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Friday, August 12, 2016

20 Tiny Changes #15: walk it off

Watching the Olympics always makes me think about how we as musicians handle pressure and disappointment. It can feel devastating when we miss a high note, have a memory slip, or tank an audition.

All of us have done it. Let's be honest: it's part of the deal when you're an artist. You WILL fall short occasionally. Sometimes it will be a private kind of struggle in the practice room, and sometimes it will be public and humiliating. It comes with the territory.

If you didn't see it live, I'm sure some of you saw some gruesome footage online after one of the first nights of men's gymnastics. French gymnast Samir Aït Saïd broke his left leg as he attempted a vault landing. He broke his tibia and fibula, and the snap of his bones was heard throughout the arena. To add insult upon injury, the medics dropped the stretcher as they were attempting to load him into the ambulance. This happened in front of millions of TV viewers, after years of training. His Olympic career, after all this work and sacrifice, was over for this year. 

It's probably safe to say that night sucked in proportions more epic than we can imagine.

I say this to put what we do into perspective. Of course we need comfort when things go wrong. Sometimes we feel disillusioned and need to wallow for a bit. Many times, though, I think we just need to get over ourselves and move on.

That might come as a surprise to many of my students, who know that I'm a softie at heart and will be your mommy-in-waiting when needed. But frankly, I think we're too easy on ourselves most of the time. 

Think like an athlete. Bruises happen. Mistakes happen. When you can, it's probably best to just walk it off. In coach lingo, that's what you do when something isn't broken or horribly injured. You don't boo-hoo on the sidelines. You WALK IT OFF. Then, true professionals watch the footage over and over again until they determine what went wrong and figure out how to fix it. They don't cry about it (well, maybe they do, but then they get right back to business). They don't waste any more time.

So, unless you've just snapped your leg in front of God and everybody on international TV, my advice from now on will be to WALK IT OFF. Suck it up. Get back into the practice room.

Learn from your mistakes: that's why they exist. Take the lesson, and get back to work!

For the record: Samir Aït Saïd broke his other leg in the same way on another occasion. He recovered, got back into training, and made it into the Olympics after breaking his leg the first time. Let that be an inspiration and lesson to us all.

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