Stop Trying So Hard: A lesson from Chopin

Frédéric Chopin was one of the greatest composers of all time, yet he had a serious case of stage fright; so much so that in his entire life he only gave 30 performances.

In the absence of performing, however, he kept composing some of the greatest works in classical music. But he also devoted himself to teaching piano.

His teaching methods were unusual, to say the least, especially in the sometimes rigid and disciplined world of classical piano. He would ask his students how much they practiced a day and if they said, for example, 2 hours, he would tell them to cut that in half.

Chopin’s logic was that yes, practice was obviously a very important component of any musician’s training. Even so, his belief was that a musician would be better served by experiences.

He encouraged reading, traveling, art, and listening and enjoying other artists’ music. This, he argued, would let the mind wander and as a result, influence a student’s musical expression; perhaps the most important part of any classical musician’s performance outside of technical ability.

I think the lesson in all of this is that sometimes we try too hard, to the point of sabotaging our pursuits. Instead of banging our heads against the wall of perfection, maybe we should consider stepping away more and focusing instead on experiences. This might allow the mind to think differently and in many cases, provide what’s needed to reach the next level in anything we pursue.

Have a great Monday,


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