Some people think that musicians can do what they do because they were born with talent. But, I’m afraid not. Yes, we might have some natural ability, but anyone who plays an instrument beautifully has mastered that skill by practicing thousands upon thousands of hours.
As a singer, I was known for my sight-reading abilities. Meaning, you can put any sheet of music in front of me, and I can sing the notes nearly entirely correctly the first time seeing them. I recently reconnected with my friend and excellent singer Suzie, and I reminded her of the time she took a blank sheet of music paper, wrote a string of unrelated notes on it, and put it in front of me as a test.
You see, I don’t have perfect pitch. I don’t automatically know what a music note sounds like by looking at it. However, I have been singing in choirs since kindergarten. More specifically, I have been singing the alto line in choirs for decades. The same patterns and intervals appear time and again in almost every piece. The only reason why I can sight-read an alto line in a choral piece is because I have essentially sung it all before. Music is a string of intervals, and I have sung them so many times that reading “new” music isn’t a learning process but more of a remembering process.
Now, unfortunately, as I discovered recently, the only thing like riding a bike is…well…riding a bike. Certainly not playing the piano.
Ever since I was in grade school I’ve had a dream to have a grand piano in my home. Just as much as playing an instrument or mastering singing is a work of art, the instruments themselves are works of fine art. I’ve always been struck by the beauty and majesty of grand pianos. And although I was never a great piano player, I have performed with incredible pianists who’ve played these stunning instruments my entire life.
Over a year ago now, we went to see our friends at their new home, and they told us that they had no place for their piano. The 7-foot Steinway grand piano that I had been drooling over and coveting for years, had no place in their new home. If you don’t know pianos, it’s the Bentley of pianos. And if cars aren’t your jam, a Steinway is the Rolex of watches, the Four Seasons Resort of hotels, you get my drift. I don’t know anyone else who owns a Steinway besides them. She told us we could buy it from her and to make her an offer. I called my friend Amy, a phenomenal pianist, and asked her to help me find this particular piano model’s value.
Turns out it’s worth significantly more than what we had budgeted for a piano. So, at the risk of completely offending our friend, the owner of this Bentley of pianos, and causing her never ever talk to us again, we offered her the dollar amount we had budgeted and held our breath. And to utter disbelief and excitement, she responded right way with two words:
I guess technically it’s three words, shortened. But then again, a contraction by definition is two words combined to make one.
When John called me to tell me her two-word response, I cried.
I couldn’t believe we were going to have a Steinway grand piano!
But we had NO room for it at our last house and the new house wasn’t going to done for months, so I found piano movers and moved my beautiful prize into storage, where it sat for 9 months.
Finally, the day before Thanksgiving came. Our new home was finally done! At last, my piano was to be delivered! And it’s gorgeous. It’s stunning. I have the perfect room for it. FINALLY the day for which I’d waited 40 years had come. The piano mover sat down and played it. Beautifully.
I cried more.
Later that evening I sat down to play it and to my horror, I couldn’t remember ANY of the songs I used to have memorized. I couldn’t locate any of my sheet music that I had. (I still had several boxes to unpack in my office…since none of the furniture was there yet.) As a side note, my playing this gorgeous instrument is truly an insult: to the Steinway family, to the people who built it, and all pianists out there who would kill to have a gorgeous masterpiece of an instrument like this one. I put shame on myself and my family of musicians while fumbling through a bunch of garbled wrong notes trying to remember ANYTHING I used to play.
A few days later I was looking for file folders in said 9 million unpacked boxes in said office, and I found TWO pieces of music that I can (could/used to be able to) play!
I sat down. Yikes. My fingers are just not firing right. I can’t find the notes on the keyboard.
Playing an instrument is nothing like riding a bike.
You will lose all of the skill if you don’t practice.
But, as I played the same song a couple times, it got easier. I started to remember where my fingers were supposed to go. I got faster at moving between notes and chords. I didn’t suck as bad the third time through as I did the first! There’s hope YET!
Then I thought…
What a parallel for everything in life.
We only master anything if we practice consistently.
We never stay at the same skill level if we stop practicing.
We go backwards.
And we don’t see it immediately.
Just like when we decide to lose weight or improve our health, we eat cleaner, we exercise more, and we don’t see any results right away. It takes 2 weeks to lose one pound and it’s maddening, right?
And, when you get to your goal weight or goal size, if you stop exercising and slack on your diet, you don’t see any difference right away. Until a month goes by and all of a sudden “out of nowhere” you’ve gained 5 pounds. How many times have I done that? A thousand!
Daily habits are the only way to get to the destination you want to reach. Any destination! Including attracting your dream partner.
Everything is a practice. And the only way to get better at something is to practice every day. Not once a month (or in my case with the piano, once every 5 years.)
Studies prove that having a goal and making progress towards that goal creates more happiness in everyday life. It’s the progress that creates the joy! And most people think that attracting a dream partner is esoteric. It’s fate. Or it’s chance. We don’t have any control over a goal like that. But my experience proves otherwise.
Once I realized that my interpretation of my past relationships and past experiences had created my limiting beliefs, such as:
I’ve got too much baggage to attract someone awesome
No one will want to marry me with 2 small children
Men are the worst.
I’m not destined to be in a marriage because I’m too “type-A”
and I’ve been alone too long.
Marriages all end in divorce so why even try?
And I realized that those beliefs were driving my habits, and those habits were attracting the same types of men over and over again, I knew that my beliefs had to change.
I asked myself, what do I need to do in order to change my beliefs and attract someone like I had never been with before? What action can I take to feel like I am a good person and I am worthy of a bad ass husband who loves me and only me?
Then I got practicing. Practice makes perfect, right? No.
The struggle I’ve had my entire life is chasing perfection. Striving for perfection leads to disappointment. Trying to be perfect will also lead to paralysis. So can skiing. I tore my knee skiing back in 2010, and I was so depressed that I couldn’t run and couldn’t do my normal workouts, I decided the best thing to do was eat a sleeve of thin mints and drink a bottle of wine. Like one of my favorite sayings, “You have a stain on the carpet, so you might as well burn the whole house down.”
I felt like shit about myself.
I eventually stopped throwing myself a pity party and started swimming at the gym. Which is not my favorite way to exercise, but I stopped ruminating about all of the things I COULDN’T do, and found something I could do. I got a cap and waterproof headphones so I could listen to music while I swam laps.
I didn’t love it, but I did feel better about myself. Doing anything is better than doing nothing. Taking one small action changes how you feel. Eventually after 4-5 months, my knee healed, and I could run and do yoga again.
I wasn’t until 2013 that I had had enough of attracting all the wrong men and feeling like I wasn’t worthy of having an amazing husband. I got sick and tired of living in the past, hating my reflection in the mirror, and believing that I suck.
Instead of chasing perfection, I started practicing the things I wanted to improve in my life.
Practice being more present with my kids.
Practice being more kind.
Practice loving myself the way I was…cellulite and all.
If you want someone to love you unconditionally, then you have to love yourself unconditionally.
I would always ask myself, “But HOW do I do that? I make mistakes, I get impatient with my kids, I need to lose weight, I’m in debt, and the inner bitch keeps going on and on and on, right?
Well, how about I make improvements in those areas where I feel I always “fall short”, and instead of replaying every mistake I’ve ever made, start a new video tape (yes, only old ladies say “video tape”!) with a NEW highlight reel. Yes, I did get impatient with my kids yesterday, but today when they starting fighting in the back seat, I didn’t murder them! That’s a win! Pin that moment in time to my new video tape. And practice shifting my focus from my failure log video tape and play the small successes video tape instead. It sounds trivial and insignificant, but it is neither, I promise.
I’ll never forget the time when my kids and I were on our way to do something fun, and when they started fighting in the back seat, I didn’t lose my shit. I didn’t say a word. I just turned the car around and pulled right back into our driveway. That was a huge win for me. I wanted to teach them that we don’t get to do fun things if they are going to be assholes in the back seat. Even when that meant ruining my OWN plans with them and memories I wanted to create with them that evening. So when my inner bitch would tell me that: I’m not patient, I’m not calm, I’m a terrible mom, and I’m screwing everything up. I would shift my focus to the small wins I had had, and then work on adding to it the next day. It’s a daily practice. Forever. And I only had to turn the car around and go back home 2 more times until my buttheads stopped fighting in the back seat. That’s 2 more wins and a Super Bowl CHAMPIONSHIP in my book!
Yes, I devoured thin mints and wine and felt sorry for myself for a bit there, but I also got to the gym and swam. Small shifts. Focusing on my swimming laps made me feel better about myself. And by swimming laps for 20 minutes, I got closer to my health goal. “Have the perfect body” isn’t attainable and it’s not quantifiable. What is a perfect body anyway? Plastic surgery and photoshopped to death? IDK. So, my quantifiable goal is to move my body 5 times a week. Doing whatever activity I want to do. At the end of each week when I have accomplished that goal, I feel even better about myself.
“Being a good mom” isn’t a quantifiable goal, so I had to get clear about what actions I would need to take to consider myself a good mom. Game night once a week, speak calmly, dinner at the table with no phones and listen, etc.
I talk all about how I divide my goals into these categories: Health, finances, family, and environment in my boss list blog post, and in even more detail in my book Becoming Mrs. Stanley.
Making quantifiable goals and taking action towards them every day changes how you feel. Loving yourself is a daily practice. One action a day that helps you improve, even if it’s just a fraction of a percent, adds up to many percents over time!
If I never practice the piano again, I will continue to get worse. But if I sat down and practiced ONE song for ten minutes a day, I could play it beautifully in a few short weeks.
Same with literally every single thing we want to improve upon.
Attracting your dream partner, growing self-love, and creating self-worth is just practice. And as much as I wish it weren’t true, you can’t learn how to play the piano in a week. But you can in a year! One baby stepping practice at a time.
I’d love to connect with you on social media! Come find me on Instagram or Facebook and let me know what you are practicing! I’d love to hear about your progress and cheer you on! Oh, and if you’d like to receive my newsletter, you can sign up below!
Wishing you lots of love!