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7 Success Tips Musicians Can Teach Us

7 Success Tips Musicians Can Teach Us

Look carefully, and you’ll notice that many of the most successful people in all walks of life — including Woody Allen, Alan Greenspan, and Condoleezza Rice — are musicians or former musicians.

Why are there so many musicians present at the top of so many industries? Is it just a coincidence?

As a musician myself, here’s what I think:

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1. Musicians aren’t afraid to suck.

Success has been linked with a high tolerance for stepping out of one’s comfort zone and being unafraid to make mistakes while taking a big learning curve. There are few things quite as painful as listening to a beginning musician. However, both musicians and entrepreneurs know that they don’t remain beginners forever.

2. Musicians stick with their instrument long enough to get good at it.

Success has also been linked with hanging in there and seeing a venture through thick and thin to its completion. Mastering a musical instrument doesn’t happen overnight. Depending on the instrument, it can take up to a year just to get a good, consistent sound, and another five to ten to build speed, master basic scales and arpeggios, learn to count, and either read music or play by ear accurately.

Interesting how similar this time table is to the growth of a startup, isn’t it?

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3. Musicians are disciplined and able to take the long view.

Successful people do what they have to do, even when they don’t particularly like what they’re doing at the moment. Learning a musical instrument requires regular practice time with etude books, the metronome, and scales – even on the days they’d rather have a tooth pulled without anesthesia than pick up that damned horn – because they know that in the long run, all of that hard work will pay off.

4. Musicians have a keen sense of when to speak up … and when to shut up.

One of the hallmarks of the most successful people is their sense of timing: knowing when it’s time to press an issue and when it’s time to back off, or knowing when to risk a business expansion and when it’s time to contract or fold. Musicians know that if they start playing too soon, too late, too loudly, or too softly, they run the risk of either losing their own place in the music, playing an accidental solo (!) or, at worst, throwing the whole ensemble off.

5. Musicians learn to let go of past mistakes and keep on playing.

Successful people make mistakes, but they use these mistakes as opportunities to learn, and then they move on. They don’t dwell on their mistakes. If a musician makes a mistake in a live performance, they can’t stop and redo it; the music must go on, no matter what. This means letting go in the moment, and then reviewing what happened afterwards so that the same thing doesn’t happen again.

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6. Musicians know how to focus both on their own part and on the sound of the whole group.

The most successful are able to focus on the task at hand and keep the big picture in view at the same time. Good ensemble musicians don’t just get swallowed up in their own part; they simultaneously listen to themselves and the other players, monitor the flow of the music, watch the director or the other band members, and sense the engagement of the audience.

7. Musicians know that they are much more powerful as part of a team than alone.

The most successful people in the world didn’t build their empires by themselves. There is no single person alive who can create a product, market it, and manage the money equally well. A single singer with a guitar is fine, but adding a bass, drums, and perhaps a horn or a keyboard has the potential to turn “nice” into “magical” or even “earth-moving.” There is no single player on the planet who can play all of those instruments at once.

A Final Word:

Whether musicians actually make a living playing their music or not, they have all learned some powerful life lessons in the process of learning to play, both by themselves and with others. I suspect this is why we see so many musicians among the most successful people in so many industries.

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And now…time to go practice.

Featured photo credit: Practice / Nosha via flickr.com

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

When you train your brain, you will:

  • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
  • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
  • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

1. Work your memory

Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

For example, say you just met someone new:

“Hi, my name is George”

Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

Got it? Good.

2. Do something different repeatedly

By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

But how does this apply to your life right now?

Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

3. Learn something new

It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

4. Follow a brain training program

The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

5. Work your body

You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

6. Spend time with your loved ones

If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

7. Avoid crossword puzzles

Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

The bottom line

Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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