I studied in a music school for 10 years, studying classical percussions and pop jazz drums. Most of my closest friends are musicians. I feel as I know the type „musician“ well. And the main commonality I see in them is the urge to improve their skills. I know that everyone has it to some extent. But there are few, who spend more days self-improving as most musicians do. There are the role models and idols, whose playing style and technique many want to grasp. And to do that, one must practice. It is known. But there is always something that needs more honing. It is especially true for jazz musicians, with whom I’ve had encounters with the most. The goal is vague, but the road is clear. But how do you know when you are there?
There comes a sense of what is just a checkpoint and what is the finish. Garri Kasparov was the world champion in chess for 15 years, defending it 5 times. He holds the record for highest professional chess rating. He wrote about the match, where he lost the title: „The main reason was complacency and excessive self-assertion. A victory creates an illusion that everything is perfect and as it should be. You are engaged with a temptation to think only of the positive results, leaving aside all of the real miscalculations and mistakes. After a victory, we want to party, not analyze. When something goes wrong then of course we want to fix it, but we should try for better even when everything is in order.“
Garri’s tries to get you to think. When something goes right for you, then why? What are your winning aspects? Winning a few battles does not guarantee winning the whole war.
I think that the best example to illustrate the thought is playing poker. When you win an all in pot in showdown that was to your opponents favor before the chips went in, then you are probably lucky and made a bad decision. Now, when you think back to the pot, you can remember that you won and thus made right decisions throughout the hand. But you can also remember that you won, but you made a mistake in assessing your opponents hand and stack size and got a little lucky. In the first case, in the long run, you lose a lot of money by not changing your play. In the second case, you are destined to lose less(or even win), because you saw the error in your game and hopefully adjusted your views. The old saying of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it“ does not apply.
When is the time to rest? Is there a time, where you have done your duty and could sit down and look over your work, a time where you have had enough practice? Well, this is as subjective as everything else. The answer should be, when you feel like it. But you truly have to be satisfied with your accomplishments. As far as you feel the urge to thrive, you need to analyze your game, even if you are winning.
I think that becoming a master relies on the ability to analyze success stories. Everyone can point out shortcomings in failures. It is another matter to see mistakes in triumphs. Examine what brought you success and what may have threatened it. In school I always liked to make mistakes before tests. I think that it reduces the chances of making that mistake again, when it has a larger importance.
I am surprised to this day how mistakes are treated in schools. Mistakes are thought of as universally bad monsters, as signs of failure. I am (was) good in maths, but I made many mistakes in my maths class in high school, and ultimately got in an argument with my teacher about my abilities. He asked what my goal for the national exams was. I said that I wanted the maximum. He refused to encourage me and instead said that 97% will be the ultimate maximum for me. We argued over it, but he firmly believed that I was not clever enough. He based his decision on the mistakes I had made so far. Needless to say, I nailed the exam and got the maximum. But I will always remember the conversation between me and my teacher.
Instead of criticizing bad performance because mistakes are made and encouraging good performances without any consideration of possible weak spots, encourage the process of analyzing. The best of the best believe in themselves and in their plans. They work constantly towards perfecting and realizing those plans. From it rises a positive cycle: work reasserts self-confidence and the desire to reach your goals, those in turn stimulate to work even harder.
Until next week and enjoy thinking!