Continuing in this ongoing series of useful principles for success as a pianist, in this post we’ll explore practicing the Rule of 3, spending time with people you want to become like, and forgiving and letting go of the past.

Practice the Rule of 3

Once you set a goal, such as to enter a competition and do the very best that you can, try the Rule of 3 (alternatively the Rule of 5). This rule involves doing 3 (or 5) things every day that are directly relevant to moving you closer to your goal. This rule reminds us that persistent, unyielding effort is a characteristic of every accomplished musician.

If your goal is to enter a competition, practicing every day will certainly be one of these things! But sometimes musicians, especially younger ones, focus on practicing to the detriment of life balance. A healthy lifestyle may provide the critical edge for doing well at the competition. And there are going to be other tasks that are important, such as studying and analyzing one’s repertoire in order to interpret it at the very highest level, taking care of paperwork related to the competition, or finding opportunities to perform your piece in public in order to prepare for the competition.

Spend Time with People You Want to Become Like

If you want to be a world-class musician, make connections with as many such musicians as you can. These may be teachers, or students older than you who have started to taste success. Talk to them and get to know them. What can you learn from them about what is necessary to achieve your goals?

Are there relevant professional associations or student groups you could join?

Practicing this principle may sometimes require letting go of relationships with people who are negative or even toxic. Sadly, it may sometimes mean that it’s time to move on from a teacher who is too harsh, or who may have a stellar reputation but has turned out to not really be a very good teacher (or at least not the best teacher for you). Here is where it pays to “shop.” The more people you know, including fellow musicians and teachers, the better sense you will have of the attitude, skills and support that you need and who can (or can’t) offer these.

Forgive and Let Go of the Past

An important skill of highly-successful people in any discipline is the ability to forgive and let go of the past. If we are holding grudges against friends, family members, teachers or adjudicators, some of our energy is locked up and unavailable to move us closer to our goals. Forgiving and letting go does not mean condoning harsh words or actions. It simply means that you are not going to allow the person to continue to negatively impact your life and musical career.

When you can forgive and let go – and this may sometimes require hard emotional work and even professional help – you will be that much freer in your relationship to the past, which will make the impact of your efforts in the present that much more effective.

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