Skip to main content

POW! Get a hobby. How trying something new (running) continues to help me with something old (singing)

There's a difference between who we are and what we do

Often, when we turn something we love (singing) into a career pursuit, the thing we love becomes a grind.  Practice becomes the biggest/weightiest thing on a list of chores AND we no longer view the daily pursuit of a career as a thing that we can enjoy, or that can bring us personal reward. 

I have two initial thought prompts on this.

1. As long as we remain curious about what we're doing, we can remain engaged by it and it's personally rewarding.  If we only approach our practice as a check-list, and not as a jumping off point for continued exploration that's where stagnancy can set in. 

2.  There are things other than music which can bring us personal reward and keep us engaged-- with others and with the world around us.  I can't give music the burden of being my only source of inspiration-- but often, when I allow myself to pursue other hobbies or interests, they circle their way back to my music practice and provide a little spark of curiosity there too. 

For me, running is the one interest that I have which has consistently circled back to influence the thoughts I have about singing & teaching. I constantly say in my studio "You don't defy science" meaning-- if you practice you will improve.  This is a mantra I said to myself when I signed up for my first 5k seventeen years ago.  

I NEVER thought that I could finish it, not in a million years, and yet there were plans to follow which promised I could do just that.  I used something called "Couch to 5k" because that was where I was coming from (the couch) and where I wanted to go (a 5K).  And I started with 60 second running intervals and I ran that 5k.  I wanted to put the word "ran" in quotations in that sentence, because truly, it was at the pace of a quickly moving walker, but it was running for me.  It was a mindful effort to go faster than I wanted to go and not stop even when it got hard. 

Since then I've run many 5Ks and I have increased my speed a bit-- now pacing with elite elderly power-walkers.  Many of the things which worked to get me to run also work to help me structure my practice: 

1. Remember why you're doing it.  For running it's because I want to be able to actively explore the world.  I don't want to look at a mountain and not climb it because I'm worried about my knees or whether I'll be able to make it.  It might take me a long time, but I want to be able to do it, and not be fearful about my ability to do so.  For singing it's because I am a singer, and singers sing.  I have to maintain a general fitness level so that when I transition from coach into athlete (several times a year) I'm not having to build my instrument back after months of neglect. 

2. Schedule. I put practice and exercise on my calendar. Period.  It's a commitment. If it's not on my calendar and I see that I have unstructured time, I will waste it watching Gardening Shows on the BBC. Or browsing plants on Instagram (not a waste)

3. Focus on progress rather than perfection. I ran a 5K last week-- the first one since the pandemic and I have never had a worse run in my life.  Slow. Heart was racing. Unmotivated.  BUT I finished it. I spent the second mile trying very hard not to think of the fitness that I lost over the last 14 months, but that list ran through my head.  I spent the third mile grateful that for some reason I wasn't stopping.  I had built that ability over 17 years-- that alone is progress. And at the end when I called home to tell my family about it, the conversation was the same it's always been. "Guys! I won" "REALLY??" "Of course- I finished it." 


Popular posts from this blog


Sometimes I find it useful to have one prompt that I share with all of my students over the course of my teaching for the week. This can help me stay faithful to the "Big Picture" part of mentorship. These "Prompts of the Week" or "POW"s can be about consistency, mindset, goal setting, or anything about the bigger picture of being an artist. I hope over time to build a database of over 200 prompts to share, along with some studio responses.   POW 1: What is the function of your voice lessons? How is our time together going to serve you in the short and long term.   Reflections: In the end, I want the singers that I work with to feel confidently independent. It's no good going for a drive if you're tethered to your mechanic. I want to help you to understand how your voice functiions so that if something goes wrong when you're out on the road you can fix it yourself and keep on singing. Of course I am here for any tuneups and checkins and

You can't "Win at Art": Infinite Mindset

You can't play an infinite game with a finite mindset. You can't be Number 1.  You can't be the best or beat the competition.  There is no such thing as winning art.  There is is only ahead and behind.  "The goal is not to win; the goal is to keep playing." To play with an infinite mindset you need: 1. A just cause. You need a reason to exist or a reason to want to keep doing what you're doing.  Have we talked about the fact that "loving singing" is not enough?  What do you love about it?  Is it the community?  Is it the praise (be honest)? There are many good things that singing can do for us, but if your goal is to monetize it-- to make it your career, you really have to be sure that your mission statement is really strong.  Why are you in it?  2. Trusting teams. If you aren't surrounded by people who you trust and people who trust you as a creator, you are forced to lie hide and fake every day.  It does you know good to pretend to be