Have you ever played a musical instrument? Were you deliberate about practicing or did your parents have to force you?
Gerald J. Leonard claims that professional musicians spend 95% of their time practicing and only 5% on stage. He should know…
Gerald is a professional jazz musician, a Portfolio Management Professional consultant, and the author of two books: Culture is the Bass and, his new book, Workplace Jazz. As a lover of neuroscience, he understands the importance of deliberate practice.
In this conversation, we explore the unexpected connection between deliberate practice and gratitude.
Practice is better than perfect
In 2018 Gerald suffered a debilitating case of vertigo. His doctors felt his life would never be the same and he may never recover. The timing couldn’t have been worse. In six weeks he was scheduled to give his first Tedx talk in Wilmington, Delaware.
The topic of his Tedx talk was the power of neuroscience and music in productivity. He wanted to discuss the power of music in healing the brain. He said I can’t give that talk if I don’t believe it. So with lots of prayers, he determined to dedicate himself to practicing daily. On purpose.
He acknowledges that God gave him the gift of music and determined that he would always use his gifts for God’s glory.
God honored his prayers and miraculously healed him in less than 3 months. The doctors couldn’t explain the miracle, but acknowledge it. Gerald felt a new lease on life.
The art of deliberate gratitude
It turns out that gratitude resembles practicing music. We need to practice daily and most often in private. If we determine to grow daily, and not fail into ruts, we can accomplish great things.
Musicians find themselves getting comfortable in their routines. Practice becomes routine and they stop growing.
The same can happen with gratitude. We can learn one skill like keeping a gratitude journal, but never grow to the point where it changes our lives.
Deliberate daily practice leads to monumental change
Proverbs 21:5 says, “Steady plodding brings prosperity; hasty speculation brings poverty.”
Practice can feel unproductive and laborious. Many times we may feel like we made little progress, but after months we can begin to see the benefit.
I met with my friend Charlie (name changed) recently. Six months ago, Charlie’s marriage was on the rocks and his family wouldn’t talk with him. He vowed to change by God’s grace and so began making daily choices to teach himself a different narrative for his brain. As a result, he’s lost no friends and people still respect him deeply.
I told Charlie that his life has changed dramatically since I’ve known him. He’s forever changed for good.
Practicing gratitude counts
What we do when no one is watching is where the game is won or lost. It’s not how you perform on stage. It’s what you do with that word of criticism. Do you choose to offer words of encouragement instead? It’s how we handle feelings of annoyance? Do we offer grace to others or do we harbor ill feelings?
What we do each day and every moment matters. God sees it all and he’s the only judge that matters. We can excuse ourselves by saying, “Well, God will forgive me anyway.”
The truth is that pretending to be holy is more work than admitting we’re unholy deserving death.
Deliberate practice starts small
On day 31 of the Gratitude Challenge we discussed how to think more thankfully by taking time to go deeper in our prayers and thoughts. That’s how musicians practice. We take a difficult piece of music and break it into smaller parts and practice those parts until we have it mastered. Slowly we put it together.
The same is true with gratitude. Start small. Practice daily. Push yourself to go farther or faster each day. After weeks and months you will begin to see massive results.
Don’t get in a rut
One of the worst things musicians do is practice the same thing every day. Once you’ve mastered something you need to try something new. It’s the same with weight training. If you don’t push yourself to do more reps or more weight you will stop growing.
The same happens with gratitude.
The result of deliberate gratitude
Remember my friend Charlie. Just recently I met with him. He’s been through a very challenging season where his wife almost left him, his children wouldn’t talk with him, and he couldn’t find a job. But he kept plugging away every day. Talking. Thinking. Staying grateful.
I told Charlie today that I’m impressed by the miracle I see in him. He’s a different man than I met a few years ago.
That can happen for you as you practice gratitude each and every day. Deliberately.
This Gratitude Challenge has provided many different ways to practice gratitude. Pick one thing you will do for the next week. Schedule it. Push yourself to do a little more each day. For example, if you’re writing in your gratitude journal for 3 minutes tonight. Slowly increase that to 5 minutes by the end of the week.
Father, I thank you for your providence and grace. Thank you for giving us brains that love to grow, adapt, and improve. I pray you’ll teach me to deliberately grow in gratefulness every day. Showing me specific ways to push myself. May your Holy Spirit guide even as you keep me humble. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.