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Riley Music Academy Music Cast: Results over Process

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Results over Process

The Information Age has unlocked so many possibilities and I, for one, love it! In the past year alone I’ve studied jazz, digital marketing, the human brain, fitness, NLP, basic coding, the history of Mesopotamia, countless hippyish self help techniques and home improvements. The 24/7, learn at your own pace method suits me down to the ground and I’m enjoying learning for the first time ever!

When it comes to teaching I get an added bonus because I can cement all this newly assimilated knowledge by explaining it to others. This is a simple trick I highly recommend by the way. Try to teach someone who has no idea what you’re talking about the intricacies of what you do. After you bore your victim to tears and pull your hair out with frustration, you’ll realise that you have a deeper knowledge of the subject. Plus you will have advanced your skills in communication and patience.

The issue I face day to day (and is the topic of this weeks rant) is the fascination with results. Results are tangible, results are black and white, results are sexy (?!)

Check out any online course and you will see something like this:

  • Lose weight, put on muscle and define your abs in only 3x 40 minute workouts per week
  • Billionaires don’t want you to see this: 3 step guide - add ££££ to your bank account whilst working part time at home
  • By the end of this course you’ll be able to bend steel bars, leap buildings in a single bound and learn Kryptionian secrets known only to the elite; or your money back! 

It’s marketing psychology and it works. It feels like value for money because you pay up and at the end you know what you’re going to get.

The problem with this is that people obsess about the results and not the process.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m on the same quest for results as everyone else. I would love to have a bank account which puts me at ease rather than tightens my chest every month (here’s a sneaky projected personal goal – lets see if it comes true when I reread this blog in 12 months time). I would love to have a six pack and go toe to toe with Lex Luthor but for now I’m satisfied with the process. I know that I’m progressing at a decent rate and when I’m ready to put my underpants on over my trousers… I will – how to take an analogy way too far!

Before I return to my point properly, let’s talk about YouTube. I think there’s a reason why my YouTube channel has only had 7,910 views visitors (which in comparison to say Kayne West’s Vivo account at 2,386,296 is low). Despite the saturation of information both good and bad, YouTube is the perfect place for the quick fix. Two examples:

I wanted to tile my bathroom. Some chirpy DIY expert showed me exactly how to do it. Here’s the result (possibly prouder of this achievement than all my musical projects put together):

For a non-practical cluts like myself, it’s not half bad

Second example:

I had a gig and I had to learn the piano part to:

Whitney Houston’s “How will I know?”

Did I sit down and put myself through the pain of transcribing this deliriously happy bubblegum pop mess? No… I cheated and learnt it on YouTube in the car on the way to the gig.

The downside of YouTube is that it doesn’t really sell the process. I get a lot of students who work from Youtube videos and although they can play the piece, they haven’t learned the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ .

What are these random notes I’m playing? What beat does it come in on? How can I transfer the knowledge learnt to a different tune?”

People move from one video to the other building a massive repertoire of party pieces and at the end that’s all they have. They miss the other joys of music. It also makes my teaching hard when I look like the bad guy because I ask them what they are playing and they have no idea.

Sometimes the process is the most important factor. I often practice with long tones which I’ve discussed before. Yes, I have a goal in mind (improve my tone) but the process is so much more rewarding than the result. It’s taken me a long time to realise this.

Spring is here and lots of people are starting to work on their gardens. The end result is to tidy up their land from the barrage of the wind and rain of winter. The process however produces far more benefits: Fresh air, exercise, problem solving, designing, exploring, experiencing life, Vitamin D absorption!  

Result driven learning is an epidemic and it is often associated with money which in my honest opinion is a big mistake. Everyone wants the best education of course but they also want to see reports, progress, tracking, statistics, ROI!!!! I was recently asked how quickly I could get a complete beginner (aged 9) through Grade 1 piano and how much would it cost. I was flabbergasted. Well, it depends…is she willing to work?, does she show an interest in music?, do you have a piano at home?, do you want her to be a good musician or just tick the boxes needed for the exam?, do you want her to complete Grade 1 then give up because she hates it?! I started to think about the many shortcuts I could use until I eventually declined the money and refused to teach her (in fact it wasn’t necessarily the girl, it was the father I wasn’t willing to take on).

As you probably know, there are hoops we have to jump through in life and sometimes we learn things purely to pass exams. Achieving this recognised normality somehow qualifies us to move on to the next level and yet we really know very little.

I am always careful to avoid political statements but my opinion on schooling is that there is way too much testing. This massively interferes with the process of just ‘being’. Having the time to work things out yourself, enjoying your surroundings, socialising, exploring creativity and being present. This testing is used to pigeon hole students and decides whether or not the financial investment made is working. I pay the teacher X pounds per hour to get this result.

I am in a fortunate position where I can justify my own teaching through the experiences my students have. I am exclusively freelance so, on the whole, I do not have to conform to ‘the man’! I will freely admit that as a teacher I am massively unqualified in certain areas and I fully respect the profession as its a real tough one but I take my own stance and it seems to work. I get results and I document them but sometimes the result happens after say, the summer holiday when students practice or have time to reflect on the lessons. Sometimes the result happens 10 years later. Sometimes the intended result never happens but a new path is chosen and results in other areas appear.

It’s good to be challenged but its not always advantageous to keep up with everyone else and do what is expected of you. If you want to pass exams and feel good about yourself then go for it. There are plenty of people who enjoy this process.

It can open a few doors and be of use. Will it turn you into the person you wish to become? Possibly not.

My view is that we take on what we need, meet some of the result driven expectations that ‘normal’ society lays on us (so that we don’t stand out like complete weirdos) and enjoy the process.

To finish, I would like to offer this clip of an interview with the incredible saxophonist Branford Marsalis. He articulates this idea of feeling smug through results perfectly and he doesn’t mince his words!

As always, if you have questions, comments or arguments then please post them here


6 Comments Add a Comment
  1. Jay
    April 21, 2016

    BTW, I base on my saxophone based dance moves on the guy from the whitney houston video (solo at 3:39)

    • Laura
      April 21, 2016

      Yeah, we noticed haha

  2. Amelia Webster
    April 21, 2016

    I like most of the people I know have a busy lifestyle and not much time to read blogs… fully, I often start and then skim to see if it’s worth me going back to or thinking about further. But this latest edition from Jay got me thinking. I dont usually think they are meant for me. I’M NOT A GREAT MUSICIAN OR A STUDENT! Although I have a degree in acting and music and work involving and playing music professionally I don’t ever feel like I can say I’m a musician. The reason being if I’m honest is I’m not the best. far from it. I’m not a competitive person I genuinely congratulate others and can recognise and support talent.however it’s different for myself. I’m hard on me.full of self doubt. Since becoming a mother I have lost even more confidence in my skills. I have taken to paying weekly to sing with a band, I realise that I should by rights (and could )get paid to do this. (I have been in the past) However at this stage in my career this suits me just fine. The only issue is my own critical opinion on me. I think playing one of my instruments and being part of the band is a safer position. But singing totally fulfills me, but is it paining others to listen! ?? I created a project that was succesful fast resulting in pitching to cbeebies bosses. Very exciting, flattering and positive. It came and went and the ‘interest’ has now moved on. This nearly getting there happens alot for me and with each ‘nearly’ i get knocked. But perhaps i should see these as achievements in themselves and a proof of my potential. It is very hard. For now however, the safety of a rehearsal room is actually the place where I can flourish and remind myself that although I have never got the gold medal, won the race etc I have actually got a knowledge of music and something to bring to the table. Stick at it and remind myself that the journey is constant learning curve. I often talk more confidently about a skill ive picked up the day before on youtube (knitting is the latest) than my actual skills. I’m now not sure any of this is relevant. But at least it’s got me thinking. Thanks Jay

    • Jay
      April 21, 2016

      Near misses can be tough but why did they not come into fruition? Was it that the idea wasn’t good enough or that your focus changed. You showed that you can achieve great things when you work hard at something (having talks with television big wigs) and when you change your focus to something else you are great at that instead (being a mum to your family). The skills are there it’s just you’ve diverted them to something you feel more important. Glad it got you thinking and it warranted more than a skim read.

  3. Laura
    April 21, 2016

    Hello Jay
    Tiling looks cool.
    Guess you’ve watched Ken Robinson “do schools kill creativity?” And other TED lectures.
    I loved Whitney, wanted to be Whitney, but I guess she took her eyes and ears off the process with a catastrophic result.
    If I was results as opposed to process driven i would have given up on playing the sax and many other things that make me happy, despite the results, long ago.
    Happy to stand as a weirdo in the process corner of the ring.
    end Result for all of us is the same, but hopefully less tragic than Whitneys.
    How’s the six pack coming along?
    Most schools are sausage factories, don’t have time or money for anybody who’s outside of mediocre.
    Political opinions are fine and much needed I reckon. Say what you think. I, and I’m sure others are inspired and want to hear/read what you have to say
    Sad for 9 year old with results driven Father, sad for him too, maybe you should take them on as a pair – big challenge, teach him a different way of being.
    Love your writing, miss your teaching though I do have a great teacher here in St Ives.

    • Jay
      April 21, 2016

      Thanks Laura

      I’m trying to make my way through TED talks.

      I’m trying to actively come down from the fence I’ve been sitting on all my life so it’s a gradual process! Maybe one day I’ll say something really opinionated and controversitial!

      That’s a great way to think about the dad and his daughter. Taking them both on could have been the nicest thing to do but yes…a big challenge!

      So glad you have a great teacher in Cornwall. Sounds like you’re having a blast down there.

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