The 10% Rule
The scene in my office has shifted these last couple of weeks from one of writing and computering to one of fluting. What was once a nice, tidy expanse of soft, multicolored rug is now a floor littered with music and pencils and post it notes and gadgets like my tuner and metronome and recording device.
I’m in that place of getting back in shape where I’m not sure if the problems I’m hearing are me or if my flute is, in fact, broken. (Does that happen to you, too?) I cross my fingers that it’s my flute, but I’m pretty sure it’s mostly me.
As each day passes, and I slowly inch back into shape, I contend with How Far I Have To Go.
Will I ever play pp is the high register and not sound like a paper bag full of wasps?
Will I ever have the control to shape phrases exactly the way I hear them in my head?
Will I ever play freaking Classical Symphony at tempo?
And the answer? I don’t know.
I don’t know whether I’ll get back to that place. I hope so. (I think…ahem) I’m willing to do the work and invest the heavy physical and emotional load it will take to get me there. But I don’t know the outcome.
What I do know is today - the choices I can make, the challenges I can lean into, the resilience I can actively practice, the vision I can choose to invest my love and energy into today.
And, because I am a woman with decades of experience and wisdom and self-discovery embedded in my body, I also know that today is one day of many. Today is not the end. Today is in process.
I can choose to make that process beautiful or I can choose to make that process harmful.
Here is one simple way I make the process beautiful.
I ask myself: How can I make this 10% better?
Yes, I want my high register pp to sound like liquid gold. But, what can I do today to make it 10% clearer?
Yes, I want my phrases in Aus Liebe to connect a certain way. But, what if I slow the tempo down? Does that get me closer?
Yes, I want to play Classical Symphony at 152. Can I get it to 120 today? And 124 tomorrow?
The magical thing about getting something 10% better is that you can Totally do it. Instead of bumping up against a wall of frustration and perfection, you float through your goal confidently, feeling empowered and equipped to show up to the work again tomorrow. You foster an internal environment rich with positivity and hope. You are invested in the long game and showing up for your dreams day after day. You find joy (and inspiration!) in the process. You rewire your internal narrative from shame and self-sabotage to a deep belief that you can, in fact, get where you want to go.
One step, one 10% at a time
How does this notion sit with you? I’m curious. Does it feel like sunshine and rainbows? Or do you find power in it?
If you’re comfortable, let me know! I love connecting over ways to find more balance, joy, and freedom in the daily work of being an artist.
Play on, my friend. I'm cheering for you.
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Founder of The Musician's Mindset
Katie is a certified life coach dedicated to helping musicians overcome stage fright and believe in their own unique artistic voice. She believes live classical music is a powerful antidote for the division, pain, and loneliness pervasive in the culture and strives to support all artists to confidently share their work with the world. She lives in Cincinnati with her husband, three kiddos, a dog, a snake, and a goldfish named Orca.