Back To Work
How are you guys doing? Hope everyone has nicely recovered from the holidays and that you're getting back into a somewhat normal groove for the new year. I didn't make any lists or resolutions except for one simple thought: to do and be better.
Work began this week on Milagro Canyon Jam Trax Volume Two, which will focus on backing tracks for mountain dulcimer players and this will add to the collection of tracks begun back in October. The eventual plan is to have an online archive where people can buy each track ala carte according to their desires. The tracks will be listed by key, time signature, tempo, energy and skill level. The mountain dulcimer collection will concentrate on DAD tuning in the keys of G, D, A, Em, Bm and F#m with a couple of odd keys thrown in that are possible in this tuning, but not widely regarded. If you purchased Milagro Canyon Jam Trax Volume 1, you'll be getting this second set of tracks and the book as a free digital download!
I'm also working on some new Dulcimerica episodes that will be more detailed than the average installment. Just bouncing around some ideas so that we can ALL be better at what we love to do with the mountain dulcimer (and other instruments.)
That, and I've been flying my drones every day since the first (okay, second) one arrived on December 9th. There was a lot of crashing and crumpling of propellers and prop guards that first week, but I was determined to do better. Weird. I was kind of obsessed about being better, much like I've been with music all my life. Now, I'm racing my Syma X8C around like a Sikorsky UH-60 Blackhawk. It's a $60 no-frills quadcopter, a training drone, and the prop guards have come off in a defiant display of "don't need 'em, let's rock." My 3DR Solo, on the other hand, is a blazing beast of a machine that I don't hot rod. The flight skills I've acquired in just a few weeks give me the confidence to fly the Solo if I lose GPS signal, but the purpose of this bird is to carry a camera where I've never been able to carry one before. The learning curve has been surprisingly not-too-difficult and I'm not sure if that's due to a tech-geek brain or if the thing was just perfectly designed.
Last night, I took it apart and made some DIY upgrades to the GPS and controller, increasing my flight range by two miles and gaining additional satellite positioning stability. This morning's sunrise flight over Orlando was awe-inspiring in both its fear-factor and its serenely stunning beauty. On the drive back home, I kicked myself for not keeping a flight log to see just how many hours I'd been at this with the fleet of five drones that I now own. It got me thinking about Malcolm Gladwell's theory of 10,000 hours. In his book, The Outliers, Gladwell posits that, in order to be good at any one thing, you must spend 10,000 hours working at it. That works out to approximately 90 minutes a day for 20 years. Not exactly music to a late-bloomer's ears.
But some people have been scoffing at this concept, saying that simply spending the time isn't enough to excel at any given skill. One such scoffer is Anders Ericcson, a Professor of Psychology at Florida State University, whose research formed the backbone of Gladwell's book. Ericcson is on the record as saying that "The 10,000 Hour Rule" is an over-simplification of his research and leaves out some important qualifiers, such as quality of practice.
Furthermore, a 2014 Princeton study reveals that practice only accounts for a 12% difference in performance in various domains. In Frans Johansson's book The Click Moment, he posits that deliberate practice is only a predictor of success in fields that have super-stable structures, fields where the rules don't change. In tennis, chess and classical music, the rules never change and you can study to become the best. But in entrepreneurship and rock and roll, where the rules don't apply, you have to shift and change with the times. Perhaps less practice and more cunning is the way to win at that point.
In the midst of all of this is the old bugaboo of time. Whether you're playing by the rules or throwing that book out the window, it's still about how much time you're willing to invest in anything. That's what I tell my students, and myself, at every opportunity. Don't just attempt to learn a skill. Make an effort to learn how we learn. Practice better, get better results. Be better.
Flying drones is the first passion that's captivated me since music played its siren song so many years ago. There's a purpose to it all, a desire to plus my video production, which is an extension of my music. I still fight to stay on the horse every day with music as well; studying, researching, practicing, writing, recording, performing and teaching. I'm way past 10,000 hours, but often feel like I'm at hour 567 and, so, I continue to push and expand and discover. There are only so many hours in a day, so you really have to pick and choose your battles.
Hopefully, for all of us, we emerge victorious with buckets of champagne (or Gator-Aid) poured upon our heads.