“Continuous effort - not strength or intelligence - is the key to unlocking our potential.” Winston Churchill
Many people are already aware of the more 'scientific' benefits of piano lessons; studies of increased brain development and intelligence have been well-documented by various researchers.
However, there are other awesome benefits that come with taking piano lessons that are talked about less often--benefits that I feel are more important and beneficial than the scientific ones--mainly, the character that results from continued lessons. Improved brain development takes months; character building take years.
With that in mind, I'm starting with what I think is the most important character trait that results from years of piano lessons.
Rather than saying perseverance is a 'result' of piano lessons, it is more true to say that perseverance is a requirement to learning piano. In one of our interviews about piano lessons, Dr. Kolar affirms that to get good at anything requires hard work. There is no way to continue piano lessons and continually improve at piano without developing perseverance.
Based on Dr. Kolar's and my own experience, parents who say they just want their kids to "have fun" with piano lessons in the initial interview almost always spell trouble later on. The truth is, practicing piano is not an inherently fun activity. The students who "just want to have fun" usually ends up quitting within the first two months.
To me, "just having fun" is playing and making music at your current ability. To improve and reach beyond that? That's work, i.e., practice.
During my initial interview with one of my little Korean girl student, I asked her what she liked about playing the piano.
Here's what she told me(paraphrased since she didn't really know how to describe the feeling, and also because she got so excited that I couldn't really understand everything she said): "I love the feeling I get when I'm performing at a piano recital after I've practiced something so many times at home. It's like while I'm performing I look at my hands and I can't believe what I'm playing, like my fingers are playing all crazy."
She was seriously excited when she shared this with me; it was really cute.
Another story: last week I asked one of my students what his favorite piece was out of the four pieces he's playing for this year's Certificate of Merit exam. He named two pieces, which happened to be the two hardest pieces he's played this year. When I told him that, he said that's probably why he liked them so much. He had to work so hard to learn those pieces, and now that he can play them, it feels awesome.
I went on to explain that that's when the real fun in piano comes, after putting in hard work that culminates in the ability to play harder pieces than you perviously could.
This, my friends, is where the incredible, indescribable, real fun of playing the piano happens--after hours and hours of practice. And yes, that takes an incredible amount of perseverance.
Why Is it Important?
Yeah I'm not actually going to explain why perseverance is important; that should be obvious. However, I feel that perseverance and the willingness to work hard over a long period of time for a pay-off that is months down the line is diminishing in today's society. Kids' lives today are built on instant gratification (Apple), instant information (Google), and instant connection (Facebook). You can actually add "constant" to all three things above, a problem mentioned by Sherry Turkle, MIT professor and author of Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, on the Harvard Business Review IdeaCast.
This environment that we live in today makes it really difficult to cultivate, experience, and encourage perseverance, but that is exactly why we must and why it's becoming increasingly important.
Here's a quote from an interview Robert Greene did on The School of Greatness podcast with Lewis Howes; Greene is the author of the book Mastery, and other New York Times bestsellers. "Once a child at any age learns the pleasure that they get from developing skill at something, it's a lifelong lesson. So they learn that in the beginning, that first year of playing the piano is boring and didn't really like it. The second year starts getting kind of fun, start playing things that they like. The third year things really start to get good."
You can learn more about his book and what inspired him to write it in this article interview from Forbes magazine: Robert Greene: How to Become the Master of Any Skill.
Unlocking Our Potential
So what is the key(requirement) to unlocking our potential? Not strength or intelligence, but continuous effort. What is continuous effort? Perseverance. And what is one activity that trains and requires perseverance on a daily basis? Yeap, PIANO LESSONS!
Have Something to Add?
I'm always looking to learn and share more information with others. So if you've got something you'd like to add or share, leave a comment below!
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