An idea stolen from the Internet
September 22, 2015
Like many people, a typical morning for me involves coffee and a browse of the day's interesting things on the Internet. Reddit is a great place to grab the highlights quickly, and it was there that I ran across an offering that's stayed with me ever since. Posted in the /r/Showerthoughts subreddit was this: "Your future self is watching you right now through memories." I look back at past me quite often, and usually cringe. I understand that making mistakes was a huge part of learning, but boy, it's painful to relive those memories sometimes. Much of what I'm doing as a professor is trying to convince others to skip the mistake part of their lives and head right for the success part. Here is a VERY small sampling of the mistakes I don't want others to repeat:
1) DON'T TRUST TALENT. Talent means squat past a certain level. Talent might get you into the top band in high school. It might get you into college. It might take you to grad school, even. But at a certain point, talent will NOT be enough, and you won't know how to practice effectively. Assume right now that you are not talented enough to achieve your dreams. Because you're not. This doesn't mean you won't achieve them! This just gets you WORKING toward them sooner.
2) TREAT TIME AS A RESOURCE: ARE YOU INVESTING OR SPENDING? It's OK to do both. But you always want to profit. Spending a lot of time playing video games is fun in the short term, but in the long term, this gives you no appreciable skills. Maybe someday being a raid-ready healer will be a real job description, but probably not. Make sure your time portfolio is in order. You do need downtime, just like you need to spend frivolously sometimes, but you should really have a positive balance to do that! Unlike the monetary world, everyone gets the same 24-hour allowance every day. If someone's doing better than you, maybe they've figured out a better investment strategy.
3) DON'T IGNORE HEALTH. I'm not saying you have to be a bodybuilder, but the healthier you are, the better you function in everything. Drink more water. Go outside and take a walk. And for Pete's sake, GET ENOUGH SLEEP. This is where we fail most in college, the sleep. It's so easy to stay up late talking, drinking, whatever. Make sure you're taking care of you. The more you sleep, the more you learn/retain. This doesn't mean sleep through your 8 AM classes. This means GO TO BED AT A REASONABLE HOUR.
4) GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK, BUT ONLY IF YOU'VE EARNED IT. It's easy to justify not wanting to work hard. I've heard them all, because I've thought them all. If you're trying your hardest, and you have a bad playing day, then that's OK. It happens. But if you put in a token half hour of practice a day, and then you have a bad lesson... that's on YOU. There's not some magical quality about your professor's office that makes playing impossible. They manage to practice in there, after all.
5) REALIZE THAT COLLEGE LIFE IS TEMPORARY. The true test of your work ethic is not having a weekly lesson. Are you still getting better? Do you even know? Suddenly, you become your own teacher. The recording device becomes your audience. You'll wish you'd paid more attention in lessons, played more in studio class, etc. So take that to heart now while you still have those resources. Guess what - you're your own teacher already. You spend 50 minutes a week with your professor, and the other 10,030 with yourself!
I have definitely trusted talent, wasted a lot of time, ignored my health, justified cutting myself too many breaks, and not planned for my release from college. Those have been some of the biggest hurdles I've had to jump, and I put them all in my own way! Hindsight is amazing. Try to take advantage of others' hindsight!