Sunday, December 09, 2007

If at first you don't succeed

When I set up this blog almost two years ago, I claimed the address for "gottagopractice," because I intended it to be some kind of on-line practice journal. But, violating one of the basic precepts of blogging, I entitled it If at first you don't succeed....

If at first you choose the wrong specialty, go back and choose another one.

If at first your patient doesn't get better, do another assessment and change the therapy.

If at first you choose the wrong career, step back, take stock, and change your career directions.

If at first you play the passage wrong, stop, figure it out, and play it again.

If at first the cat won't do what you want him to do, reassess what you can do to train him.

If at first your student doesn't get it, figure out how to break "it" down into small enough steps that she will succeed through the process.

The title captured one of my central philosophies, one which has also been a topic of discussion in the cello blogosphere this month, regarding a comment by Emily Wright: ...the only difference between those who succeed and those who don't is persistence. Though I'm not sure I ascribe to the "only" qualifier, I heartily concur that trying again is a major component of success.

But what I don't understand is why so many people are looking for "If at first you don't succeed" on the internet. Every day, three or more searchers land on my doorstep. What do suppose they are actually seeking?


Anonymous said...

we are looking for the rest of a quote...

Gottagopractice said...

Hope you found what you were looking for.

If not,
...try, try again.


Emily said...

The MAIN difference, the one I can most directly point to is persistence.

But it doesn't roll off of the tongue as well or pop into one's mind when considering abandoning a practice session!

Another thing I am considering is that persistence is not just quantitative, but rather qualitative: It's not that one sits down and simply repeats and reviews the issues at hand, but that there is a sort of forward-looking version of due diligence where you persist in setting the standard higher as you go.

Something I notice, especially in the realm of professional musicians, is that aside from the few truly astonishing players, it really is a battle of Last Man (or Woman) Standing. If talent was the great determiner, it would be a whole different scene.

Gottagopractice said...

I've noticed the same thing, Emily. What I've been wondering lately is where the strong drive to persist comes from. Is my persistence at risk because I can't articulate *why*?

Emily said...

I find that an inarticulable bond is usually the strongest! You'll have noticed that the conversation is inexhaustible: blogs, music school, seminars, magazines, lessons...and many of us are compelled by the same, deeply resonant impetus to continue.
Since playing the cello without going entirely insane requires the humility to accept the extreme difficulty of the task, it turns into a meditation, a devotion. So rarely do we ever do something purely for the joy of doing it. What we get out of it is sound, to be sure. Sometimes good, other times...well, you and I both know the other times. But more than anything, I feel like the quality of the time we spend working patiently with the cello is so much higher than a lot of the rest of our human experience. It's not an order from someone else. There's no clock to watch to gauge our worthiness at the task. No egomaniacal counterpart to sabotage our efforts. Sure, these things can bleed into ensemble situations and even private lessons, but the practice? That's just between the cello and the player. Though it is hard work, it has a way of being a respite from the less agreeable elements of our existence.