Ten Lessons Musicians Can Learn from Fishers

March 6, 2012

Dennis Stauffer of Innovator Mindset posted an excellent piece titled Ten Lessons Innovators Can Learn from Fishers on 2/27/2012.  I immediately saw the relevance of this post for musicians and have adapted it here.

There are a number of important lessons about music teaching and performing that can be taken from fishing, lessons like:

1)      To be successful, you have to keep putting your line in the water. Whether you’re trolling for fish or working out a technical passage or trying to find a new strategy for reaching a student, you’re not likely to get there on the first attempt, and if you do it’s likely due as much to luck as to skill. You’re going to have to make multiple attempts if you expect to land the big one.

2)      The where and the when are just as important as the what. The best bait and the most skilled casting aren’t enough when you’re not where the fish are. Skill is important but so is timing and being in the right place. And you can’t always know in advance where or when that is. (See #1.) Many great ideas have come too soon or too late to succeed, or were tried in the wrong place.

3)      When it isn’t working or it didn’t work when you tried it before, that doesn’t mean it won’t ever work. Every fisher and musician knows that sometimes things work and sometimes things don’t. What didn’t work at all yesterday might be the best solution today. The circumstances are different. The timing has changed. (See #2.)

4)      When it works, don’t assume it will keep working. Track your successes and try them again when you think it’s appropriate, but don’t assume they’ll work as well every time. A successful fisher knows a variety of techniques because both success and failure are temporary. (See #3.)

5)      Failure is part of the process.  It’s not that musicians or fishers want to fail, but they accept it and know how to apply what they learn from those failures to gradually discover success. They know that if they’re not failing they’re not really fishing…or making or teaching music to their best ability. (See #4.)

6)      Uncertainty is a given. There’s no way to be certain exactly where the fish will be biting and when you think you know. you’re probably deluding yourself. Worse, it’s an assumption that will probably lead you to stop the kind of systematic exploration you need to practice. The surest way to stop learning is to assume that you already have all the answers. (See #5.)

7)      Patience can be your greatest asset. Whether fishing or teaching or performing, you’re going to spend far more time “pursuing” than “catching.” If you can’t find a way to enjoy that process, you’re unlikely to be successful. (See #6.)

8)      Stay humble. Former U.S. President Herbert Hoover said, “All men are equal before fish.” The uncertainties of fishing and teaching/performing are great levelers. A breakthrough moment can come from anybody, and not necessarily whoever came up with one the last time, or from the experts, or from the most experienced. Even a novice can catch a whopper while the veterans get skunked.  (See #7.)

9)      You can’t control all the variables. No matter how skilled we become at fishing or teaching/performing, we can never anticipate all the challenges we may face or account for all the possible influences on the outcome. We need to become comfortable living in that uncertainty and become skilled at coping with the unknown.  (See #8.)

10)  When the fish are biting, keep fishing…and don’t be surprised when they suddenly stop.  (See #9.)

Sincere thanks to Dennis Stauffer. For more from him, go to http://blog.innovatormindset.com/

Image from http://www.dreamstime.com/fishing-gear-thumb13912240.jpg

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