The Importance of Keeping Things Simple Under Pressure

juggling

Whenever I went on a trip, I used to pack all of my most important documents and possessions in my violin case. Wallet, passport, keys, traveler’s checks, sunglasses, music, phone, every last critical thing I could cram in would go there.

Friends used to question this practice, pointing out that if I ever lost my violin, I’d really be up a creek.

While that was certainly very true, I figured I was pretty much screwed if I lost my violin anyway, and found it much easier to focus all my energies on keeping that one super important possession safe, rather than splitting my attention ten different ways in order to keep track of ten different important things in ten different places.

Contrast that with my wife, who has been misplacing sunglasses for as long as I’ve known her (and there was even that time she accidentally flushed her sunglasses down the toilet). Sure it’s cute and endearing and all, but with her attention constantly divided between keeping track of her wallet, phone, keys, and sunglasses, the sunglasses inevitably drift to the fringes of her attentional capacity, and get left behind in the most random places.

What does this have to do with performing better under pressure?

Keep reading…I promise I’ll pull it all together eventually.

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What Is the Most Effective Way to Warm Up for an Audition?

snuggie

It’s been many years since I was in the market for a new violin or bow, but I still remember how self-conscious I’d be when playing in front of the shop owners.

Why so self-conscioius?

I was worried about being judged.

How would I compare to others who had tried this violin? What would the people in the store think of my playing? What if they didn’t think I was good enough, or worthy of playing on this violin?

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Should Eliminating Procrastination Be a Top Priority?

procrastination

Conventional wisdom suggests that procrastination is a bad thing. “Think about how much better you could have done if you had started a week ago!” our parents and teachers like to say.

But is this really true? Would we be vastly better off if we started studying, or writing that paper well in advance of the deadline?

Those of us who defend our procrastinating ways fire back with the argument “I work better under pressure!” Sounds reasonable enough…or is it?

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How Can I Become More Enthusiastic About Practicing?

enthusiasm

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said “Enthusiasm is the mother of effort, and without it nothing great was ever achieved.

Unfortunately, when I was in high school, enthusiasm had nothing to do with my reasons for practicing. Except for those times when I had a new piece to learn, practicing was not something I enjoyed or looked forward to. I did it because I felt I had to.

But imagine a parallel universe in which you are in high school, and suddenly have one of those moments of clarity in which your perspective on practicing shifts (ha ha, get it?), and you begin practicing not out of duty, but from a place of genuine enthusiasm?

How much different do you suppose your experience of college, graduate school, and beyond would be? How much better might you become over the course of weeks, months, and years?

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The Point of Practicing Is To…?

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How would you complete the following sentence?

The point of practicing is to…

…to get better? …to play better in tune? …to improve the quality of your sound? …to find a more compelling and effective way of shaping a phrase?

I stumbled across an interesting YouTube video a while ago (which for the life of me I can no longer find, lost amidst a digital haystack of sneezing pandas, nyan cats, and gagnam style).

Anyhow, it was a clip of a respected guitarist talking about practicing, in which he suggested that the whole point of practicing is to make things easier.

Intriguing, no?

But what might this actually entail?

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What Is the Most Overlooked Step in Audition Preparation?

track-field-warmup

I participated in the Hershey’s Track and Field Games as a little kid (yes, that Hershey’s). It started out as a fun thing to do because my other friends were doing it. But then I qualified for the state level, and I started to get excited about the possibility of qualifying for nationals.

My parents got me some running shoes, I trained for my events in preparation for the state meet, and when the big day arrived, I arrived at the track only to be struck by the realization that I had no idea how to fill the time until my events started.

As I looked around, everyone else was stretching, going through warm-up exercises, and engaged in activities that looked purposeful.

What did I do?

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