Jean Croker Petke

Getting Better

Getting Better

Last week I wrote about getting started.

If you don’t start, nothing happens. Duh.

While starting may be a difficult step, what comes next can be frustrating and exciting, and ultimately satisfying.

The rest of what Seth Godin says is: Once you are doing it, you have a chance to do it better.

So how’s your supply of determination and persistence and perseverance? And who’s your source of encouragement during your times of do-overs and miniscule progress and wrong turns?

I’m all about improving: my writing, my exercise, my reading, and my piano playing. Here’s this week’s progress report:

  • Writing: weekly discipline of blog writing is on target. Other writing, not so much.
  • Exercise: No progress. Must restart.
  • Reading: on target. Working my way through Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth. A great read.
  • Piano: back to the basics, changing my practice habits.

The question is: how do we get better, once we’re started?

Piano playing is my challenge this week. I started piano at age 8 — more than 60 years ago. I’ve had about 25 years of lessons. I should be a master by now, but I’m not. Accomplished, yes, but I’m still learning how to practice. Regular lessons hold me accountable.

Last week, a piece I know well fell apart at my lesson — again. It seems I’m incapable of playing it for Dr. B as well as I play it at home. In our discussion, Dr. B told me to practice one page a day, starting at a slow pace and gradually increasing the speed — to set the music in my fingers and in my brain. “Start slow, every day, then speed up.” He’s said this to me before and I thought I had done it. What I heard for the first time last week was “every day.” I had misunderstood the process. In the past I had started slow, increased the speed, then started the next day where I’d left off. That’s not what he meant.

So I’m changing my practice:  every day, start slow, increase the speed incrementally. The next day, start slow again, and continue to increase the speed. Third day, the same. Every day, the same.

We also discussed scales and arpeggios — the backbone of piano study. I told him my goal was to play my scales at a metronome speed of 100. “Don’t stop there,” he said. Then he proceeded to play a scale at 180. Amazing. I’ve always thought such speed was beyond my dexterity. Again, he said, “start slow every day, then gradually increase your speed.” He gave me a sheet to record my speeds and told me to bring it to my next lesson.

I’m doing exactly what he said. I’m starting slowly every day, on whatever I’m working on, and then gradually increasing the speed as I’m able. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. 

I had set my bar too low. Dr. B says more is possible and he showed me how to get there. My scales are now at 135.

I have the determination. He is my encourager.

We are always hurrying to get to the finish line before we’re ready, before we’ve done the slow, daily work that will become our solid success.

Get started. Then do the work.

Until next Tuesday . . .



4 Comments - Leave a Comment
  • Linda Dingus -

    You are right on target. Today my biggest goal is to keep going after I suffer through the first 3 or 4 steps. Every muscle is frozen and these first steps hurt so bad I want to stop, but I do not. I keep walking and suddenly the pain is less and bearable. My goal is to walk normally and get past the pain.

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