I recently spent two hours in a conference room with some really smart people and three accomplished musicians from a young, innovative Chicago-based chamber orchestra called Fifth House Ensemble. We talked about the nature of the professional musician and what it takes to become world class.
The leader of Fifth House suggested that the world’s best musicians have four “superpowers” in common:
“I picked this path, and I’m committed to it.”
Professional musician generally choose their artistic path as early as four years old. Most of the rest of us are not picking our careers when we’re that young, but the concept is still very relevant. Do we know exactly who we are, what career we’re creating, and what kind of impact we’re having in the world?
Musicians all over the world practice two to six hours a day every day just to maintain their skill. More practice time when they are learning a new technique or piece of music. And they do this from the time they’re four years old. It’s really good for creating muscle memory, but it does require extraordinary self-discipline to spend hours every day in a solitary practice room. This single-mindedness begins to affect how they observe and experience the world, putting much of what they see and hear in terms of music and rhythm, tone and emotion.
Therefore, even when they’re not practicing, they’re listening to “world” music; they’re looking at the world through a unique perspective — all of which ultimately influences their craft.
3) Performance Management
What kind of an environment do you create for yourself? Most performers have little control over the venue in which they perform. They’re shown to the concert hall where the air-conditioning isn’t right, the lights might not be what they expected and the acoustics aren’t perfect. But the professional musician has developed a refined self-discipline that governs how she approaches each new environment.
There’s also self-discipline behind how performers eat, exercise and sleep. Sometimes musicians even get superstitious about what they eat before they perform. But this is all because they know that all of their hours of self-discipline only come to fruition when there is a performance.
Musicians have to get used to harsh criticism. It comes with the job. They also have to be willing to embrace intense competition and the fact that, over their career, they’re going to suffer much rejection.
Successful musicians are the ones who learn to face adversity with the resilience to move past it and overcome it.
What Pharma Marketing Can Learn From Art
In the business world, how many of us practice two to six hours a day to maintain our skills? Perhaps in the fields of engineering, design or medicine, but even there seldom does skill development approach a musician’s level of intentionality.
When we first begin to learn a skill, we’re very conscious about the fact that we don’t yet know how to perform it. But we work on it very deliberately. We practice it over and over until it becomes almost second nature, until it becomes a habit. At that point we can perform our new skill unconsciously. And if we’ve reached a level of excellence, we generally stop developing. We’ve achieved our goal.
The only way to get really good – that is, world-class – is if you bring your skill development back into a state of self-consciousness. You return to a level of self-awareness where you’re once again very intentional about practicing your skill. You work to create a virtuous circle between habit and intentional practice, building world-class expertise with every rotation.
For those of us in marketing, we often wonder how we can achieve world-class skill levels in analytics, segmentation, strategy, design, writing, and relationship marketing. To work in this field, we have all developed certain basic marketing skills – best practices – and we can do them well, even unconsciously. For example, when we walk into a meeting with a client, write a marketing plan, or lead a sales meeting, we can often function on autopilot.
However, achieving world-class requires a different approach to building expertise. Like the world’s top musicians, it requires a set of superpowers. World-class performers in business or music are those who move beyond “best practices” by functioning at a level of intentionality and self-awareness that leads to a life of ever-increasing skill levels.
Perhaps intentionality is the true superpower…