Practice. Then Practice Some More.

“Chance favors the prepared mind.”
Louis Pasteur

We started the week by acknowledging the existence of chance; by considering what it means to make friends with unpredictability and welcome its gifts.  But here’s the back story: those gifts come to us more easily if we’re ready. We have to stay loose and let go of the illusion of control in the moment, but before we do that, we have to practice.

“Practice means to perform,
over and over again
in the face of all obstacles,
some act of vision, of faith, of desire.
Practice is a means of inviting the perfection desired.”
Martha Graham

Again, thank you, Martha.  Almost no one says it better.

Let’s take it apart a little. “Practice means to perform”: not sleepwalking, not phoning it in, not going half-assed through the motions.  “Over and over again”: not twice, not three times, but again and again. “In the face of all obstacles”: when we didn’t get enough sleep, when we doubt our choices, when the world conspires against us. “Some act of vision, of faith, of desire”: the verb is simple and mundane, but the act is sacred. This thing that we do is important, no matter who we are and what we do. Making art, raising children, caring for people, building things – these are all acts of vision and faith. Approaching these things with seriousness of intent makes them sacred.

And finally, “Practice is a means of inviting the perfection desired.” Not demanding, forcing or coercing, but inviting. Do the work, then receive the guest.

“The artist is nothing without the gift,
but the gift is nothing without work.”
Émile Zola


How To Practice

Hi, I can’t say I’m a fan of that particular quote. There are for me too many ambiguities and too many old habits that could be encouraged by it.

For example: ‘over and over again’ is a mistake many people make. Mindless repetition is next to useless. Better to do it fewer times, with intent, understanding and awareness.

‘Vision, faith, desire’ ?? Makes the practice process sound like a rather ephemeral thing obtiainable only by true believers. The reality is anybody can attain very high performance levels in music with the right approach.

And as for simply ‘inviting perfection’ if only it were as simple as that. Practice requires hard work and dedication over a long time period. Something which it at odds with today’s quick fix societies.

So, no I don’t like this quote too many misleading areas in it.

Thanks for posting though ;)


I love your site, Mike! (I assume this was from Mike:)) Everyone should check out – looks like a great resource.

And I get your reluctance to embrace my post. In no way was I trying to be comprehensive, but rather to inspire folks who may have gotten derailed. There are pitfalls in any easy prescription, and there are many more facets to this topic than our friend Ms. Graham touched upon. It’s never as simple as that, but sometimes looking at it in a new way is enough to get the machine going again.

Thanks for reading and for commenting!


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