We all know the power of momentum that is created by practicing DAILY. You probably know the ‘10,000 hour rule’, that to get to a high level at your craft you need to put in 10,000 hours of focused practice. But daily practice adding up to many hours doesn’t automatically mean you’ll get to mastery. Getting to mediocrity isn’t that hard, but then a plateau is hit. Why? Two other elements must be there: Accountability, and Discomfort.
‘Iron Sharpens Iron, and Man Sharpens Man’
Accountability is being held to a higher standard. Just this act of observation is powerful! This can be done in so many ways, by declaring your intention to the world, by having a teacher or mentor, or just by measuring your progress. I have an app on my phone that measures the days I practice, and I know I’m accountable to see at the end of the month what I’ve achieved. Sometimes when I practice I’ll record myself, and just KNOWING I’m being recorded is a form of accountability, even though I’m the only one that will ever hear it. It’s a little Jedi mind trick, but it works. Creating deadlines also works because you will be accountable even if just to yourself, and not just getting it done ‘whenever you feel like it’.
‘Embrace The Suck’
Humans are amazingly adaptable. Life itself adapts to extreme environments in ways science didn’t think was possible just a few years ago. When you’re uncomfortable you adapt! If you’ve ever noticed when you failed at something, after you come back to it you’re just a little better at it, even without trying. If you can’t think of an example, remember learning to ride a bike. Balancing on a few inches of rubber and gliding through the air is uncomfortable at first! Taking the training wheels off creates discomfort, failure, and forces you to ADAPT. When we practice, it’s easy to become too comfortable. Find little ways to keep yourself on edge. If you hear the little voice in your head saying ‘why do I have to do this?’, then you’re on the right track. Change the temperature of the room, play the song a different way, change your kit around (try open handed drumming!), record yourself, try extreme tempos, exaggerate the dynamics; use your imagination! Get used to living at your limits, going daily to the razor edge of your abilities. I find little ways throughout the day to keep myself in discomfort. I may park my car in a slightly farther away parking spot, or say hello to a stranger when I don’t feel like it. This eventually becomes habit, your new normal. Now you are always competing with your former self, becoming a little better each and every day, never stagnant.
Practice daily but add accountability and discomfort, and watch yourself soar to places you couldn’t have imagined before. Your ego will take a few hits when you’re not having any fun and it doesn’t feel good, but this is what it means to walk with giants.