Have you ever seen a ballet dancer’s feet?
One of my best friends in high school was a serious ballet dancer.
…serious about her craft and serious about her gnarly feet.
She wore those bruises and blisters like a badge of honor.
…and so did many in her dance class.
I was once present for a conversation in which they compared their various injuries in a collective attempt to gross each other out.
Another friend, a non-athletic like me, had to leave the room because the sympathy pain was making him queasy.
I tried to join the fun by showing off two of my left fingers.
I often practiced guitar with such intensity that my calluses split or broke off. That’s the only thing that could make me take a break.
…until I heard a story about guitar-hero Stevie Ray Vaughan.
The story goes that one night, during a typically aggressive performance, he lost a callus. On break, the club owner found “SRV” in the dressing room, super-gluing the flapping callus back onto his finger so he could finish the show.
I tried it.
It worked until the MacGyver’d callus on my pinky finger broke again a few days later. The dried super-glue prevented the worsened wound from closing so it took forever to heal.
…but for a few precious moments, dancers thought I was the cool one.
Then they laced-up their ballet shoes and took their starting positions for rehearsal.
The rowdy group grew still and silent.
The coach counted off.
…and for a few measures, they filled the room with magic.
…until one dancer tripped, collided with another and everyone had to start over.
My point is that when people think of ballet dancers they think of the elegance, beauty and effortless impression seen on stage.
The audience sees the satin shoes.
…but not the swollen, purple feet inside.
One of the most important mindset shifts in the career of any professional artist is a shift in focus from performance to practice.
…from the stage to the studio.
Our culture has a very bad habit of promoting performance while obfuscating the practice behind it.
This habit skews expectations, scatters attention and stifles patience.
…and it’s not just a social media problem.
Social media is, obviously, a big part of the problem now.
…but effective practice has always tested our patience.
…because almost nobody applauds the process.
…but without effective practice, there’s no performance.
…no stage without the studio.
So this is the first of a three-part lesson for artists who are ready to develop effective professional practices upon which they can depend for efficiency, consistency and quality in their work.
Today, we’ll begin by busting six common myths about practice.
…myths that, if left un-busted, can lead to physical injury, damage to our mental health, wasted time and energy, burnout or rage quitting.