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.

1. You have no other choice.

Opening weekend on Whistler (where they held the Olympics) featured snow that was powdery and untouched; if you fall in the wrong spot with your skis, you will get buried in snow with your skis twisted in fifty directions. And maybe a kind stranger will stick their pole out for you.

I make a habit of falling backwards when I feel like I’m going too fast, and each fall twists my knee. I already have knee pain from years of sports, and then it hurt so badly that I couldn’t get up from my left side; if you imagine a turtle rolling on its shell in the snow, that was me rolling to my right side.

After an hour of falling, my knee was ripping apart inside.

So I try something else: when I am going too fast, I turn. It compounds my initial problem, as now I am going even faster. But I fall less often and discover how to navigate a fast turn–put your entire body into it and hope for the best.

Placing yourself in a dire situation helps you prioritize. What is important? Nothing but staying alive.

When you are learning a skill, give yourself no other option but the option of success. If you are starting a music business or teaching, set aside a few months dedicated to this. That way, you will know.

Do you have the grit to make it?

You don’t know, but at least you will find out.

The idea for LUMOHACKS came about over a few weeks of brunches with friends. I wanted to improve the treatment process for cancer patients. I can think of small ways to improve a cancer patient’s life. Why couldn’t I gather hundreds of people to help out, and make a bigger impact?

I set a deadline; if 6 months pass and I do not run this event, then I know that this is beyond my capabilities right now.

I tell myself that I have to make this work and failure is not an option.

My team and I are making LUMOHACKS happen. Not because of circumstance nor luck, but because we said so. There is no reason that we would fail, unless we were lazy.

I don’t even care if we have to ferry over to Victoria for a venue as a Plan Z (though for the record, this was not an option).

Stop saying that you should do this and that.

Start doing it, by giving yourself no other option.

How Skiing Helped Me Become a Better Learner

2. You learn to find a cheerleader who will not let you fail.

I am buried in powdery snow up to my chest. Friends, I kid you not, it felt hopeless.

My buddy, the expert skiier, comes back and coaches me: skis parallel to the mountain, hands on the ground, feet together, up. “It doesn’t work,” I say. My feet are twisted. “I’m not getting up.”

“Yes you are.” He grabs my arm and yanks. I meant that I needed to try another way of getting up, not that I was laying in the snow forever. He is like, a six foot tall German guy so the yanking works.

Nonetheless you should find a cheerleader who won’t let you lay in the snow. There is nothing wrong with having multiple mentors for different areas of life and career, and there is nothing wrong with switching mentors throughout your career.

At one point, I’d spend hours polishing a piece of music only to have it torn apart in minutes during music lessons. Maybe you will say that music is subjective, but in Classical music, there is a right and wrong way to play a Mozart sonata.

It was enlightening when I found an instructor who would not give up on me. She encouraged me to call her with any questions (though I never did) and sometimes I went to multiple lessons each week; her supportiveness kept me going a little while longer.

How Skiing Helped Me Become a Better LearnerMarinah caught me at a good time in this photo.

3. You learn to trust yourself.

Marinah gives me the same advice I gave her for mountain biking: look where you want to go. Skiing is smoother when I stop focussing on the tiny bumps in front of my skis, and instead, the big picture beyond.

To succeed, you have to believe that you are built to do this.

Kids are good at putting everything they’ve got into a turn or a slide because they haven’t told themselves it is impossible.

There’s a moment when you’re going so fast that you are almost out of control and that is the turning point for success.

You can apply the same survival instinct to a music performance. Put everything into the moment and clear your mind of all else. Your body is already under stress during a performance so stop worrying. You don’t need more stress.

Focus and believe that you are meant to do this.

I’ve written about success and strategy, and what it comes down to, is grit.

Marinah and I got new ski pants; mine are bright red with five zippers and I love them. I modelled them for my sister yesterday and she only facepalmed once. My friend invited me to snowboard, but I’ve eaten enough snow to gung-ho about skiing.

When all is said and done, it comes down to believing in yourself and eating some snow along the way, to inject all the grit you have into the moment.

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