What should I do? Should I write my daily apple this morning or not?
It’s almost 11 in the morning, and my morning routine has been completely disrupted. For good reasons. I’m on a short vacation in a city I love, visiting people who are really dear to me and we arrived very late yesterday night.
It’s always about getting your priorities right. A night of good sleep is vital for my health. And my health is a top priority. Friends are also over there among the essential elements of my life.
Though, this short daily moment is part of who I am. Every time I write and publish a post, I’m saying to the universe “Hey look, this is who I am. I am an author.”
Even when it’s not perfect. Even when my routine is gone or my inspiration is low. It’s not the outcome that matters the most. It’s the consistency through which I shape and reinforce my identity.
I don’t write for the outcome, I write because this is who I am.
And you know, I’ve surprised myself. I’m a lazy and undisciplined person, yet I’ve been consistently writing almost every morning for years now. I firmly believe that the reason I’ve been able to achieve this is that I’m not writing for the outcome, I’m doing it because it’s who I am.
So yes. I’m writing this morning to remind myself that I’m an author.
My morning writing ritual is made of different elements.
Almost every day, I write in the same place, at the same time and following the same process. This routine helps me get in the inner space I need to write.
This morning, however, my routine got wholly disrupted. I’m away from my writing place, and so far, I did many things but the ones I used to do to start my day.
I was even wondering if I wanted to write or not until I found myself sitting and ready to start. As if my body knew what I really wanted before my mind.
It is the power of practice.
Practice is what transform something you do in who you are. It’s the way through which your behaviours shape your identity.
I witnessed the power of practice yesterday evening. I attended a workshop of Taiko, it’s the Japanese art of drumming and percussions. But it is a lot more than drumming. It’s a practice of the mind and the soul as much as of the body.
Observing the teacher playing the Taiko was a unique experience. He was not doing the movements, he was the movements. Even the smallest gesture infused with all of who he is.
It was as if every muscle of his body knew exactly what to do and how to do it.
Years of deliberate and intentional practice has transformed his doing into his being.
The power of practice.
This is why it’s essential to be present and aware in everything we say and do.
“Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines, practiced every day; while failure is simply a few errors in judgment, repeated every day. It is the accumulative weight of our disciplines and our judgments that leads us to either fortune or failure.” — Jim Rohn
Yesterday, I did some trekking with a friend. We walked for a few hours on an unexpectedly steep trail.
As always, I’m amazed by the amount of learning and discovery that a walk in nature can unlock.
Anyway, we left early in the morning with plenty of enthusiasm. I’ve been looking forward to this for quite a while.
The first meters has been effortless. My legs were fine, my heart beating normal, and my breathing relaxed.
One kilometre, two kilometres. All good, we were walking in a beautiful autumn scenario within the woods, the mountains immersed in the November mist.
2,999 meters and I feel good.
Un meter later, fatigue arrived. Like a little shock running through the thigh, a bump in my heartbeat, the breath a little louder.
From that moment, the walk shifted and became tougher and tougher until we finished our excursion and came back to the car.
Would you say that the reason for the fatigue was the meter 3,000? That if would skip that meter, I would have any problem and maybe walk easily for hours?
I’m sure you won’t say that. Obviously, fatigue was just manifesting at that point but has been building up in all the meters before.
Yet, how many time in life, we focus on one event and forget the journey that led to that moment?
We think some people become successful overnight ignoring the years of hard work they put in to get there.
Something or something falls apart for what looks like a small push, and we overlook the long trail of small cracks that have been manifesting for a long time.
“Breakthrough moments are often the result of many previous actions, which build up the potential required to unleash a major change.” – James Clear
That’s why it’s essential to take care of your habits. Being aware that the journey to the top is a long one and every single step matters.
You’ve probably read about the famous “10,000-hour rule”. It is widely used by many speakers and motivators. This rule says that to achieve mastery in any field, you must be ready to commit to at least 10,000 hours of deliberate practice.
Defined by the journalist and author Malcolm Gladwell in his book “Outliers”, the 10,000-hours rule is based on a study on violinists conducted in 1993. According to that study, the best artists had dedicated at least 10,000 hours to the relentless refinement of their talent.
Over the years the 10,000-hour rule has become very popular but has also received much criticism. In fact, it seems to suggest that practice and discipline are the only ways to reach excellence, placing the person’s talent and uniqueness in the background.
Recently, psychologist Brooke Macnamara of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland decided to repeat part of the 1993 study. Its results show that the 10,000 rule is quite an oversimplification.
In fact, among highly qualified performers, the amount of practice seems irrelevant. Every one of them has practised a lot and keep practising even once reached excellence. Therefore there must be other factors to explain why someone reaches higher levels of mastery.
Macnamara states that “When it comes to human skill, a complex combination of environmental factors, genetic factors and their interactions explains the performance differences across people.“
Therefore, discipline is fundamental, but not sufficient to determine the final result. It must be combined with some other factors that, through disciplined practice, unleash the full potential of a person.
Another study, done in the 90s, again in the field of music, can give us a hint on where we should look at.
In 1997, Professor Gary McPherson of the University of Melbourne decided to do an unconventional experiment to answer a simple question: Why do some children are quicker than others at learning an instrument?
For his study, he randomly picked 157 children between 7 and 9 years old. For years, he followed and monitored them, keeping track of their progress using biometric tests, recording their practice sessions and doing lots of interviews.
In particular, a question proved to be very insightful.
During the first interview, even before the begin of the first lesson, McPherson asked each child: “How long do you think you’ll play your new instrument?“
Based on the answers, the children were divided into three groups depending on the length of their commitment: short, medium and long term.
What surprised McPherson was that the students of the group that had foreseen a long-term commitment improved at speed four times higher than the children of the group who planned to engage only in the short term. Even if they were doing the same number of hours of practice with the same frequency.
There it was, the most decisive element in defining the speed of learning in the kids was not the IQ or the sense of rhythm, or any particular motor skills. None of that.
The defining element was the perception of themselves that each child had, even before starting to play any note.
According to McPherson’s study, what was making some students better at learning an instrument was a voice within them saying “I’m a musician” instead of just “I’ll learn to play an instrument“.
The learning here is that when our actions are an expression of our identity, they are much more powerful and sustainable in the long term. Even for 10,000 hours.
To achieve excellence and success, we must, therefore, combine identity and discipline. Identity to design the direction and discipline to pursue it until we reach the aspired success.
We must, hence, develop what Don Miguel Ruiz calls the discipline of the warrior in his book, “The Four Agreements”.
“The discipline of being ourselves, whatever happens.“
Maybe, for 10,000 hours until we fully realise who we are.
“How are we to become a warrior? There are certain characteristics of the warrior that are nearly the same around the world. The warrior has awareness. That’s very important. We are aware that we are at war, and the war in our minds requires discipline. Not the discipline of a soldier, but the discipline of a warrior. Not the discipline from the outside to tell us what to do and what not to do, but the discipline to be ourselves, no matter what.” — Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements.
I’ve been struggling with presence and focus since I can remember. When I was a kid, my mind was continually wandering in a world of fantasy. I was under the sea with Captain Nemo, on a boat with Harvey Cheyne, fighting with the pirates or travelling to the centre of the Earth. Anywhere but not wherever my body was.
Even growing up, I kept being a wandered of the mind. My thoughts always floating between past, present and future. Reality and fantasy.
Over the here, this rambling mind of mine has become an invaluable tool. It helped me do some of the things I love the most; find connections, dig out ideas, change often, begin many different things.
The other side of the coin is the struggle to focus on one thing, to keep the ball rolling until the work is done, to finish what I start, to close what I open.
Through different experiences, starting from school and going through various jobs, I’ve learned that discipline is how I can teach my wandering mind to focus. So, over the years, I’ve created different structures and systems to bring discipline in my life. However, almost every time, those systems and structures failed me. I thought it was part of the game. Then the other day, while I was going through my notes in search for something I need to write a post, I found some words I highlighted many months ago from The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.
They’ve been working in my head for a few days.
The discipline of a warrior.
The discipline to be ourselves, no matter what.
It’s time for me to approach discipline in a whole new way.
I’m not a proper musician, but I play a bit.
Not much lately to be honest.
When I was younger, I used to play my guitar a lot more.
But I’ve never been a good musician, my technique was enough to give me pleasure and entertain some friends. That’s it.
Even with my limited skills, I really enjoyed improvising, alone or with hours. Once I got into some loop, I could go on for hours.
When there were a few of us playing, the starting point was to find a base loop. We began by setting a rhythm and then a chord progression. We kept playing that same pattern together until everyone was in synch.
Only then, we were able to start improvising, adding variations and melodies here and there. One of us, though, had to keep always the base loop. This way, the others were free to create different patterns without breaking the harmony of the composition.
I believe that the key to making those jam sessions a rewarding practice for everyone was that first boring part, where we repeat the base loop over and over until it became familiar to everyone.
That’s what repetition does. It creates familiarity, a common thread on which everyone feels safe to paint its own music.
That is the power of discipline.
It creates a familiar and safe base rhythm in our life so we can feel safe and unleash our creativity.