Is Being “Self-Taught” Good Enough?

Grace Lam
I’m working in web development for a bit.

I wanted to see if I could do it because I taught myself all the web languages I know. People are surprised that I wanted to code all day, but it’s like a test:

Am I good enough?

Would I spend my days throwing my keyboard out the window? HR might eventually tell me, “Now, use Siri to recite your code.”

Does being a self-taught developer, musician, engineer–anything–work? Or are you always subpar to everyone who pursued a formal education in the subject?

I’ll spend the next few months discovering this.

There are like twenty guys for every girl in a software company. Last week in the kitchen, one guy tried to sell me protein powder—so I’ve probably met the resident drug dealer.

Continue Reading


Favourites of The Year

This was one of my hardest years by far. And though I try to be strong and resilient, all I’ve been doing is chugging on, really.

So, I thought I’d recap some of the ways I’ve pushed myself this year, along with some of the community’s favourite articles, and my top articles about piano.


I started lifting weights.

Many girls ask why I lift.

When you lift, it takes a lot of concentration to not injure yourself, so it’s a great distraction, plus it comes with a sense of accomplishment when you lift heavier weights each week.

Girls can’t look like a bodybuilder “by accident,” because it takes a lot of work to build muscle mass. It’s like saying you don’t want to learn piano because you don’t want long fingers like Rachmaninoff.

I like feeling stronger, and I’ve been spending up to four days at the gym each week. Here’s how I motivated myself to start going to the gym.

How to Practice Smarter, Not Harder

I trusted my own strength again.

“Can you demonstrate some acro-yoga?” I ask Matthew.

Acro-yoga has cirque-du-soleil style poses. He positions me on the ground like a cat on all fours with my back against the ground, then climbs on me so I hold his entire body.

I feel like it doesn’t matter how many pounds I lift at the gym, because there are tiny muscles that deadlifts and squats don’t work; but these are the muscles you need to lift someone on your legs.

This is a great reminder that even the best musicians and athletes can find room for improvement.

Here are a few ways to get stronger fingers, quickly.
Beat Mapping: a technique to improve your rhythm and timing.
How to cram for a music performance.

Continue Reading


Why You Should Do a Social Detox

Why Musicians Need a Social DetoxThis weekend we woke up early to go skiing again. I’m still pondering whether people who are happy with their lives crave escape, though I’ve discovered small ways to escape the drama and busyness of daily life.

Recently I’ve felt there’s been too much going on. If you’re feeling it too, I invite you to follow along as I clear my head with a detox.


In our first 15 minutes on Cypress mountain, my friend skis up a tree packed with a wall of snow and I copy him because it usually works when I follow someone else’s path.

He stands there watching, and I end up flying.

Later, we discuss my flight:

“I was trying to slow down, not ride up a tree.”

“At one point, your body was horizontal with the mountain,” Marinah says.

“I was thinking, wow, this chick is hardcore.” He says.

I fall less often on these icy conditions than on Whistler, but the falls are more impactful. Like, I rip my jacket at one point.

We’re often so focussed on others that we don’t notice that our own lives are just as spectacular to a passerby.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, we will only start to realize our own worth when we focus 100% of our attention on ourselves, and not on comparing ourselves to others.


Continue Reading


Starter Piano Kit for the Beginner

Starter Piano Kit for the BeginnerThe world of piano can be confusing. There are many options and not nearly enough time to research every one.

I get a lot of questions about the best equipment for beginner pianists. Throughout the years of teaching piano, I’ve done a lot of research and experimented with different tools.

Here are the must-have tools for beginner pianists:

  • A Piano
  • Piano Finger Exercise Book
  • Piano Method Book
  • A Practice Buddy
  • A Dedicated Piano Teacher

I discuss each item below.

Continue Reading

Add a Comment

How Skiing Helped Me Become a Better (Music) Learner

How Skiing Helped Me Become a Better LearnerLast month my friend and I said we’d go skiing this winter. We live beside beautiful mountains and we don’t even ski once a year–it’s ridiculous.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you probably know that I follow through on decisions, regardless of how questionable.

That’s how I found myself getting up at 4:30am on a Saturday for the opening day of a huge mountain that I planned to tumble down. Alright, I was a little cocky. Everyone told me that, being “athletic,” downhill skiing would be fairly simple to pick up.

Here is how a risky sport like skiing helps you pick up skills quickly, in music and other areas.

Continue Reading

Add a Comment

Behind-the-Scenes of a 350-Person Hackathon

LUMOHACKSLUMOHACKS was everything I wanted it to be, and more.

674 people applied and we chose 350 people to create something that improves a cancer patient’s life, in 24 hours.

350 people. 12 3D printers. 5 workshops. World-class speakers from medicine & tech.

That was last week, and now I am sick. I am sniffing and coughing and I sound like a frog but I’m waiting for my next meeting to begin, so I will share some behind-the-scenes moments of a 350-person event.


Everyone is fresh on the first day. People who bus or fly in arrive while we are setting up. We tell them to go explore Vancouver.

My logistics coordinator let our day-of volunteers choose roles and no one chooses to show up at 8am on a Saturday, so please assign volunteer roles if you are ever recruiting.

The core team runs around sweating our fresh butts off because no day-of volunteers showed up that morning. And honey, I did not invite world-class speakers to fly into my event to make them wait while I move a table.


Continue Reading


The Best Way to Take a Mini-Vacation Right Now

Why We Shouldn't Make PlansFor the last two weeks of August, I tried to relax. Vancouver’s breezy summer is wonderful, and every island hotel in the vicinity is booked. So I settled for a vacation in the city. It rains nonstop in the fall, but in the summer, it’s perfect.

At first I was worried I’d end up watching Netflix if I didn’t plan activities but then I realized that summer is laid back, and events will unfold themselves with the right people.

I read that people with perfect lives don’t go on vacation because what a vacation is, is an escape from normal life, and if your normal life is great then you’d stay.

Now I realize: the kind of life I like is stressful. It’s making plans for tomorrow. Knowing what’s happening six months down the road but not planning it until the very last minute. It drives me nuts but it means I don’t have to plan.

And if I thought for a second that this kind of “normal” could last me years on end, then I would be batshit crazy.

People ask where I get my drive and motivation, and I say “discipline” but it’s deeper than thatI think we should all learn to manage our limited energy and attention and create lifestyles where we thrive.

We have a limited amount of energy everydaywe use so much energy when we work.

When we take a break, we are giving our minds a quick refresherthis is like a mini vacation. The time you sit at the piano, go to the gym, or jog around the neighbourhood, or do anything for yourself, is time for your mind and body to reset and return to equilibrium for the day.

During a lumohacks meeting, we are laughing at an inside joke:

“Excuse me,” a guy at a table across the room says. “Can you not laugh so loud when it’s unnecessary?”

“Okay,” I say. But it’s low and lasts five seconds.

“Sass master,” Marinah says.

Later, the same guy asks to borrow my laptop charger; I should’ve asked for $4 per minute (basically a green tea latte–once your minute is up, goodbye).

“Stop laughing so loud when it’s unecessary?” We laugh loudly at this.

And I think how important it is to laugh at ourselves especially when we are having a hard time.

Otherwise, we might get bogged down and forget what we love about what we do.

Continue Reading

Add a Comment