Life is Like a Musical Instrument – How’s Your Performance

10774416 - details of musicians to play a symphony

Are you operating at the maestro level or are you still in the rehearsal stage?

In order for any person to be highly competent on any musical instrument, they have to practice consistently for many years.  For most of those years they spend their time trying to master small elements of a larger skill. Things like learning to read musical notes, learning the keys or strings on their instrument, understanding rhythm, tempo and tuning. Once they get the basics they then move on to practicing and learning more complex and difficult pieces, all the while making mistakes and learning how to be better at their craft. Ultimately, the ideal outcome is not for them to be a replica of anyone else, but instead to be the best version that they can be.

When we think about it, the same can be said for our lives.  If we want to live successfully and at a level that allows us to be consistently great, then we need to practice repeatedly and at increasingly complex levels over time.  We need to be willing to start with the small things, try a little innovation and learn from our failure so that we can try bigger and harder the next time and the next. By doing this, we develop our skill in translating our ideas into concrete action items. By doing this, we also learn how to learn from failure, recover and move forward. The more we are able to do this, the better we get at it. This is where our mastery comes from.

The challenge for many of us is that we do not realise that this is a process. Most of us go through life not recognizing that living successfully takes a skill that we can work to master. We seem to assume that everything will just fall into place without any effort on our part. Therefore, when we have an idea or we make the decision to take action, we are not seeing it as a practice session or a rehearsal for the bigger dream down the road. Many of us just see what we are doing now as the main event and therefore when the outcome is not similar to what a high level practitioner would achieve, we get discouraged and give up.

Instead of telling ourselves that it’s a sign, or that we are not good at this, we should:

  • Adopt the mindset that with practice we can get good at it. As Les Brown says, it is sometimes necessary to do something badly until we learn how to do it well.
  • Move away from the notion that if we are meant to do something or if we have a passion for achieving a particular goal, then it will be easy to get to our endpoint.
  • Recognize that the struggle we go through is necessary to prepare us to handle the reality of living at the higher level that we envision.

So the next time you are preparing to undertake a challenge, ask yourself whether you are at the mastery level and therefore have a right to expect master-level results.  Or are you in the rehearsal stage and therefore should not be surprised at your practice-level outcomes. Being honest with yourself about your development level and your expectations at each stage will make your journey much more rewarding.


Marjorie Wharton is a trainer, facilitator and coach who works with individuals and organizations to help them improve their performance.  She is based at the Sagicor Cave Hill School of Business in Barbados. Follow her on twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.  For more of her writing visit




Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.