Picture source: www.thinglink.com
Have you ever heard this analogy: “Water is so soft, yet over time its steady drip can erode mountains.” For me it never gets old.
As I’m working with my students I attempt to teach them how to make slow gradual improvement. This tends to come down to doing very simple things again and again: Logging our practice, breaking a piece into manageable units, deciding when to move on. The music changes, but these simple strategies remain the same.
By insisting my students adopt a patient, persistent approach, I cultivate my own persistence with them. I want them to understand what they will need to do when they no longer study with me. In order to make lasting progress we have to keep on doing the same small things, and we have to keep doing them no matter how much the world around us is changing.
My job as a musician is to find a way to do what is necessary in the moment to improve. If I am experiencing great success, I must do what is necessary in the moment to improve. If my life is in crisis, I must do what is necessary in the moment to improve.
Even more important than what we accomplish with our slow steady persistence is what we show others. When I watch someone do something simple and effective I find myself refreshed and inspired. We can be that inspiration for someone else.
Barring some kind of interference with the stream, the drip of water on the mountainside will continue no matter what season it is, whether there are people crossing over it or not. The drip doesn’t really care, because all it “knows” is that it has to move downstream. Its relentless simple movement has an impact on the mountain.
We too can make a profound impact on the world around us by simply doing something small again and again. Few of us have the humility to really limit ourselves in this way. Perhaps it’s not human nature to really be like a drop of water.
But the idea remains as an example for us. We can strive for it. And, assuming we really want to see profound growth in our skills, or to greatly impact the people and places around us, water can show us the way.
Did I really need to tell you the value of slow, steady persistence? I’m sure you’ve heard it before. But did it really hurt to have me say it again?