Thursday, July 3, 2014

Focus on the Basics

A morning of scales

Recently, someone related a story to me about his recent hotel stay.  He got up early to get ready for the day.  As he was dressing and drinking his coffee, he kept hearing scales being played on a cello from the room next door.  For an hour he heard nothing but scales:  up and down, up and down.  About the same time he opened the door and stepped out into the hallway, so did the scale-practicing cellist.  It was the famous cellist Yo Yo Ma.

When he asked Yo Yo Ma why he needed to practice scales for an hour, Yo Yo Ma replied, "You have to keep the basics mastered."

This is the same advice that I received when I was in 8th.  As a budding pianist, I was enlisted to accompany the congregation during church services.  An elderly lady, Ms. Foote, was my mentor, and frequently reminded to focus on the rhythm, especially the first beat of the measure to keep the song moving, regardless of extra or missed notes.  When accompanying others, keeping the song rhythmically on track will make it easy to get the notes right.

This is a football

This is similar to the classic football story about Vince Lombardi.  Faced with coaching a team with a terrible record of games lost, he gathered the team together, held up a football, and said, "Gentleman, this is a football."  He coached the team to victory by initiating an intensive training program that focused on the fundamentals of football.

A great place to start

The reason that the military places a premium on physical fitness is because military leaders know that physically fit soldiers will have a solid foundation of endurance that will prepare them for missions.

In the movie, The Karate Kid, the lead character desires to learn karate to defend himself.  Rather than teach innovative karate moves, the instructor has the lead character perform mundane tasks like polishing the car and painting fences.  When asked about this, the instructor shows that the physical skills learned by non-karate tasks provided a basic training for karate.

When you're in an unfamiliar or pressure situation, focusing on the basics can help you reorient and focus.  Frequently for me, when writing a post, I'll jot "5WH" on a notepad.  This acronym stands for who, what, when, where, why, and how - the very basics of writing.  On a larger scale, you can always remind yourself of your personal mission or goals when you feel overwhelmed.


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