Saturday, January 10, 2009

Piano lessons, life lessons

Piano lessons were a fact of life for the Dale girls. We dutifully went to Mrs. Greenaway's house once a week, we practiced each and every day, and we endured recitals every June that were nerve-wracking but did provide a nice excuse for new dresses and shiny patent leather shoes.

Along the way, we learned some important life lessons:

Do not try to teach your own children.
Mom and dad were both concert pianists, but they were wise enough to see the benefits of sending us to someone else for lessons. That way they could just be ordinary parents for us - though of course, they often gave helpful little tips from the next room: "That should be an A-flat, dear!"

If you have a big project in front of you, tackle the hard parts first.
It's tempting to just keep doing whatever you're good at. But to move to the next level, you've got to conquer the hard parts. You can do it - just take it a step at a time, and work on those hard parts first. This applies to a wide variety of situations including learning calculus, driving a stick shift, and running for vice president.

Practice makes perfect.
Mom said that we used to fight over whose turn it was to practice, and that we set the kitchen timer to make sure nobody was going over their time limit. Hm. That's a nice way to look at it, but I'm pretty sure that I remember bumping the timer ahead so Monica would get stuck practicing an extra 10 minutes while I went outside to play.

Nobody is perfect.
Even if I did practice faithfully all week long, laboring over every note in The Bear Dance and counting out every rhythm, Mrs. Greenaway would inevitably find something I did wrong, something I could do better, and something I needed to go home and practice.

Looking back now, I do appreciate all the wonderful things Mrs. Greenaway taught me. But I kind of wish that, just once, she had said:

"You know, Lesley, I can tell that you work really hard to get everything just right. I see your little face drop when I offer constructive criticism. I know you are upset when you make a mistake. I want you to know that life is not about being perfect. It's about being flexible, and being generous, and being kind - even to yourself."

"Do the things you love. Do them as well as you can. And if you make a mistake, forgive yourself. Then move on."

If I had heard that when I was little, I may not have agonized over decisions and aimed for perfection and demanded more of myself than I did of anyone else.

But on the other hand, I may not have mastered every note of The Bear Dance. So it's kind of a trade-off I guess.


K2Comfort said...

Great second lesson: I believe it was Charles Schwabb who asked a consultant how much he would charge to help him (and his company) be more efficient. The consultant said, "I will tell you how to be more efficient and in one month, you send me a check for how much you think it was worth." One month later, the consultant received a check for a VERY hefty sum. What the consultant told him was, "Before you go home from work, write down the three most important things that need to be done the next day. The next day, start with the hardest task, do it until it is done, then go on to the next thing and repeat until you are done with all tasks." That's it! Schwabb instituted this simple training company-wide and we all know where he ended up. *Note: this story is coming from memory (I think I read it in Dale Carnegie's "How To Win Friends and Influence People"), so it could be off on some details - sorry, my memory's not that good.

Anyway, I will definitely follow your blog (I also love my-writersblock's blog - I'm glad you found that one).

And check out my fiancee and my blog when you have a chance: Ksquared Comfort

Lesley said...

Hi K2! You're right, that one little piano-lesson-life-lesson can really have amazing results. They should teach it to every child in school. Seriously.

Love your blog - and you are following some great ones. Try as well. It's another wry British look at life, like MyWritersBlock on Prozac.

The Logistician said...

Reading your blog instantly make me smile and cheered me up. I saw your inquiry on the Blogger Help Group - Coffee Shop concerning the title of your blog. I personally like it, because I remember Studebakers. I seriously doubt younger bloggers will appreciate all that comes with that image.

I too like blog hopping, although I call it blog surfing, using the Next Bar feature in the Nav Bar at the top of blogs.

I occasionally just visit other blogs simply out of curiosity. I am continually surprised at the creative manner in which people all over the globe express themselves, and their particular interests. Keep it up.


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