BECOMING BETTER

Jean Croker Petke


Foundation check

Foundation check

I’m thinking impatience should be a virtue — then I would certainly be virtuous! Most of my friends would be virtuous as well. But, alas, that’s not how the world works.

Impatience can be a motivator, often, though not always. Sometimes it just causes us to take shortcuts.

I’ve been thinking lately about the importance of foundations. In buildings and homes the necessity of a solid, properly constructed foundation is critical. I’m no architect or engineer, but I know if the foundation cracks, shifts, or sinks, the effects are noticeable inside the house. Floors sag or tilt, walls and ceilings crack, doors stick or don’t shut, and a myriad of other problems. Men have crawled beneath my house and jacked it up, with the intention and hope of leveling my house. They improved the situation, though the house is not exactly level.

Can it be fixed without totally starting over? I’m not sure. Besides, that’s not really an option, in my case. This house will never be completely right.

Foundations are fairly easy to understand for buildings. But what about the other things we do, like sports, music, writing, cooking, needlework, or gardening? They too have need of good foundations.

I met a young, very accomplished pianist this week. I heard the recording he’d just completed, a requirement for a competition. As I listened, along with Dr. B, the pianist, and his mother, I thought, “Wow, I’d to play like that!”

We chatted a bit, about practice mostly. “He’s trying to do more slow practice” his mother said, “so he gets the notes in his fingers. Then when he speeds up, he’ll play correctly.” The pianist nodded.

“Absolutely,” I said. “I’ve just recently learned the value of slow practice from Dr. B. It makes all the difference. But sometimes I get impatient with slow practice.” The young pianist nodded his head. He’s a teen of few words.

Slow practice is about building a foundation: correct, solid, perfect. Then when other things get added, like speed or dynamics or musical nuances (or an orchestra if, like the young pianist, you’re playing a concerto), the notes are already in place.

The process is the same no matter what we’re trying to learn or what skill we’re trying to perfect. To hit a ball with a bat, I have to learn how to stand, how to hold the bat, how to swing, when to swing, etc., etc. Lots of practice is required before I can consistently hit the ball and make a meaningful contribution to the game.

Practice requires patience. Slow practice requires even more patience. And it’s slow practice that forms our foundation. To shorten the process, to rush to play music fast, to hurry to play in the game, to cook a gourmet meal before we’ve learned the basics, is to invite disaster. Disaster lurks nearby just waiting to strike. Occasionally we get lucky, but luck doesn’t last.

Slow down.

Do your work: practice slowly.

You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish.

 

Until next Tuesday . . .

 

 

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