I’ve been playing the cello for almost twelve years. I’ve had a few longer breaks from tuition and practice, and they amount to about two years. Other than that, I’ve been taking lessons and practised (sort of) daily ever since.
Learning to play the cello has come with highs and lows. My highest high to date was making it happen: Getting the cello and starting lessons had me on cloud 7 for quite a while. My second high was when I first joined an orchestra in Zurich. An adult learner, I had never thought that within my reach.
My lowest low was losing my confidence during a performance and playing poorly. That was after a few tense weeks of orchestra rehearsals. There’s nothing worse than practising as much as you can and then missing out on the high of the performance. Ouch.
Learning to play the cello is not unlike learning to lead.
In fact, there are five things leaders can learn from mastering the art of playing the cello.
1) Learning to play the cello is a life-long process. You’re never finished growing when you’re seeking to master the art of playing.
2) You cannot read a book on how to play the cello and then consider yourself a masterful player. You have to practise! Books can explain the scales or technique to you, but playing is something you can only learn by doing.
3) Talent helps. If you have poor pitch hearing, playing in tune is going to be hard to learn. The same goes for rhythm.
4) Practice trumps talent. Every time. Being gifted is not enough. The true secret behind any mastery is this: Practise, practise, practise. Do something 1000 times, and you’ll become proficient.
5) Self-teaching with books and Youtube videos only gets you so far. An experienced teacher, or coach, can take you further faster. She points out blind spots you cannot see. She gives you encouragement and supports you to grow.
Learning to master playing the cello is similar to honing the art of leadership. The most important similarity is the one captured in the musician’s joke above.
Practise trumps talent.
Like everyone can learn to play the cello, everyone can learn to be a masterful leader.
For everyone is born a leader. Yet, to become masterful, you need to practise.