What I’m most ashamed of:
Sitting in a cello lesson with a guest teacher, being completely unwilling to try any of his suggestions. “See!” I inwardly seethed, “that doesn’t work for me!” The lesson was a total waste, and I certainly didn’t make any friends that day. The contraction I feel in that memory is one of my greatest motivators toward freedom.
How many times have you witnessed a performer onstage unwilling to:
- feel joy
When musicians lack willingness, a great deal is lost.
On the other hand, with willingness comes a whole new world of opportunity.
How does the simple on/off switch of willingness determine so much of our success?
Willingness begins in the practice room
We make the greatest progress when we are willing to:
- make mistakes
- accept things as they are, not as how we think they should be
- try new ideas, new techniques
On a scale of 1-10, how willing are you to try new things and make mistakes?
You can be as hard on yourself as you like—impersonally. Fix the mistakes. Strive for excellence. If mistakes make you feel bad, work on non-attachment. You are not your mistakes (but neither can you be truly defined by your success!). Who you are on the deepest level is yours to discover through music, through meditation: Joy.
Accessing your highest potential not only as a musician but as a human being is of paramount importance to becoming a great performer. The further you get, the more you realize that Joy is at the center of who we truly are. Unmuffle the joy in your own performance. Your listeners will thank you.
Willingness builds resilience
This simple practice of willingness in the practice room brings resilience in performance. As you allow yourself the freedom of practice room imperfection, you build the power to recover from imperfections in performance, big or small. Conversely, the more you psychologically beat yourself up in the practice room, the more difficult it is to recover in performance. Striving for excellence should always be your goal, but straining to be perfect often leads to unnecessary stress that keeps a performance from being inspired, amazing, and deeply moving.
Willingness opens doors in ensemble
Willingness to adapt to the needs of others in ensemble empowers not only them, but yourself as well. To begin, how often have you said or heard:
This is how it’s always been done.
I don’t think that will work.
Why waste time trying that?
The next time a horrible idea comes up in ensemble, instead of instantly rejection, experiment with the slight possibility that it might just work. Engage the science of an impassive objective trial without judgment. It might still be a horrible idea, but don’t let it fail because of your own unwillingness. Give it your positive all. Even if it is a complete failure, look for new ideas that may arise. Opening the door to solutions lifts you out of the mire of problem consciousness.
Engaging willingness might mean change, and change can bring fear. But change also creates opportunity.
(Bonus: the more you are willing to try someone else’s ideas, the more willing they may be to try yours.)
Willingness builds trust…
and trust builds connection. When you work with things as they are, instead of how you wish they were, you learn that you have the power to overcome any obstacle.
Finally, when you become willing to share deeply through your music, your audience will know it. The trust you give them engenders their own willingness for what you truly desire: for them to hear and feel the heart of your music.