Monday, January 10, 2011

Make Loud Mistakes

When I was growing up, I took weekly piano lessons. My piano teacher seemed somewhat intimidating and fairly strict with her weekly goals and homework assignments (or so it seemed from the innocent eyes of this grade-school student).

Each week, I would show up at my lesson and play the song that had been assigned to me as homework from the week before. If I had practiced well, I could usually play the assigned song with success (and earn my appropriate stickers, which my piano teacher would place on my sheet music).

If I hadn’t prepared well, I would invariably play more tentatively, hesitating just a bit. I would play softer and slower; it seemed as if I would naturally take myself into a slow motion rendition of my own performance. My piano teacher would always say “play louder! I want to hear loud mistakes!” If I followed her guidance and played with more confidence, two things would happen:

  • If I did make mistakes, she could hear them more easily and help me correct them.
  • I could simulate the more appropriate behavior I would need in order to effectively perform in a recital situation, where I had a “real” audience.

I found myself recently saying this saying phrase “make loud mistakes!” to a group of talented leaders who were practicing a new skill set. What I found is that they would rehearse more softly, slowly, and tentatively than what an effective performance would require. By acting with more confidence, they would likely perform better, and if they did make mistakes, I could more easily hear them and help them correct.

While it is natural to want to move more tentatively through a new or difficult passage, perhaps moving with more confidence and vigor would produce greater results. “Fake it until you make it” is a phrase that seems to be a powerful corollary here. If you don’t feel confident, try to imagine as if you did feel confident. The results will likely be palpable to those around you.

So my encouragement for you, especially as you try new or uncomfortable new skills or practices, is make loud mistakes!