Continuing in this ongoing series of useful principles for success as a pianist, today I’ll explore reframing rejection, asking for feedback and being persistent.
Most serious piano students must confront rejection in one form or another. Whether it’s a tepid audience reaction to your less-than-stellar performance, a teacher who won’t take you on as a student, losing in a competition, or not getting into the college music program of your choice, opportunities for rejection abound.
But guess what? This is a good thing! After all, rejection means you’ve set goals that are worthy of achieving and have taken action towards them. It means you’re on your way. As Jack Canfield says about how to reframe a rejection by Harvard: “Remember, you’ve spent your whole life not going to Harvard!”
Rejection ultimately isn’t real. It’s something we feel when we believe something about ourselves or a situation, such as “I didn’t get in, so I must not be good enough.” But you are actually no worse off than before. In fact, you are better off because each so-called “rejection” brings you one step closer to your goals.
Reframe rejection. And seek opportunities to experience more of it!
Ask for Feedback
Becoming a better pianist obviously entails being open to feedback. We must be open to feedback from teachers, audiences, adjudicators, etc. Reframe critical feedback not as something negative but as a signpost on the road towards improvement.
Canfield suggests that many people won’t give you feedback unless you ask them. So even more effective than being open to feedback is asking for it. One question Canfield recommends is asking for feedback on a 1 to 10 scale. How could you use this idea to get valuable feedback from your teacher? You could ask:
“On a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being absolute professional-level performance, how was my performance of this piece?”
“On a scale from 1 to 10, how could I have done better in my lesson today?”
“On a scale from 1 to 10, how well do you think I am practicing at home?”
The follow up question, though, is the real kicker and most valuable part of this process. If the answer is less anything less than a 10, ask:
What could I do to make it a 10?
Persistence is an essential characteristic of the highest musical achievers. Consider the example of composer Richard Wagner, who took on the mighty task of creating a musical cycle consisting of four long operas, The Ring of the Nibelung. Not only would the cycle take years to write, but Wagner had no regular income during many of those years. The possibility of an actual performance of his gigantic masterwork, should it ever be completed, seemed remote at best. In legal trouble, debt, and looked down upon by the conservative musical establishment, Wagner struggled for 25 years to eventually complete this work that stands as one of the monuments of Western music. Emperors and kings attended its premiere. How did this come about? He persisted.
What musical goals do you have that you could be more persistent about achieving? Are there any ambitions you’ve abandoned as unachievable or too difficult? Would you be willing to revisit them with the idea of pressing on with persistence?