Sunday, December 7, 2014

Am I Good Enough ?

Here's another chapter from my book, "Quiet Determination, unlocking the gates to unlimited success!"

It was early December,on a Tuesday afternoon,Emmanuel was seated at the piano,during his weekly lesson with Miss Jameson. He had been taking lessons for about six months now an due was starting to really enjoy it.
Miss Jameson looked at him and said,
"You know Emmanuel, I see that you're turning out to be quite a good little pianist already. You're not child prodigy, but you do show much promise as a musician. I think I'm going to have you perform at my annual student recital this spring. I usually wait until my students have had at least two or three years experience under their belt, but you've progressed so quickly,I think you're up for the challenge."

"What's a recital,"asked Emmanuel?

"That's where you,and all of my other students play in front your parents, and all of the parents of my other students. Of course your friends and relatives are all invited to attend as well."

Unknown to Emmanuel at the time, the one thing you can always count on,when it comes to piano lessons -any lessons involving the performing arts for that matter- is that there is always going to be some kind of public performance at sometime during the year. It's usually in spring or around Christmas time.

Recitals serve four different purposes.
1. The main purpose of recitals is to spotlight the student.It acknowledges their hard work,talent,and dedication. Most of all it builds their self-confidence and self esteem, all of which are invaluable qualities necessary to help their character as they mature into adulthood.
2. Recitals show parents that their money was well spent
3. Recitals are the teacher's proof to the parents,by way of their child's performance,that he/she is in fact a fantastic teacher.
4. In that goals number 2 and 3 above are met,recitals preserve the teacher's cash flow.

"Oh,I don't know if I can do that Miss Jameson? I've never performed in public before". Do you really think I'm good enough?

Miss Jameson beamed with pride and encouragement,as she rested her hand gently on his shoulder," I think that you are a remarkable young man. I have every confidence that you will perform magnificently! I know that you can do it.I also know that your parents will be extremely proud of you!"

The praises she had given,coupled with the faith that Miss Jameson's had in him, filled Emmanuel with excitement and confidence. He didn't want to disappoint his teacher nor his parents,so he set about practicing even more diligently everyday, not worrying that this was the first time that he was ever going to be playing in public; on a big stage;in a big auditorium; on a huge twelve foot grand piano… with people watching!

Before you know it the recital came and went. Emmanuel was a great hit. While taking his bows, while acknowledging the standing ovation from the audience, he felt so elated. He realized that all his hard work had paid off handsomely.He was brimming with pride, and a sense of great accomplishment. His spirits soared like a mighty Alaskan eagle, gliding so smoothly, so effortlessly above the mountain tops, surveying his domain spread out endlessly below.

He surprised himself at how well he had performed,realizing that he had progressed from a state of self-doubt,when he asked his teacher, "Am I good enough?",to basking in the praise and adoration, in a concert mostly filed with complete strangers, all of who confirmed Emmanuel's talents and ability.

The Take Away
To understand how Emmanuel prepared himself for such unexpected success we have to examine a physiological phenomena that scientists are only just now beginning to understand. During his daily piano practice, Manny's body was busy producing a very special substance,that every human being produces in varying amounts. This special substance is called myelin.

In his book,The Talent Code, Daniel Coyle talks about the days of old, before scientists discovered air-born germs.People often got ill for no apparent reason. Doctors couldn't attribute the cause to a definite source,so they blamed it on something they called "ether". It was something invisible that they couldn't see,taste,touch or feel. They only saw the results. You can't see,feel,touch or taste myelin either. You can only sense it's effects. Myelin enables us to carry out both mental and physical skills to varying degrees of ability.

Scientists use myelin as a model to help us understand what skill really is.
As humans, our mental and physical skills are created by chains of nerve fibres carrying electrical impulses.
Myelin wraps around those nerve fibres, in much the same way that rubber insulates electrical wiring in our homes, making it faster and more powerful by blocking electrical impulses from leaking out, or short circuiting. As we "practice" a new layer of myelin wraps around the neural circuit, adding more insulation, and thereby adding more skill, more speed.

Dr. G. Bartzokis, a UCLA neurologist researcher  backs up Coyles research. He says that, "All skill, all languages, all music, all movements are made of living circuits, and all circuits grow according to certain rules."

According to another book written by Daniel Coyle,The Little Book of Talent, there are two more elements that must accompany talent.
1.Ignition: This is the desire, or dream of learn something." I want to be the next…."!
2.Coaching: These are the talent whisperers,who, because of their deep knowledge and experience in certain areas, know how to expertly guide their students.

Emmanuel had both of these things in his corner.
He had a burning desire to use his talents to make his parents proud of him.
He also pictured himself performing on stage, in front of hundreds of people. He pictured himself taking a bow, perhaps receiving a bouquet of flowers. He dreamt he would be a star. He was ignited. "Houston, we're ready for lift-off"!

Miss Jameson, knew that Emmanuel had great potential as a pianist. She was confident that he would be good enough to perform in the recital, because she was confident in her own skills as a coach. She was a coach who knew how to prepare her student mentally an physically for unlimited success.

Of course,both of these elements open the door for what's commonly known as practice. Emmanuel dedicated himself to regular,daily practice. Each day he got better and better. Everyday he wrapped his nerve fibres with another layer of myelin. With every layer of myelin he added another layer of skill. He was on the road to success.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Scheduling Success... a difficult decision ?

Scheduling Success... a difficult decision?

Here's another sneak preview from my book, "Quiet Determination...unlocking the gates to unlimited success !"  As usual each chapter begins with a short story from the life of the  hero of the book, Emmanuel  followed by a take away.

Before we know it, young Emmanuel has grown into a young man, just starting his a freshman year in high school. It's a new and exciting world to him. He’s meeting people from different parts of his city, and making lots of new friends as well.

Besides mandatory attendance at school,there were so many different opportunities to participate in, both in school and outside of school. Being a typical enthusiastic teenager, Emmanuel decided that he wanted do them everything he could possibly do.

His mother had always said to him,
"Emmanuel, you can’t dance at all of the weddings!"

Here's is a list of the choices open to Emmanuel.

School Related Activities:
1. school varsity teams (football,hockey,basketball,baseball,wrestling,soccer,track & field,gymnastics)
2. school clubs (chess,photography,art,French,computer, fitness )
3. homework
4. studying for tests & exams
5. Music (Jazz band,orchestra,glee club,choir)
6. student prefect
7. student council
8.getting ready for school each morning
9.peer tutoring

Personal Activities:
1.piano lessons
2.his part time job at Mr. Wilson's outdoor store
3 playing for his rep hockey team
4. chuming around with his friends
5. time for his girl friend
6. household chores
7. attending church
8. volunteering at the community centre
9. piano practice
10. rest and relaxation
11. winter/summer vacations
12. family time
13. playing with his rock band

On top of all of these activities, Emmanuel had to fit in time to eat properly and get plenty of sleep, so he would have enough energy to undertake his daily activities successfully.  He anguished over the situation he was in So many things to do. So little time to do them. He needed an eight day week. The answer came to him in a flash. 

At that very moment he recalled what his piano teacher told him one time about organizing his work load. It was last year, during a music lessons with Mr. Clegg his new teacher at the time.

"Mr. Clegg, now that I'm an advanced music student, I've got so many things to practice in order to get prepared for my weekly lessons with you. I just don't seem to have enough time practice my scales, do my finger exercises, work on my ear training,do my theory homework,and rehearse the music for the spring recital, play the music I like to play for my own amusement, prepare the rest of my repertoire for you to listen, let alone my school work and my other sport activities.        I just don’t have enough time to accomplish everything I need too. I’m simply just so over-whelmed !"
Mr. Clegg beamed knowing smile, that only comes from a lifetime of experience.
" Don't worry son, that's a very common problem that you share with a great many other successful people. Up 'till the last few years, you've spent most of your life going from day to day. Your parents told you to do this, somebody else told you to do that, and still another person in authority says, 'Emmanuel,…don't do that'. 

All your activities and responsibilities were more or less out of your control, because you were considered to be only a child who needed lots of guidance from adults.
Now that you’re a young man the world no longer considers you to be a helpless child, who must be guided every step of the way. You're  expected to start making your own decisions, taking on your own responsibilities, building you own life.  With this new freedom comes the privilege of having a world of so many different choices open up to you. Your biggest responsibility now is to choose wisely. Here's something that will help you to do just that."

Mr. Clegg reached over to his desk, took out a pencil and a pad of paper, and handed them to Emmanuel.
"We're going to do a little experiment. I want  you to write down 10 things you want to do this coming week."
Mr. Clegg waited for Emmanuel to finish his list.

"Now, he continued, “I want you to rank each item as to it's value, from most valuable, (that's number 1) to the least valuable (number  10).  The value of an activity is determined by asking yourself this question.  'What  impact will this activity have on the ultimate success of goals? '

It took Emmanuel about ten minutes before he settled on an order that the was happy with.

"Now,  beside each activity, write down the number of hours you think you need to spend on it."

Emmanuel  took a few minutes to complete this task. He realized that the most important activities required the most amount of time.

Mr. Clegg, handed Emmanuel a blank timetable.

" I want to to fill in this schedule, starting with the most valuable activity first, ending with the least important. This is the hardest, most crucial part of this whole exercise Emmanuel. I'm telling you right now before you even begin. There will never be enough time to accomplish all the things you would like to. Some things on your list will have to be left out, or postponed until  another time in your life. Are you tough enough to do that? "

Since that time,Emmanuel had applied Mr. Clegg's advice many times in the organization of his life. He knew from experience that a few well chosen goals far outshines the mediocre results gained by attempting to crowd everything in at once.

Typical of Emmanuel,he took ownership of Mr. Clegg's suggestions made some changes to fit his own personality. Instead of making a list on a single sheet of paper, he wrote each of his potential activities on its' own  slip of paper, so he could rank them by physically shuffling them around on the table top. Being a visual person, this gave Emmanuel a tool that allowed him to experiment with different rankings, and see the results of his decisions instantly!

The Take Away

According to the University of Scranton's "Journal of Clinical Psychology", people who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t explicitly make resolutions.

In his book "What They Don’t Teach You in the Harvard Business School", Mark McCormack asks this question.
' Why Do 3% of Harvard MBAs Make Ten Times as Much as the Other 97% Combined ?'

Here's Mark's answer.
In 1979, interviewers asked new graduates from the Harvard’s MBA Program this question:
“Have you set clear, written goals for your future and made plans to accomplish them?”
 Here are the results to that question.
• 84% had no specific goals at all
• 13% had goals but they were not committed to paper
• 3% had clear, written goals and plans on how to accomplish them

Ten years later those same graduates of that 1979 class were interviewed again.
Now can you guess the answer to Mark's original question, ' Why Do 3% of Harvard MBAs Make Ten Times as Much as the Other 97% Combined ?'
•The 13% of the class who had goals were earning, on average, twice as much as the 84 percent who had no goals at all.
•The three percent who had clear, written goals were earning, on average, ten times as much as the other 97 percent put together.

Emmanuel had a powerful tool in the scheduling of his goals. By spending some time now, figuring out how to effectively use his time, he will be able to carry out his day-to-day activities, easily, quickly, and efficiently, accomplishing many more things, in less time. Gone is the hassle, the frustration and waste of  time trying to accomplish too many things all at once. Gone is the the classic "Jack of all trades, master of none, syndrome.
His goals dictated the activities that lead to his success.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Building Accountability in a Team Environment

Here's another sneak preview from my new book, "Quiet Determination, unlocking the gates to unlimited success!"

Why People Avoid Accountability

Going back to the lessons of your childhood you often heard things like, Sally do this! Joey do that! Mandy don’t do that! Ever since we can remember growing up, were we not “rewarded” for doing the right things, and “punished” for doing the wrong things? The ever-present fear of punishment feeds the blame game and discourages people from stepping up and taking responsibility, or risks.

The reward and punishment environment is perpetuated in our everyday lives, at the office, in business, socially, wherever people interact. It’s often disguised as being a useful motivational tool to achieve success, but in reality it only serves to encourage and foster the exact opposite effect...fear, censure, and shifting of blame, which ultimately leads to unlimited failure and failed dreams, rather than unlimited success. Being accountable does require a certain degree of emotional maturity, self-esteem, and courage.

Building Individual Accountability in a Team  Environment

According to MIT Information Services and Technology, a team is defined as,"People working together in a committed way to achieve a common goal or mission. The work is interdependent and team members share responsibility and hold themselves accountable for attaining the results.”

K.Denise Bane, of Bloomfield College wrote an abstract titled: Avoiding Catastrophe: The Role of Individual Accountability in Team Effectiveness .

Ms. Bane talks about value of using games to teach the importance of individual responsibility and accountability, in enhancing the team’s effectiveness. Participants will be enabled to: (a) identify factors promoting team effectiveness, (b) discuss the role of the individual in the success of the team,c) use games to demonstrate individual accountability in team effectiveness .

In her paper, Ms. Bane mentions psychologist Bruce Tuckman’s model for developing individual accountability in a group/team setting. This model breaks down team building into five distinct stages:forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning in order to explain how people will better understand why problems may occur, and that things will ultimately get better in the future.
It’s suggested that the Tuckman model be explained to all game participants before they actually commence playing.

Tuckman Model for Developing Individual
Accountability in a Group/Team Setting

Note:I would suggest reading chapter 8, “Enhanced Creativity”, for great ideas on how to make this stage a smooth and positive experience.

1. Forming
In the initial stage, team members get to know one another on a personal level. The individual's behaviour is driven by the need to “fit in” and avoid any controversy and conflict. Clear objectives, for both the team and each of its’ members are established. These objectives must be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound.(SMART) Team members tend to behave independently.

2. Storming
This is a growing stage where individuals share their ideas on how to go about reaching the team’s objectives. This stage can become destructive and painfully unpleasant for members of the team who are averse to conflict. There are bound to be differences between members, and mutual patience and tolerance must be emphasized. Judgemental attitudes have no place here. All opinions are welcomed. It’s important that team members learn about different individual work styles of and personalities of people, in regards to how they:
Relate to others
Gather and use information
Make decisions
Organize themselves and others

Here are the different work styles according to the The Margerison- McCann Team Management Wheel, followed by the personality type, according to the Enneagram Institute Personality System.  A knowledge of personality types will help make storming more efficient.

a) Reporter/adviser gives and gathers information. 
      The investigator to be perceptive, innovative, secretive, and isolated.
b) Creator/innovator comes up with new or different approaches.
      The individualist is expressive, dramatic, self-absorbed, and temperamental.
c) Explorer/promoter explores new ways to succeed and likes to promote the team.
      The helper is generous, demonstrative, people-pleasing, and possessive.
d) Assessor/developer likes to analyze new opportunities and make them work.
      The enthusiast is spontaneous, versatile, acquisitive, and scattered.
e) Thruster/organizer likes to get results.
       The challenger is self-confident, decisive, willful, and confrontational.
f) Concluder/producer works in a systematic way to produce outputs
        The achiever is adaptable, excelling, driven, and image-conscious.
g) Controller/inspector enjoys the detailed and controlling aspects of work
       The loyalist is engaging, responsible, anxious, and suspicious.
h) Upholder/maintainer upholds standards and values and excellence
       The reformer is principled, purposeful, self-controlled, a perfectionist.
i) Linker at the centre of the wheel, integrates and co-ordinates the work of others in the team.The peace maker is receptive, reassuring, complacent, and resigned.

3. Norming

The team selects one goal and establishes a plan how to attain that goal. All team members take the responsibility for the success of the team's goals.  
4. Performing
By this time members should be motivated,knowledgeable,competent, autonomous and able to handle the decision-making process without supervision. Dissent is expected and allowed as long as it is channeled through means acceptable to the team
Although supervisors of the team during this phase are usually participating, the team will be making most of the decisions. Teams are free to revert to any of the earlier stages as they react to changing circumstances such as a change in leadership causing the team to revert to storming as the new person/people challenge the existing norms and dynamics of the team. 

5. Adjourning and Transforming
The completion of the task and breaking up the team.
Celebrate the team's achievements.

Exercise 1
"AVOIDING CATASTROPHE"  one game suggested by Denise Bane

The children’s game“Cat-a-pult,” an interactive chain-reaction game distributed by HandsOnToys. It consists of five plastic catapults and foam cats. Each participant has a catapult and a cat. The object is to adjust your catapult so that, when launched, the first player’s cat will land on the second player’s catapult, triggering the second catapult, which launches the second cat in the direction of the third catapult, and so on. The team is successful when it is able to create a complete chain reaction involving all cats. Each team member is responsible for setting and adjusting their own catapult and cannot touch the catapults of his or her team members.

The game should be followed by a discussion period generated by these questions.
1. How can an individual encourage team effectiveness?
2. How did team members encourage their team members during the exercise?
3. How did “expertise” affect the outcome?
4. If an individual does not/can not learn his or her job, how does that affect the team?
5. What would have made the team more effective?
6. What hindered team effectiveness?
What lessons can you take away from this exercise?

Exercise 2

By watching Manny, we learn that we too can successfully acquire new habits and skills, by holding ourselves accountable to one or two, simple yet fixed rules.

Consider one goal that you have set for yourself. What simple rule, mantra, or habit can you adopt that will keep yourself accountable in your quest for success?
If sustained accountability is new to you, don't be afraid to ask someone to assist you until you "get it". It could be a colleague or friend.

There's nothing wrong with paying someone do be your task master.
I would suggest that make it very clear that your task master has permission to be exactly that… a task master who excepts no excuses, no complaints, no whining.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Ear Training Chp 3

Melodies that Contain Chromatic/Half Steps

Now we're going to explore the flats & sharps that add colour
to the regular scales, that are the backbone of  pop, jazz, and classical music.
Most of these tunes are written in a particular key, which means they
use a set of predefined notes. However, the composer often changes one or
more of these set notes, by raising (a sharp sign "#") or lowering (a flat sign "b")
their pitch,by a half  step. We call these "#'s & "b"s accidentals.

Any note/pitch can be raised or lowered by a half step/chromatically.

Therefore in our  "C" major scale which looks like this...

ear training

any one of its' pitches could be raised chromatically/by a half step...
ear training

 or  lowered chromatically/by a half step.

Enharmonic Pitches
This is a theoretical term used to describes a pitch/sound that can be notated 2 different ways.
If you play a  "C#" on your instrument, and then play a "Db", the sound/pitch is exactly the same.

Play the following exercises on your own instrument to hear the correct pitches,
then sing them on you own, checking for accuracy as you progress.






Repeat all of the exercises above starting on a different note, other than "C".

Look for tunes in your repertoire where chromatic pitches/accidentals
occur during the first 2 measures, and practice singing those phrases.
Try it in all 12 keys... if you're feeling brave.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Ear Training Chp2

How Well Known Songs can Improve our Ability to Play by Ear

Once you get comfortable with the exercises in Chp1, from last March, you can now use them in a practical application with music that you are personally familiar with. It doesn't matter what genre…nursery rhymes,folk songs,pop tunes, anything will work.
Sit down with your instrument and pick out the tunes.

Once you get a handle on this let's go to the next level,by searching for tunes that are diatonically based, meaning that the melody goes up or down the scale. 
See the 2 examples below.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Ear Training Chp1

           Do Your Eyes Hear...Can Your Ears Write ?        

I often have students that complain that they wish they could play without the sheet music in front of them all the time.

There are many, many different books & programs out there that will help you refine your
skills  at figuring out  the actual pitches of those notes that you see written down on the paper, or writing down the names of the notes of a song you've heard on the radio.

Being able to identify pitches is a valuable tool for
singers in terms of sight reading new music and singing on pitch. For musicians & songwriters, it's a must if you need to write or read music, without the aid of an instrument, not to mention the fact that most musicians often need to transcribe songs from Cd's,for band rehearsals.

The biggest benefit of having a trained ear is that you'll save a ton of money on buying sheet music, especially pop music.

Playing by ear is possible through a process called "Ear Training".
Let's start with some basic exercises, using the common major scale,
do re me fa sol la ti do.

Exercise #1    LISTEN
Using solfeggio, sing a major scale. Sing in your own individual range, so you don't strain your voice. Feel free to use the piano, a pitch pipe… any instrument at all,to help you sing in tune.

Exercise #2  LISTEN Repeat using numbers instead of solfeggio.

 Exercise #3   LISTEN
Sing the scale using the letter names.


Exercises   #4 LISTEN   #5 LISTEN  #6 LISTEN
Repeat exercises 1,2 &3 above, but, this time sing each note of the scale in a different register.


Once you get comfortable with these exercises, try them without any instrumental support.