Oscar Peterson on how to develop the ability to do something

Jazz piano player Oscar Peterson led a trio that was known for their long, intricate arrangements of jazz standards. They memorized everything. How did they do it? How did they develop that ability?

Oscar Peterson said, “My theory was that it would be ridiculous to have a trio come to play and everybody would be playing from music stands. So I insisted that they had to memorize almost on the spot. And the ability to do that developed as we did it. So we became awfully good at it. We’d come up with an arrangement in the afternoon and perform it that night. It wasn’t probably what we wanted. But you come in four nights later and we had it locked in.”

The ability to do something develops as you do it. And the beginning may not be exactly what you want, but if you persist you’ll lock it in. Persistence only works if you do something and you’re willing for your first attempts to be imperfect. I know this fact all to well from both sides, especially when practicing music – sometimes I’m successful at letting it be imperfect and loving that, sometimes my survival instinct kicks in and starts screaming that I’m only going to be safe if it’s perfect the first time.

Can you see the bigger picture of your desire? Can you develop the ability to do what you want to as you do it? Can you see the bigger picture and let your attempts today be imperfect?

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