11/23/2013 04:11 EST | Updated 01/23/2014 05:59 EST

Music's Greatest Lesson? The Value of "Every Day Effort"

There are many studies extolling the virtues of music. It helps develop a child's brain, it improves hand-eye coordination, it forestalls Alzheimer's; but I think the greatest benefit of music is that it fosters an "every day effort" mindset. In this day of montages in movies and a desire for instant fame and fortune, nothing is more important than developing the true key to success; the "every day effort."

I'm not a world class flute, piano, or guitar player. In fact I'm rather ordinary, but I play every day. At 8:00 a.m., I turn off my cell, pop on my headphones and play. I don't have any other criteria than that. I don't worry about how long I play, what I play, what instrument I play, and generally, have no goal in mind. Some days it's horrible. Some days I don't play for very long. Some days I end up fiddling with electronic gadgets and do very little actual playing. Occasionally, I have a great day, but more times than not, it's just an unremarkable day.

Unfortunately this "every day effort" mindset runs counter to the "lottery" thinking that pervades our society. So many people give up on music because they are not instantly great as seen in August Rush, School of Rock, or Rock Star. Can you imagine how many hours Andy Dufresne must have spent whittling that hole out of Shawshank State Penitentiary? Thanks to movies and TV, we get used to the idea that long and tedious tasks can be accomplished by magic. Pull down a poster of Raquel Welch and poof, there is a tunnel. Sure, we saw Andy get the little hammer and we saw him pull one chunk of the wall down, but we didn't see 20 years of him picking away, every night. Thank heavens, because that would be boring to watch and therein lies problem with "every day effort". It's boring. Boring, boring, boring. You see little progress and get very little reward. As a result, invariably, you lose your way.

At some point you ask yourself,

"Is there any point to this?"

"I'm getting nowhere, should I give up?"

"This is hard. Is it this hard for everybody?"

and worst of all "Isn't there a quicker way?"

Cue the dramatic music and enter the purveyors of the quick and magic solutions.

We've all seen these hucksters:

  • "Make millions with no investment, time, or effort."
  • "Buy a house with no money down, even if you don't have a job."
  • "Lose weight in days with this pill."
  • "Learn the computer in one seminar."
  • "Find your perfect mate by calling this toll free number."
  • "Learn a musical instrument in an hour."

After watching Rocky run up a few stairs to some inspirational music, then skip a bit of rope, only to become world boxing champion a few scenes later, these quick and easy solutions don't seem so far-fetched. After all, Kirk beat the "Kobayashi Maru" scenario by eating an apple and making a few snide comments; how hard could it be?

We all know, logically, that if we want to be the world boxing champion we have to train every day, for years. If we want to beat the "Kobayashi Maru" scenario, we have to study computer hacking, every day, for years; but, we've been so inundated with the message that everything is instant and easy, that we've lost the ability to work slowly towards our goal.

Learning music is great for re-establishing the concept, "The slow and steady, wins the race."

Here are some tips that have helped me develop an "every day effort" mindset:

  1. Set a regular time. At first you may need to move the time around to accommodate work, family, your favourite TV show, food; whatever, but once you have a time that works, stick with it.
  2. Have everything ready to go, or at least handy. Nothing stops you faster than having to re-arrange furniture or drive somewhere.
  3. Don't watch the clock. In fact, don't have a clock anywhere near you. Work until you finish or become so wretchedly uncomfortable that you have to stop.
  4. Don't fret if "today" is wasted. You will always have bad days. Things will go wrong; don't sweat it. Even if you only lasted for 10 minutes, that fine.
  5. Goals are good but don't become a slave to them. If you start of with a particular goal and get side-tracked, that's fine; that's how we discover new things.
  6. Enjoy it as much as you can, or at least take satisfaction in knowing that you put in some effort.

A side benefit of learning music to develop "every day effort", besides making you fun at parties, is this is transferable to other things in your life. One of my YouTube channels recently passed the 10 million view mark. I don't have any viral videos. I wasn't written up in a premier website. It wasn't luck. What I do do, is post a video everyday.

Many of my videos are terrible. Many are experiments. Many are too short. Many are too long. I've deleted countless failures and I've re-issued some with improvements. Not everything has to be gold.

This is the incredibly valuable lesson of music. A little effort every day and you can move mountains.

10,000 hours, we are told; it takes 10,000 hours to become expert in something. I don't know if that's true or not, but if you take on the "every day effort" mindset, in 27 years you will be glad you did.


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