Category Archives: Performance

Genius and Hard Fun Work

8 - Genius

Here’s a deep thought for you: Are you interested in studying Experts and Masters or are you interested in becoming one?

Aristotle said that excellence is a habit. He was right. Deep practice is basically the best possible way to practice. It is the process to acquire a certain skill. It is deliberate and focused, and when one invests a considerable amount of time – say 10.000 hours or 10 years of silence – it leads to world-class skill.

No one is born as a genius. Geniality comes as an investment of time and energy on a subject of preference. This continuous persistence is deliberate and it is manifested even without consciousness of its presence. It’s like practicing without knowing it. It’s like joyfully whistle a tune while you’re at the shower not realising that this action will engrave the tune in your memory, ears and aural imagination.

A genius is born out of pure hard work, a kind of work that simply makes a person happy. There’s no such thing as born talent. If and when the object of practice is natural, constant and deliberate it will be revealed in any kind of practical form.

Think of a child joyfully playing. Now imagine that the same child is not actually playing – aka: having fun – with toys, but with instruments, musical instruments. This child is deep practicing playing music. This child is actually firing brain circuits into the skill acquiring process through a joyful activity that he or she doesn’t even consider as “hard work”. It’s just fun and play and it’s something that makes him or her happy.

Genius happens disregarding who you are and only considers what you do.

The inner response to a certain skill acquiring process is fundamental to sparkle deep practicing. Will power, time, energy and persistence combined with an “Apprenticeship System” can be the perfect combination to grow talent.

When an apprentice works directly under one Master’s tutelage and supervision he gains an advantage: The opportunity to learn through action. Not through lecture or theory, but through action.

Cooperation and competitiveness, then, become fundamental to sparkle creativity and imagination of the disciple. The disciple grows into becoming the new Master, which promotes a chain of mentoring able to sustain and expand the artistry at hand.

So, the manifestation of interest in studying Experts and Masters is, actually, the first step at becoming one. Learn from the masters and soon his light will propel your own.

For more on the subject check “The Talent Code”, by Daniel Coyle


How To Speed Up the Learning Process


A targeted effort can increase learning velocity.

Yes, is that simple! Here is how it works:

Myelin is a microscopic neural substance that adds a vast amount of speed and accuracy to your movements and thoughts. It is activated, keeps growing and is optimized by deep practicing a certain activity.

Myelin increases the brains signal strength, speed and accuracy. This way, the more we fire a particular brain circuit the stronger, faster and more fluent our movements and thoughts become.

Energy and time are essential to build a lot of myelin. Therefore, passion and persistence are key ingredients of talent. To be great you’ve got to work hard on a subject you love. If you don’t love it, you’ll never work hard to be great.

Remember your coach or teacher lectures about muscle memory? If you train a sluggish unreliable movement that’s exactly what your muscle memory will register in your brain to do in upcoming performances. On the other hand, if you practice a slow and synchronized movement you will be strengthening a perfectionist movement.

This all sounds terribly complex and demanding as a skill acquiring process. But the good news is that the more we develop a skill circuit, the less we’re aware that we are using it. A talented skill becomes natural when our conscientious knowledge of the skill develops into an unconscious knowledge. This process is called automaticity.

“Learn the changes then forget them” – Charlie Parker.

So here’s the paradox: In order to speed the learning process one must make mistakes and pay attention to those mistakes. One must slow down and teach the brain circuit. Then you must keep firing that circuit through deep practicing.

So, in order to speed up the learning process one must engage in an attentive, hungry and focused state of mind that allow us to deep practice repeatedly a subject that we love.

Do remind that the longer you perform an activity the harder it gets to break that habit. Worth to say that building good habits evolves into talent, while building bad habits can only be undone by repeating new behaviours to create new and better habits.

Skill is a muscle. Try harder but in the right way. Practice deep and earn more skill.

For more on the subject check “The Talent Code”, by Daniel Coyle

The Practice Process

00 - Practice

1 – Listen to a song you like a few times.

2 – Start playing it.

3 – Focus on the score.

4 – Play and Sing the 1st phrase.

5 – Star over from the beginning.

6 – Add the next note and/or phrase.

7 – Replay it in your mind.

8 – Start again.

9 – At each try, add spirit, rhythm and swing.

10 – Work on your phrases.

11 – Identify and fix errors.

12 – Fit small parts into the whole.

13 – Embrace a highly targeted error focused process.

14 – Making progress is a case of small failures.

15 – Break the move to its component parts.

16 – All of a sudden, the pieces snap into place.

17 – Operate at the edge of your ability.

18 – Screwing up makes you better.

19 – The mistakes will make you smarter.

20 – The learning process of “Deep Practice” has to expose you to an experience that makes you slow down, make errors and correct them.

21 – Obstacles are desirable in the long haul of your learning process.

22 – Study less and Practice more. Thinking about the sunset doesn’t allow you to actually SEE the sunset.

23 – The memory is not a tape recorder; it’s a living structure.

24 – The more we generate impulses, encountering and overcoming difficulties, the more scaffolding we build, and so, the faster we learn.

25 – Use time more efficiently: Small efforts produce big lasting results.

26 – Capture failure and turn it into skill.

27 – The trick is to choose goals beyond your present abilities.

28 – Stop thinking, start practicing.

29 – Keep practicing.

30 – Rest, focus and start the process again.

Disclaimer: Key Questions to Explore

000 - 80:20

If 80% of our results come from 20% of our actions (“Pareto’s Law”) and if self-improvements occur gradually and cumulatively (“Theory Of Marginal Gains”) we should start focusing on that juicy 20% to working on that.

Let’s focus specifically on what is important. This is not about stories, details and all kinds of diverse and disperse information that prevents us from understanding the fundamental message. This is not about long articles or books with tones of secondary information. This is not about appealing and promising titles that leads nowhere.

This abstract is about connecting the dots, summarizing the big 20% of the inspirational work of Masters, Genius and Leaders, in order to grow, excel and achieve mastery in any possible way. This is an honest and straightforward approach to immediate practice and results.

Understand the process and learn how things actually work. Let’s DO IT.

  1. How can average people do extraordinary things?
  2. How to accelerate learning speed?
  3. What is our musical purpose, our big why?
  4. How to maximize performance?
  5. How to become a musical Olympic athlete?
  6. How to build our mental strength up so we can focus?
  7. The mental routines of elite athletes.
  8. The balance between excellence and its inherent stress inductor.
  9. The effectiveness of meditative practices on learning, composing and performing process.
  10. Concentration, Motivation and Inspiration.
  11. The inversion of the (un)logical sequence “hard work leads to success which leads to happiness”.
  12. What is success and why do some people are able to achieve what others don’t?
  13. How to shape our behaviour in order to be joyful, healthier and more successful?
  14. How does our intrinsic goals affect the outcomes of our actions?
  15. Which are the best meditation techniques to be applied in the musical process?

Any comments, suggestions and requests are more than welcome.

Role Models: Who Are Your Masters?

3 - Mr. Miyagi

I grew up inspired by stories about Masters, people who excel themselves and lead by example. Not because they want to but because their community and their peers follow their beliefs.

Mr Myagi’s fictional persona on the motion picture “Karate Kid” or Nick Nolte’s character on “Peaceful Warrior” was my favourite. These Masters know their reasons by heart and they live it. Likewise, a Master musician doesn’t practice the instrument alone. He practices everything.

We all feel inspired with great accomplishments. Michael Jordan’s relentless strive to be the best of the game is only compared (in my humble opinion) by a little guy called John Stockton. He was never the best player of the game. He wasn’t the best in his own team, the Utah Jazz. And in his own words, he wasn’t even the best at home, since his older brother beat young John all the time.

Still, Mr Stockton became the greatest in the game. His name represents excellency, professionalism and mastery. He’s the epitome of what a Point Guard should be and he holds the record for most assists and steals in the history of the NBA. He knew himself and that lead him to Mastery through maximized performance. Now you know why I’ve started “listening” to Jazz.

We all look for Masters. There’s something special in them that goes far beyond our understanding. It’s something we can’t grasp, something we don’t understand but that make us drawn to them…

Like Michael Jordan, we’re fortunate to live in a world inspired by so many. Muhammad Ali, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, The Dalai Lama, Osho, Pelé, Steve Jobs, Stephen Hawkins, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Pat Metheny, Django Reinhardt, Errol Flynn, John Monash and of course, Portuguese soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo, amongst many others.

In my life I’ve already come a crossed with some fascinating human beings, real masters in “what” they do and “how” they do it. And you can learn a lot with them… not everything. A lot. In the end, you have to follow yourself.

Like Herman Hesse´s “Siddhartha” one must follow his own path. It’s my belief that if you can’t find a Master you should become one.

One can only see real inward mastery through the acknowledgement of his personal “why”. Once you know “why” you should, then, start working on “how”.

After this inner search it really doesn’t matter “what” one do: performing, composing, teaching or just to relish a song. What does matter is the fact that mastery is achievable. We are not going to find it. We are going to cherish it.