographer, and weightlifter who looks at habits and decision making, He is by no means an obscure name, his work has been covered by various media companies and he has a great mission statement, which I think we as musicians can really take to heart, on it's surface it is simple, but how we as musicians, and artists interact with our field it has great implications.
"At the core of my work is a simple, but powerful question: How can we live better?"
The article I wanted to share from James is one shared by Marc Gelfo (get involved in his app Modacity... seriously). He posted this article on facebook and it is brilliant.
The article in short
As musicians we can look at our "average speed" as the rate in which we progress consistently. James hits on an idea which hit close to home for me of our "maximum speed". You know the feeling after see a great show, apply for an orchestra audition, etc. where we work like maniacs and do as much as possible (usually ending in injuries, burning out, and ultimately forgetting most of what you thought you learned)
"So often we waste our time and energy thinking that we need a monumental effort to achieve anything significant. We tell ourselves that we need to get amped up on motivation and desire. We think that we need to work harder than everyone else."
James goes on to explore the idea of our average speed as being a thing that can inspire great progress. To me, as I live near many glaciers up here in the great white north. I relate this average speed to glaciers (hear me out), they move slow, methodically, and the change they make to the landscape is dramatic, it cuts deep into the earth and reshapes the land. The idea of max speed to me is like the spring flooding in a way, some years it happens, other years it doesn't. On it's surface it changes the landscape greatly. It moves trees, displaces dirt and stone, but in the end the earth reclaims it with new growth, etc. I hope that analogy makes sense... it does to me. The point of it is that as James writes.
"But when you look at people who are really making progress, you see something different. Nathan wrote 1,000 words per day, every day. And nine months later? Three books are finished. At no point did he necessarily work harder than everyone else. There's nothing sexy or shocking about writing 2 or 3 pages per day. Nathan was simply more consistent than everyone else and, as a result, his average speed for those 253 days was much higher than most people."
The final area of interest that James writes about is about how to change the habits of our work. It is the idea of habit graduation. Which in short is a way in which, to use James' words, "we can increase our average speed". Simple things like going from buying fast food 3 days a week to 2 days a week. If you only practice you major scales, once a week practice minor scales and major scales in one sitting. etc.
"You get the idea. Habit graduation is about considering your goals and your current average speed, and thinking about how you can increase your output by just a little bit on a consistent basis."
For us as musicians that "output" can be the quality, the specificity, etc of our practice. Which would, in theory, increase the rate in which we grow as players.