Be Happy, Be Creative (Part 4 of 4): Don’t procrastinate.

It was 2001, I was on a date with my girlfriend (and now my wife) and we walked past a shop selling string instruments. There were many beautiful violins and cellos on display.

I said to her, “Maybe I should pick up the violin. I never had a chance to learn music when I was young. Also, wouldn’t it be nice to pair my violin with your piano playing?”

She said, “Why not?”

I said, “OK, let’s do this! I want to play like Itzhak Perlman!”

So, at the age of 25, I bought a student violin and signed up for violin class. Becoming a violin player turned out to be one of the most fascinating and arduous things I have undertaken in my life. I didn’t expect my violin-playing journey to continue for another 21 years. (I paused my violin lessons in Dec 2022 when I got retrenched but I told my teacher that “I’ll be back.”)

I may be a born artist but early on in my violin journey, I discovered I lacked the traits to become a good musician: I could not memorize scores well, my hearing was not refined, my hand’s bone structure was not suited for reaching difficult notes, and I never got over my stage fright during recitals.

Yet, I trudged on, practicing at least an hour almost every night for two decades. I wanted to see if I could overcome my lack of aptitude with willpower and practice. (Quick answer: Yes, up to an intermediate level). In 2022, I passed my Grade 7 exam but alas, a 10-year-old student will still play the violin better than I can.

Now, in trying to learn an instrument I could never master, I discovered many learning techniques that dismantled my fixed mindset and stubborn ways of doing things. The same techniques helped me to solve problems at work in different ways (that’s creativity!) and helped me advance in my career.

Every new violin piece I had to learn was not easy. But I never procrastinated. I just got started and took my time to get it right. Being able to play each piece made me happy.

It is daunting to do new things, but as long as you get started, you will figure it out and learn something new along the way.

All that said, I should have chosen an easier instrument to learn….

(Screenshot of a violin lesson from 2013)