The Distractions of Life and the Music Student


in Learning Music

In Effortless Mastery, Kenny Werner describes his story of growing up in Manhattan and his school, television, lack of attention, and playing piano. He describes the dysfunctional life and learning that took place.


This got me to thinking about some of my experiences when I was learning and practicing music.

There are many distractions, obligations, and necessities of life that interfered with learning and playing a musical instrument. With so many factors vying for your attention it's often a wonder that we accomplish anything at all.

One of the concepts that influences your success is that of your own interest in the subject. It takes interest to pay attention and be in the moment. However, it also takes interest with determination to actually make progress.

An Example

Take a simple everyday example. You have a full time job and spend 8 or 9 hours working on various tasks and project during the day. So that leaves some time before you head to work in the morning and then some evening time after you return home to accomplish a hobby or participate in a passion such as playing music.

If your day is filled like mine you can become quite exhausted by the end of the day. The last thing you really want to do is sit down and study. So the TV becomes an instant outlet to relax and allow yourself to be entertained. We allow this entertainment medium to distract us from our pursuits and bring us out of the moment.

This brings us back to the distraction part

The problem is not in the taking of time to relax, regroup, and give yourself a break. It's that we allow it to continue until we're ready to sleep. Thus we get no practice time in or skip the study we know we should do. We rationalize that we can get to it tomorrow and so forth.

Today these are just observations, no lecture on what to do about it from me. I'm just as guilty as everyone else. And when I think about it, I envy those that have the discipline to continue on with their day and accomplish all they can.

I'll take a moment from time to time and wonder why I'm not accomplishing some objectives or goals. Then I will also realize that I've got twice as many things on my plate than I can handle. I reach burnout more often than I wish to admit and simple zone out.

The Planning Process Shortcomings

I'm also reaching a conclusion that my planning process is only focused on that absolute must do items in my immediate life. That's not a bad thing. It just doesn't pick up the “want to do” things, thus allowing them to slip by.

In the learn a song report I spent a lot of time discussing mindset. When I decided to learn to truly learn how to play the piano, my interest and determination over took all those other distractions and became a significant effort in my life.

Did I still watch TV do those other things? Yes, but I directed effort to practicing prior to allowing myself to relax and be entertained. I choose to practice and then allowed myself the reward of watching only one or two programs that I perceived as worthy of my entertainment time.

These days I have several life worthy projects that take up much of my time. I travel a great deal with my current job which does take it's toll on my available personal time. Creating and maintaining this site has also taken away from that music time I so dearly love.

Life moves on and priorities change. Finding balance is not easy, I'm working a change in planning strategies to allow me more music time and better utilization of my day. We'll see how it goes and report in the future. A book I have read in the past which has help me get better at organization and planning is Getting Things Done.


I've decided to give it a new read to improve that skill set again.

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