Monday, April 01, 2013

Practice till it works ~ My Column from Sunday's Paper

All my life I’ve heard the tired old cliché, “Practice Makes Perfect.”

Rick at age 25
I know that like most aphorisms that have withstood the test of time, it’s basically true.

When it comes to perfection, I’m not sure it’s within the grasp of mere mortals, but in looking at great
works of art, or watching a movie that resonates, or when I hear a song that sticks with me like a childhood scar, I sometimes wonder if the artist(s) didn't approach perfection.

One of the New Year resolutions that both Jilda and I made was to refocus on our music. We’ve played together for years, but it seemed we weren’t getting any better.

Since January 1, we enrolled in an online songwriting course from Berkeley School of Music, and we've practiced guitar and done vocal exercises daily.

Sometimes practice is a drudge, and I'd rather have a jaw tooth extracted with needle-nose pliers by a drunken sailor with bad breath (not sure where this disquieting description came from but I fear I may dream about it tonight), than pick up a guitar and strum one chord.

In the past, we’ve always practiced the last thing before going to bed. Normally by that time, my brain felt lobotomized. As a result of the timing factor, neither of us was improving.

I realized that it wasn’t the practice I dreaded, but the timing of our practices made an enjoyable activity, a drudge.

This past year, we got us some new attitudes for Christmas, and we made practice a priority.

Even on treatment days when Jilda was as weak as a kitten, she insists we practice.

Anyone who plays an instrument will probably tell you that you can practice for EVER and never feel like you're getting any better. Then one day it's like a switch is flipped, and you're playing (and singing) notes you were never able to play smoothly before.

We got validation that our hard work was paying dividends last week when we opened for our friends The Spook House Saints at Berkeley Bob’s Coffee House in Cullman. We got more compliments than I can ever remember us getting after a performance.

No one can play better without putting in the repetitions. I think the same holds true whether you're cooking, sewing, driving, golfing, or writing.

All of our goals are different, but no matter what skill you’re trying to learn, or job you’re trying to master, you have to study and practice.

One of the best self-help books I ever read was by the late Stephen Covey, “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”

In that book he talked about how life has a way of throwing a lot of stuff at you, which sometimes makes it difficult to do the really important things.

He used the analogy of a gallon jar and he put in some softball-sized rocks. He asked the audience if the jar was full. Everyone agreed that it was. He then poured in a few pounds of gravel that filtered around the big rocks.

When he asked if the jar was full, the crowd had caught on by that time and they said NOOOOO.

He picked up a bucket of sand, and then poured the jar full of water while the audience went wild.

Then when he spoke he said, “Life is like this jar, the only way the “Big Rocks” fit in, is if you put them in first.”

That line hit me like a hammer. Jilda and I made the decision at the first of the year, to start putting the Big Rocks in first.

NOTE: We’ll be performing with Andrew Brasfield, Joe Greg Winsett, Michael Cannon, Skip Cochran, and The Spook House Saints at The Bankhead House Amphitheater next Sunday, April 7 from 2 p.m. until 4.


  1. What a great experience. I love hearing you and your wife doing things together. We need more of that. Good luck on your performance.

    1. Thanks Michael,
      Music is something we've both enjoyed since we first started dating. To me, having something in common is very important in all relationships.

  2. I agree with you that there are things that seem to attain perfection even though I think it's not possible for us to reach, however; I agree with you that the only way to get better is to practice, practice, practice... even when we don't feel like it:)

  3. Oh -Good for your for continuing your practice and working on perfecting your craft. I love the idea of putting the big rocks in first...amazing, simple thought-but so complex at the same time- xo Diana

  4. Big rocks... got it. Tony and I were just talking with someone about our running 5Ks... she asked if we even liked it. Which we do, we really like the races, the practice/training is what kills us sometimes. So, in a way, I can totally relate. :)

  5. Love that analogy!!! Must gather up more big heavy rocks to put in my empty-ish jar!! Darn it!!

    And the you at 25 pic!! Are you serious!??! LOL!!

    p.s. my favourite Madonna anecdote (not a fan but I like this one!!) is when she was made to take singing lessons for her film part in Evita. Only after the lessons did she realise how little she knew of what it takes to use one's voice to make beautiful music.

    Take care

  6. Great analogy--must remember to use it next time my gr-kids get upset about something.

  7. I agree with you, Rick. Thanks for the reminder. Great post!

  8. I've heard that analogy before, but it's such a good one. Practice makes perfect, and it also helps make our dreams come true. Once again: I wish I could hear you and Jilda play. I have a feeling it's a real treat.


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