The Power of Preparation!
It doesn’t just “happen”. There is no fairy Godmother who visits you in the middle of the night with a bag of pixie dust. In any endeavor, preparation is directly linked to competence and confidence and ultimately to success and failure.
So what is ‘preparation’? I think, as with all things, it begins with having an honest conversation with yourself. What are your goals and what are you willing to invest in order to achieve them? I often told my students that nothing is gained without something being sacrificed. No, despite what they say, you can’t have it all. You have to make choices and you have to dedicate your time and resources to that which matters most. So the first step is to examine your goals. In the biz, we speak of these as “SMART” goals.
S = Specific – “I want to get better.” is not specific. “I want to play in Grade 1.” is specific.
M = Measureable – refer to example 1 above. “Grade 1” is measurable.
A = Achievable – Again, refer to example 1 above. Perhaps you started as an adult, which might put Grade 1 out-of-reach. Perhaps Grade 3 or Grade 4 might be more achievable.
R = Realistic – Example 1 again and this sort of ties in with “Achievable”. Does the goal fit your circumstances and present situation?
T = Time Sensitive – When will you achieve this goal? If your goal is to make it into Grade 4 solo, when will you do this? A SMART goal cannot be open-ended.
Once you establish your goal, you now have direction and purpose. No matter what we’re talking about “direction and purpose” are critical. You also have the ultimate goal in mind. This allows you to connect where you are to where you want to be. Sometimes it’s about working backwards from your goal, identifying critical dates and checkpoints.
So what do you need to do in order to achieve that goal? Everybody has their own ideas. For me, it’s always been about challenging conventional thinking and practices. Let me give you an example.
As a bagpipe teacher at a private boarding school, there were expectations that were out-of-line with conventional wisdom and practices. Students, parents, and the administration all shared the expectation that the boys would be marching and playing music within a very short period of time. By that I mean that the boys would be on parade by November 11 for the Veteran’s Day Parade in Milwaukee. A few weeks later there was the Christmas Parade. Then there was the Christmas Concert and all the other on-and-off-campus performance requirements. To complicate matters, the boys operated on a very strict schedule that did not allow personal practice time. Classroom time was their only time to learn and to practice.
We established the goal that all beginning pipers (those that started in September) would be on parade November 11. This meant that they would be blowing a proper bagpipe and playing four tunes up to tempo and in unison. We created a lesson plan that took specific steps to achieve that goal. Every day was carefully planned and executed to take us a step closer to that goal. Without going into the specifics of that plan, by November (Veteran’s Day) half of the beginners were on parade. Others made the standard in the following weeks and, of course, by Spring, all the beginning pipers were on parade and playing an expanded repertoire.
Left to their own devices, none of this would have been accomplished. I guess you could say that all this was imposed upon them. Every day, students were preparing to meet a specific standard. Every class had direction and purpose. In so doing, the boys built both competence and confidence. By the end of the school year, most had achieved a repertoire of a dozen tunes or more and were properly blowing a full bagpipe with two or three drones.
Sometimes progress is not apparent to us. Sometimes we lose our way along the path. With a SMART goal posted for quick and easy reference (keep the goal in sight at all times) and a personal dedication to achieve that goal, amazing results are possible.
So, now that we’ve gotten St. Patrick’s Day behind us, it’s time to think about the 2015 parade and performance season. We actually should have been thinking about this last year, however for the purposes of this blog, let’s think about it now. Are you prepared? Are all the tunes committed to memory and are you playing them properly. Are you and your instrument prepared to stand in front of your audience and perform up-to-standard?
In coming blogs we’ll be talking about more about the Power of Preparation and what you can do to increase your competence and confidence and achieve your piping ambitions.