I Don’t Play Piano.
Ok, I do play piano, but I’m way below average. However, I had a one-year-long period where I was only slightly below average. That’s what this post is about.
As a senior in college, I had finished all required classes for my major, so I decided to take on a minor in music. I thought, oh I can carry a tune, I like Rhianna. Why not make this my minor.
Music Is Not Easy
Music is not easy. And music theory is a language of torture. I cried many a time while building minor chords and identifying deceptive cadences.
I even took it a step further and chose my concentration as piano. The only thing is, I don’t play piano. Well, I do but I’m way below average. So…
My first day of piano lessons, my professor scared the living daylights out of me. She said, “You have one week to learn bass clef. I expect you to have it down when you come to class next whatever-day-it-was.” I almost passed out.
But I didn’t laugh it off. I practiced bass clef at the lunch table, between classes, while brushing my teeth, when I slept…. And when class came around the next week, I had it down. I was like, I’m the freaking best!
But she didn’t congratulate me. We got right down to business.
Over the coming weeks, my professor stood over my shoulder and taught me to really play piano. She seriously pushed me and expected me to rise to her standard. I practiced two hours a day, six times a week, and I saw some major progress.
She forced me to play recitals even when I could only play (LITERALLY) hot cross buns. But somehow the baby recitals made me feel like I could do it and be good at it.
So I kept practicing and performing and learning and habiting.
I remember in one lesson, she was standing over my shoulder while I murdered Kabalevsky’s Novelette. She stopped me mid-measure, demanded my attention and said, “What comes next?”
Since I was looking at her McGonagall lips, rather than my music, I had no idea what came next. So, rather than answering I just looked at her blankly.
“Exactly,” she said. “Your mind should be two to three measures ahead. Always look ahead while making what you’re playing now as beautiful as possible.”
At the time, all I thought was, How the heck can I make NOW good if I’m focused on LATER?
But of course, I started practicing looking ahead. At first, it was nearly impossible, because I was too focused on each note my fingers were playing. But eventually, I let go of my expectations and looked ahead a couple measures.
To my surprise, what was ahead became now much more quickly than I had anticipated. I found that looking ahead actually made my now sound better. I was more prepared for what came next because I already saw what was coming. My fingers were ready and they made it beautiful.
(And to be clear, my professor was the freaking best. I loved her, and she’s not really like McGonagall. But she was scary sometimes.)
A Work-Related Epiphany
So, today, I got out of my car and was walking into work. It was freezing outside and I wanted to get inside stat! When I got up to the door, I realized I didn’t have my keys out, so I fumbled around for a minute to find them, then I jangled them around for another minute to find the right key.
And it was weird, all of sudden I remembered what my piano professor said. Look ahead while making now beautiful. If I had been looking ahead, I would have already had my keys out. I wouldn’t have been freezing to death trying to unlock a door. Everything would have been better, had I taken my gaze off of my feet and onto my surroundings.
Then, of course, my next thought was: Blog post wooooo! But really.
Contentment is not Complacent
There’s a lot of live-in-the-moment media floating around. Heck, I write about it every day. Be content with your circumstances. Love yourself for who you are now. Stop trying to find yourself and practice contentment instead. I have posts about all these things.
BUT I realized this morning that contentment is not complacency. Contentment doesn’t mean you sit around never trying to change your circumstances. It doesn’t mean you are ok with everything going to shit while you just sit back sipping your juice and saying, “well that’s just how life goes, how lovely!”
We should be striving for what I’d like to call Active Contentment, which is about looking a few steps forward so you can make the best out of today. Make it as beautiful as possible.
Just like I practiced 12 hours a week and performed even when I was a super beginner, this is how we must be with life. Practice the life you want. Perform the life you want. Learn how to be better and look ahead. Make it a habit. This leads to contentment. It leads to a life that is beautiful now but also anticipates a better future.
If you need a little help building this active contentment habit, check out my free mini-course:
Life isn’t easy. And living completely in the moment doesn’t make it any easier. Instead, we should learn from the past, look to the future and make the most of today. That is active contentment
What do you do to find contentment? I’d love to hear from you.