My 9 year old daughter has been taking ukulele lessons for the past 6 months. Over that time I’ve watched her evolve from an extremely shy, somewhat impatient girl that didn’t even know what a chord was to memorizing entire sheets of music and playing in front of a live audience – even in her school talent show.
A lot of the credit goes to her music teacher, but until recently, I didn’t exactly know why.
Yes, he is a great musician, knows how to teach, is super patient, and communicates really well with the kids. But what struck me most was his disposition – there is just something calming about him – even for the parents. Then I found his secrets! There they were hand-written on a sheet of music that came from her last lesson they had together in person. It had three simple, but profound lessons written for her to remember:
So, what does this have to do with how you manage your day, your business or your life? Everything. You see, my daughter struggles with the same emotions and frustrations learning a new instrument that we do while learning to live and work in this “new normal”. The advice is so simple, so spot on.
- Breathe – I think this lesson is both mental and physical. For my daughter, the advice is simply to help her relax and slow down. Physically, breathing is a proven way to reset your mind and body. It relaxes muscles and can make a near instantaneous impact on your mood or emotional state. Think about advice we give our kids in the midst of a meltdown, the first thing we usually say is “breathe!”.
Right now, we all have a tendency to rush things – to get it done because there is so much waiting. Or we’re pushing so hard that we are not slowing down enough to catch our breath – to breathe. As we face more challenges, more decisions, more uncertainty it can be so helpful to pause, take a breath and take on one thing at a time. When we do so, we’ll make better decisions and get better results (not to mention feel better physically).
- Smaller Strum Strokes – When learning a new instrument this tip is all about staying in control . In life or business when we get nervous, face challenges or uncertainty it’s easy to start playing erratically. We speed up, increase intensity, max out frequency and before you know it we’re working a whole lot harder with little to show for it except, well, more anxiety and exhaustion.
The concept of smaller strum strokes is about taking small steps with focus, staying in your lane and executing one thing at a time. When you give yourself time to slow down and get under control you give yourself the opportunity to get in a rhythm – to build momentum. It’s amazing how much better the results (and music) can be with slow, softer, more intentional execution.
- Don’t Freeze on Misses – This one is my favorite. When learning a new instrument, most of us simply stop when we miss the chord figuring we have to get it right or start over. This lesson reminds us it’s OK not to be perfect and that misses are simply part of the process. In fact, you could argue imperfection is a critical part of making music – it’s also part of life.
In the environment we are all working and living in right now – nobody has all the answers. Planners and perfectionists (I’m in that category) better brace yourself for this one: we are going to make mistakes and miscalculations. We will try stuff that won’t work and there will be weeks that it seems nothing is going right. But the key is to keep moving (to keep strumming). By continuing to move, you make progress, you give yourself the opportunity to make an adjustment. Or as one of my mentors puts it, “you keep yourself in the game”. That adjustment in most cases will still leave you further ahead than if you had frozen, or worse yet, taken no chances at all. So, I’m giving you permission to free yourself from freezing up and let it rip!
My daughter is now learning the Scooby Doo theme song – yeah, I know – awesome. And I’m watching her apply all of these lessons again. She’s learning faster, having more fun and trying new things with confidence. Outcomes I think we could all benefit from these days.
So, whether you are looking to pick up a new instrument or exploring ideas to navigate new challenges in life and business – don’t forget to breathe, make smaller strum strokes and don’t freeze on those misses. The result will sound much better.