At nineteen years old, I was a bit too much of a procrastinator for my own good. Ambitious? Yes. Disciplined? Not so much.
I had been entering piano competitions in my local area in an effort to win more scholarship money for college. I thought it was a great idea - take a difficult piece I had been studying, hone it until it was perfect, and then play it in multiple competitions. One song, multiple competitions, loads of money.
And that worked great, for a while. I did, in fact, enter and win several competitions. Winning $250 there or $500 there would add up over time, and would definitely help out with college costs.
But, I think I got a little to big for my britches, so to speak. I decided to enter the Music Academy of the West's annual performance competition and go for the big time. Win lots of money, plus a potential scholarship to their prestigious summer program. Yep, I was going to go for it.
Excitedly, I signed up for the competition, which was three months away and told myself that I was going to perfect Mendelssohn's "Rondo Capriccioso". I intended to practice that baby every single day. Especially the dreaded middle section, where the semi-chromatic runs were so fast and complicated that I broke out in sweat just thinking about them.
That's right. Practice that baby every single day.
Except, I didn't.
In fact, I'm don't remember practicing much at all for the competition. I know I had a very busy life - working and going to school, and then there were all those other things like watching "Seinfeld" (now I'm dating myself) and things like that.
I didn't plan. I didn't calendar. I didn't make it work and so I didn't do the work.
And so the day arrived. My fiancé and his brother drove me down to the school in Santa Barbara and waited in the car while I went in to perform during my assigned time slot. I was nervous knowing that I was not as prepared as I wanted to be, but I still thought I had this thing in the bag. I'd won other times, so why not now?
I walked down the hallway, heading to the main auditorium and I passed by multiple practice rooms where competitors were warming up. That was my first hint that something was going to go wrong: their warm ups sounded way BETTER than my final product.
Then I listened outside the auditorium door, catching the current competitor's performance. Um, yeah, that person was good and the performance was flawless. Hint #2.
Finally, it was my time. I'd like to say that all of my years of careful study had paid off and that my previous success with this same piece just boosted me for this performance, but, sadly, it did not.
I was terrible. I played horribly -- nervous, sweaty hands, stumbling around. It was a train wreck of pretty much impressive proportions - especially that dreaded middle section.
I finally finished. Gave an awkward bow to the judges who were scowling at my music in front of them, and took off. I hopped back in the car where the guys were waiting, and said something classy like "Well, that stunk."
A week later, I heard the results and they were as bad as I suspected. Not only did I not win, I didn't even place. Not even honorable mention. I'm pretty sure I was put on a list of "do not let this person enter this competition again" somewhere.
I look back on that time and realize that I would do things so much more differently now. Here's the thing -- I didn't win, I didn't even place because I didn't plan.
I had a goal to win that competition, but I did nothing to plan for it. I just assumed I would practice, assumed I would find the time, assumed I would get it done, and assumed I would win. So, it actually wasn't a goal, it was a wish.
You know what they say about "assume?" Yeah, well . . .
So, piano teacher, do you have a goal to boost your studio by 10 clients? Are you just assuming that is going to happen or do you have a plan?
Do you have a goal to get your studio space organized so it is efficient and accessible for you and your clients? Assuming you will get to it or do you have a plan?
Is your goal to get out there on social media and have an online presence on three channels by December? Are you assuming you will learn how to do that or do you have a plan?
You see, when you have a goal with no plan -- its not a goal. Its just a wish. And wishing will get you nowhere, except maybe on the "do not let her compete again" list.
Piano Teacher friend, I encourage you to attach a plan to your goal. A specific, calendarable (yes, I know that's not a word, but go with it) plan. A to-do list that you have outlined in your schedule.
Don't just rest on past "wins", like I did. Don't assume it will happen, like I did.
Set your goal. Make a plan. Map it out. Work your plan. Trust me, you'll be glad you did.