To celebrate twenty years since my undergrad music studies, I thought it would be interesting to look back and recognize what I'm doing now that I wished I’d started back in my early twenties.
One of the advantages of being older is having more experiences to reflect on. I know, it’s tempting to look back and say: If only I'd done that then…but for me, reflecting on my past, at least once in a while, is very helpful in evaluating what brought me to my current position and what I could improve to make a positive change in my future.
One more thing to keep in mind is that I’m in a completely different place in life now and much has changed worldwide since the early 2000. The following suggestions are very much based on my current belief that classical musicians in the 21st century must first think of themselves as entrepreneurs. Because of this, I am working hard these days to shift my own mindset and learn new skills. The following suggestions are part of that journey.
A few months ago I was looking for a way to practice my writing skills and I reasoned that journaling would be a good place to start as you always have something to write about.
Unexpectedly, I found it far more beneficial than I ever thought it would be. Today, about 90 days later I already experience the following benefits:
Fostering Creativity. As someone who tends to overthink almost everything, I found that writing in the mornings is a helpful tool. Spending only 10 minutes each morning journaling, helps me to process my thoughts and emotions. The uncluttering of my mind lets my creativity flow and I have more energy throughout the day to accomplish my goals.
Building positive habits. For years I’ve believed that I couldn’t write well. Lately, as a result of reading books about habit creation and how to approach the writing process, I decided to try to overcome that fear. Starting with a tiny daily action taught me how to pace myself and create the habit on which I could build a new skill. Furthermore, I learned to determine what I could do every day without fail instead of trying to live up to some ideal I had in my head. As a result, I am much more confident that by applying this method to other areas of my life, I could overcome most things that are holding me back.
Developing writing skills. Whenever I write, my tendency is to try and fix what I've just typed before even finishing my first sentence. Journaling daily has allowed me to practice free flow writing and has become an effective way to reduce my self-censoring. The use of free flow writing helps me to finish my first draft quickly. This allows me to start picking out parts that are valuable, giving me something to work with.
Commonplace Digital Book
The concept of a commonplace book originates from the centuries-old notion of capturing our knowledge and lessons in one place. With today's abundance of Notes and Databases apps, it’s easier than ever to curate digitally all the links, notes, book highlights, videos, podcasts, recordings and anything else that resonates with us in one place. I regret not having started curating my ideas and interests earlier, but with today's technology, I find it much more intuitive.
Some of the benefits I’ve experienced are:
Having all that information in one place helps me when I research for my blog. Furthermore, I use it as a reference for flute repertoire, practicing methods, albums and when I practice or teach the flute.
According to David Allan’s book - Getting Things Done, our brain is for generating ideas, and not for storing them. Having a system for capturing and sorting my information assures me that nothing will be lost and that I won’t forget any tasks. Having a clear and easy to use system, relieves the stress that comes from trying to keep track of everything, and I experience much more mental energy for creativity.
“The minute you learn something, turn around and teach it to others. Share your reading list. Point to helpful reference materials. Create some tutorials and post them online. Use pictures, words, and video. Take people step-by-step through part of your process. As blogger Kathy Sierra says, “make people better at something they want to be better at.” Austin Kleon
Show Your work
For those of you like me, not naturally comfortable with social media and procrastinating because of the fear it wouldn't be good enough, please get your copy today of Austin Kleon’s Book - Show Your Work!
I used to have a voice in my head telling me that being a perfectionist is a virtue as it pushes me for excellence.
These days, I see how much it prevented me from learning and developing myself further, and added unnecessary anxiety to my life. Life's greatest lessons come from our struggles and failures. By trying to avoid them at all costs, we prevent ourselves from growing and becoming more than who we are today.
So start letting people into your process because:
Teaching others will improve your own artistic skills. “The minute you learn something, turn around and teach it to others. Share your reading list. Point to helpful reference materials. Create some tutorials and post them online. Use pictures, words, and video. Take people step-by-step through part of your process. As blogger Kathy Sierra says, “make people better at something they want to be better at.” - Austin Kleon
You'll start to develop your unique voice. Only by trying again and again can we figure out what resonates both with us and our audience.
To take part in the game we first must show up. What do you think of someone when you google them and nothing comes up? Does it matter to you if they have a website? And if they don’t? We are more and more judged by what we’re doing today rather than what we achieved yesterday. From social media, to having your own domain, choose an outlet and start showing up.
Create your fan base. Over time, by giving value to others for free, you’ll create your own fan base that will support you back when you need it the most.
I strongly believe that having these tools and knowledge in my early twenties would have made a huge positive impact on my life today.
With the speed at which all industries change, along with technology and society, having the tools to keep up with that would mean how successful we would be in every area of our lives.
Links for further learning