Two days ago I received one of the most incredible pieces of advice on the concept of learning that I've ever received in my life, from any teacher on any subject.
"You have to find every element of what you are studying to be completely fascinating.....not just interesting, but really, really fascinating! You have to enter a whole different world. When you do this, it's as if your mind just opens up and you pour the information in, and it stays there forever, or at least for a really long time. It's not short term. Every time I sit down at the piano I try to enter this mode of thinking, this mindset, where I'm making this connection, and that connection, and this connection, and that, and this, and that, and this, and that...making as many connections between as many elements of the piece as I can think of."
My teacher here at the University of Michigan, Logan Skelton, is one of the most inspiring individuals I've ever met in the way he thinks about things. He has this crazy ability to organize things in such cogent and coherent ways. Whenever I used to have trouble in a passage, I used to think, "Okay, I just need to work on this. I need to practice it differently." Throughout my studies with him this year, I have learned the value of thinking about it differently, not just practicing it more, or practicing it differently. Almost all problems are mental, and that is where they should be fixed - in the mind. If something isn't working, don't just drill it over, and over, and over, and over. Go back to the drawing board and think "Could I organize this passage in my mind in a fundamentally different way? How am I thinking about it right now that is causing so many problems? Where is the flaw?" Many times, being a great diagnostician in your studies is the biggest battle. For most doctors, they see a set of symptoms, and they prescribe a type of drug or treatment to cure the patient. But in my mind, the greatest doctors are the ones who are great diagnosticians (okay, maybe I've watched a little too much House in the past!). When something doesn't work they don't keep trying the same treatment or slight variations of the same treatment. They go back to square one and take a whole new approach.
I think this is a valuable lesson that can permeate into all aspects of life, including school, work, and relationships. When something we are doing isn't working, when we are bored, when we are discouraged, when we are tired of doing what we are doing, we as humans have a tendency to blame others or our surroundings. However, others and our surroundings are usually not the problem, except in cases of abuse and other extreme circumstances. I'm not saying that things aren't going to be tough, but rather than getting angry and frustrated about something, discouraged, or beaten down, it's beneficial to step away from the problem completely and find a different approach. I served a mission for my church, and as the main leader of our mission always said, "Adjust in battle." Not only should we adjust in battle, but we should adjust to make every element of what we are going to change completely and utterly fascinating. There is so much beauty that surrounds us every day, even in a very corrupt and conflicted world. When we can dig in and find the inner beauty of every element of every activity we are doing, problems and setbacks dissolve in the enzymes of motivation, productivity, inspiration, revelation, and well-being.
Rachmaninoff Etudes Tableaux, Op.39....here I come!
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The musings of a (crazy) concert pianist
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