In my previous blog article, I talked about my lifetime hobby: playing the piano (self-taught, so it’s all for fun). And I realised that, as much as it is a hobby, it did teach me a thing or two about life in general, specifically in terms of career.
So after you read this, go tell your Asian parents (if you have them) that it’s not so useless to have a hobby after all. 😉
Thus, here are the 5 career lessons which playing the piano has taught me.
1. You’re gonna suck at first
I know I shouldn’t be doing this, but I do try my hand at various classical music pieces, from easy to hard ones, mainly because I don’t want to get bored playing the same things (or the same ‘type/level’ of music) over and over again. You’ll often find me starting with Mozart’s Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (easy) and ending with some Bach pieces (medium/hard).
But it doesn’t mean I’m good at those harder pieces. In fact, I still struggle with them. And sometimes, it feels like forever until I can go through the first two staves (lines). But once I get there and I’m able to breeze through the notes, I feel great and I tell myself it wasn’t so hard after all.
It’s okay to suck at first; in fact, it’s totally normal. Sometimes, I look back at old music sheets and I think: wow, I used to suck at reading these notes and even had to write them down… and I even made mistakes in noting!
Eventually, you get better. Accept the fact that you will suck when you first start something. When you start a new job; when you lead for the first time; when you have new responsibilities. You’ll make mistakes. And it’s okay.
As long as you keep going.
2. Practice makes perfect
I recently finished (i.e. I can do a playthrough almost seamlessly) a 1 and a half page music sheet, derived from an anime soundtrack. It probably took me 3-4 weekends (I don’t have access to my piano during the week because it’s at my parents’ house) to get it all right: learning the notes, the flow, the speed, etc.
I knew it was a relatively easy piece, except for those quick jumps my left hand has to do, but I wouldn’t have made it without consistent, persistent practice.
Well, this is a classic. Practice. Practice. Practice. Keep working on your craft, whether it’s playing music, selling your company’s products, or coding. The more I write ads for my company, the easier it gets, and the more I can take on challenges in my job.
Practice gets you closer to perfect.
3. Don’t skip the difficult parts
I used to have this bad habit of skipping the hardest parts of a music piece. So I’d never learn a full piece. Well, it’s also my fault for trying to play pieces which are too hard for my current skills, but I often catch myself skipping parts even in relatively easy pieces. Just because I couldn’t be bothered to add those extra hours of practice for these sole hard parts.
Now, I’ve decided to (firstly) only choose short pieces (2 pages) which are at my level of musical expertise and (then) force myself to finish them all, even if I have to go through the hard parts endlessly.
Don’t shy away from responsibilities or tasks that seem too hard from the surface. Sometimes, it is true that there will be things which will be out of your professional league, but usually, the hardest parts of your work are simply just more challenging, and not impossible to achieve. You’d have to spend more energy and time to accomplish these tasks, and it’s okay.
So suck it up (especially if we’re talking about work that you love) and soon you’ll be rising. Remember, nothing is perfect, not even your dream job.
4. Play songs you enjoy (i.e. have fun)
When I bought a digital piano, I thought I’d be playing my favourite pop songs and such. But soon I found out I actually love classical music. And instrumental music, like anime OSTs and movie soundtracks. So that’s why I play Bach and background music from Your Lie in April.
I’ve wasted so much paper (sorry trees!) printing out sheets minutes after hearing a beautiful soundtrack, just because I wanted to try them out. Example: Debussy’s Clair de Lune is a favourite of mine, so I mastered the first page… just for fun. I know I’m not at the level when I can play the whole piece but that first page is already so satisfying!
Make it fun, at least sometimes. If you love your job, it probably means that the positives outweigh the negatives, so there’s a lot of stuff you find to be fun. Well, do them. Most importantly, don’t forget them. Make your work something you look forward to.
Life isn’t meant to be taken too seriously anyway.
5. It’s okay to go back to basics
I took a 3-year break from playing the piano when I went to Malaysia to study. And since I never had any teacher, well I pretty much forgot a lot of things. Although I could play River Flows in You just fine when I was 17, I had to re-learn the whole piece (which I didn’t because I wanted to play something else) at 22. I could still read a music sheet though, but I was a bit slow and it took me a few days to get back to my normal reading speed.
Knowing that I didn’t learn piano in a music school or conservatory, I’d forgiven myself and went back to reading my old books and notes about basic music theory to refresh my mind.
If you don’t practice your craft for a while, you will get rusty. But it doesn’t make you a failure.
Every time I read my old fiction stories, I’m amazed because I used to write fiction really well when I was younger… but that was mainly because I wrote every single day. Not being able to churn out a good fictional story today doesn’t make me a failure and if I want to get back to it I just have to start practising again (back to the second point, hey!).
Anyway, if you feel rusty, go back to basics. Having a good foundation is the key to efficient progress. And this applies to nearly everything in life.
That’s it for me! 🙂
What are the career (or life) lessons you could learn from your own hobby? Let me know in the comments below!
D. K. Waye