How to Learn Anything

April 19, 2019

Learning a skill does not have to be so complicated.

It’s true that some might be harder to learn than others. If you want to learn to fly a plane, or do brain surgery, or install power lines, yeah, you might need careful supervision.

But learning to play a musical instrument?

It’s not that hard.

I’d put it in the same category as learning a language (which practically every human being on the planet has done at least once), or learning to draw (which most kids love doing until they’re taught that they’re “bad at it”), or learning to play a video game.

Kimon Nicolaïdes, in his excellent book The Natural Way to Draw, writes:

“The sooner you make your first five thousand mistakes, the sooner you will be able to correct them.”

If I had to give a two-step, comprehensive plan for learning a musical instrument, it would be this:

1. Make as many mistakes as possible.
2. Pay attention to what happens while you make each mistake.

“Pay attention” means asking yourself questions like:

• What else is happening while this mistake happens?
• What happens after the mistake?
• What happens before the mistake?
• How do I know it’s actually a mistake?

This is not the same thing as trying to fix mistakes.

(If you are curious to learn more about how to pay attention to mistakes, check out my free online course.)

OK, I want to hear your objections to this. What am I missing? What are your reservations and hesitations about adopting this attitude?

About the author

Michael Korman has played the piano in opera productions and recitals, as well as directing music at a church and coaching classical singers. He draws upon his experiences with meditation and mindfulness to inform his views on music. In addition to music, Michael also holds degrees in computer science. When he's not playing the piano or meditating, he might be practicing drawing or calligraphy.

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