I teach middle school kids how to play music. It’s a process, believe me. I start with showing them how to read notes, then we move to simple rhythms, holding the instrument, and finally, making sounds. The sounds aren’t very musical at first, but they are excited and happy so we trudge along until it develops into something a little more tolerable.
At some point, they start to feel comfortable with how they are playing. They can play a few songs, they can make some good sounds, and then they get… well… they get lazy. My job then, is to figure out how to push them further. How to get young teenagers to leave their comfort zone and push themselves to the next level. The best way to do this, I have discovered, is to find a piece of music that will be challenging for them to learn. A piece they could not possible play unless they worked on it. A song that will bring them all to the next level.
But it’s got to be a song that gets them excited. Something that is fun and interesting, but visibly “hard”. Something that will make them want to practice to get it right.
And the great thing is, they will do it.
Every time I pass out a new piece of music and I have a kid say, “that looks HARD”. I immediately say “No. It’s not hard, it’s just new. You just need to learn it.” And I say, “You’re first note was HARD until you learned how to play it. Now it’s a breeze. It’s the same thing”. Then they tilt their head to the side, squint their face and think about what I said, and say simply, “Ok”.
And then they do it.
This relates to where I am in my own life on so many levels. The comfort zone. The place where everything gets comfortable and routine and easy. Life becomes automatic.
But I don’t want my life to be automatic. I want it to be better. I want to step outside my comfort zone and find whatever excites me and makes me want to improve myself, my marriage, my family, my life. I see no point in twiddling my thumbs anymore, waiting for whatever is going to happen to happen. I want to make it happen. It’s not “easy” to do it, but I don’t necessarily think it is “hard” either. I think it’s new. I think I just need to figure out how to do it, then do it over and over again until I get it right. Just like music. Practice doesn’t make it perfect, it makes it better.
Right now this is how I’m relating to my race training. My challenge, when I was just starting the Couch to 5k training program, was to jog 60 seconds at a time without dying. And believe me, that was a challenge. But I kept on practicing, I kept on pushing myself out of my comfort zone and into the next level. And you know what? It worked. My training for this week, just four weeks before my 10k, is run a 2 mile day, and two 3 mile days. I did one of the three milers on Monday, running for over 30 minutes at once. That’s huge for me if I stop and think about it. From barely being able to do ONE minute, to now doing more than THIRTY. It makes me believe that I can do a lot of things I can’t do right now. My body, and my life, seem to be just waiting for me to reach further. I just have to do it.
Practice doesn’t make perfect. It makes better.