Watch this short video. As you do, reflect on the life you lead. Are you courageous or cowardly?
Seriously, stop reading and watch the video.
Playing music at lower volumes can be challenging. Students often equate playing softer with playing timid. However, to be effective in music — and life — we need to be bold. We need to be courageous.
For context, the instructor in this video explains to the students they are expected to play at lower volumes, three and six inches off the drum. He continues by basically saying some of them are playing scared. They are playing the right notes but with the wrong technique. More importantly, they’re playing with the wrong mindset.
In an attempt to play quieter, students tend to “fluff” the notes. They play the music but are desperately trying NOT to be heard. The mistake they make is in trying not to be heard. By operating out of fear, the students fail. Not only do they fail to play the exercise correctly, but they also fail to learn the proper playing technique.
The instructor correctly points out the students are acting cowardly and hiding their actions. Many students think by hiding, by not standing out, they won’t get called out for making a mistake. Being timid and scared, they hide their errors. Consequently, they never learn from those mistakes. As a result, they never grow.
In life, do you act cowardly, whether at work or home? Are you timid? Scared of how your spouse or family will react to you? In social situations, is your presence felt, or does hardly anyone recognize you’re there? How often do you set goals but are “sneaking” in the execution, hiding your actions, so no one sees you mess up or see you fail? Do you avoid taking responsibility for your actions, blaming things outside of yourself as justification for not achieving the goal, or hitting the milestone?
Worse yet, do you stop yourself from even starting? Do you prevent yourself from trying out of a fear that lives only inside your mind? It’s easy to be not to be seen if you never move. It’s easy not to be heard when you never even speak.
For musicians, the best way to play quieter is to be aggressive. Purposeful. This seems counterintuitive. However, the change in volume is controlled by how high the stick comes off the drum. The closer the stick is to the drum head, the more deliberate you need to be in order to get a quality sound and articulation.
Similarly, in life, you need to be aggressive. You must strive to take bold, deliberate action. In so doing, you live life with courage. This includes the possibility of failure, but without failure, there is no growth.
In the video, the instructor says, “greatness is made down there.” The difference between good and great in music is the ability to play correctly while playing quietly. For a life application, I would make one small change. “Greatness is made out there.” We learn by doing, not by hiding. We grow from the experience. And it starts by taking bold, decisive action.
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