Sunday, August 9th, 2009
“The idea that excellence at performing a complex task requires a critical minimum level of practice surfaces again and again in studies of expertise. In fact, researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours.”
Greetings Magical Friends,
Abbi here, holding down the home front while Jeff is away in China, touring with the All-Stars. I frequently travel with Jeff when he goes on the road, but sometimes, I stay home. It’s been fairly quiet here in the House of Mystery with the magic man being away. Granted there are daily calls from prospective students, and plenty of office work to tend to, accounting to keep track of, ads to proof and approve from our graphic designer and website improvements to work on… but I also have time for myself, which is pretty magical in and of itself.
I’m planning to break in some new material for the upcoming Master Class in August. When I’m not polishing my new Sympathetic Silks routine, or rehearsing my version of the Zig Zag, I spend time practicing my instruments. Many of you know that I have a passion for making music, and some of you know that I sing, and play hand drums, the African harp, and the piano. If you’d like, you can check out some of my music here:
I’ve been playing some kind of instrument since I was four. I fondly remember my first piano teacher, Mr. Charles Rose. He was the one who taught me how to practice. He told me that I had to spend at least half an hour a day, every day, at the piano, and that some of that time should be on new material, and some should be spent drilling my scales and other exercises.
As a child, I would get so frustrated, so angry that I would pound my little fists on the piano keys, infuriated that my fingers couldn’t produce the sounds that my mind could imagine. I didn’t want to drill and play scales, I wanted to play, like a virtuoso, and I wanted it right at that moment. Malcolm Gladwell, in his recent book, Outliers: The Story of Success, reminded me that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery. Hmm. That’s a lot of half hour sessions.
I asked Mr. Rose, “How long do I have to practice for… not how many minutes, but until I’m how old do I have to practice?” He said “You have to practice… until you want to practice.” His words stuck with me through the years, and sure enough, these days, I want to practice, a lot. In many meditative and contemplative schools of thought, your “practice” is the time you spend meditating or contemplating… your time to connect to your source of inspiration, comfort or divinity. As an artist, when I practice my music (or my magic), I am connecting; I am in a state of focused concentration, and, additionally, I am improving as an artist, taking one more step along the path to mastery.
So, perhaps, as you practice, whether it’s music, magic or something else entirely, you can bring some of this mindful awareness to your path, and like Eugene says, make it regular and make it conscious.
May this day be filled with magical surprises for you all!