21/365 Play First by the Rules—There Are NO Shortcuts to GREATness


"Love is like playing the piano. First you must learn to play by the rules, then you must forget the rules and play from your heart."




We both learned some good things from both of our families, and we both learned some bad. We then both got educated in what the research identified as the best practices. We read and we studied. We practiced. While we've "come into our own" at this stage and do it our own way, we continue to study, attend marriage retreats, etc. You know this, as a talented pianist who learned through tiresome discipline, the value of practice and repetition until you "make it look easy." Well, I'm glad we've done our work and still continue to practice. I'm glad we can now so easily play from our hearts with seeming ease.



I cannot tell you how many people have expressed to me the belief that love shouldn't require rules and formality and practice, but that if it's true love it should just work, it should just flow, it should be easy. Yes, I know, but seriously, that myth is a very popular and pervasive one that many intelligent and otherwise well-educated people actually buy into.

But let's compare greatness to greatness. How many great buildings, statues, paintings, martial artists, musicians "just happened"? They all studied the masters, learned from the greats before them, got as much training and knowledge as possible, studied their butts off and then once they drilled it into their heads and muscle memory were they able to then "do their own thing" where it flowed with grace and ease.

Cases in point:

My daughter above, is now 13 years old and is playing the music she loves and even writing some of her own. However, for years she complained about restrictive rules and boring practice and "stupid" songs her teacher picked for her. Now, from that discipline she has the freedom and joy to create her own music.

The Buddhists have a saying: "Enlightenment comes in a moment.... after years and years and years of meditation." Thich Nhat Hanh shares a little of the simplicity of mindful breathing practice.


Bruce Lee, who developed Jeet Kune Do in response to what he called "the fancy mess of martial arts" that was the overly formalized forms of Kung Fu, could only know how to create something new and fresh after studying the masters before him first. 


Stevie Ray Vaughan, the brillant blues guitarist, was self-taught with no formal training. However, did he study the masters? Yes. Did he emulate them until he found his own voice and style? Absolutely. Did he practice, practice, practice the best methods and shun what just didn't work? Without a doubt.


Ever watch Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dance? Any idea how many hours, days, weeks months and years go into just one three-minute dance routine to make it look like they are just "gliding on air"? They had to learn it "by the book" first before they could "make it their own" and give their dancing their signature style. 


Greatness is created through careful crafting. There are NO SHORTCUTS TO GREATNESS!