Micromanaging our playing

September 26th, 2010

Control is essential if you want to achieve mastery in any field or activity.

You have a set desired outcome, you want to achieve that outcome, control gives you the tools to influence that outcome.

The problem is usually not with control but with too much control.

That’s because we all have a bit of the control freak within us. We think if we can control every aspect of our execution, we might have a better chance of achieving our goals. This need for control is especially pronounced in high stakes situations, such as when we want to master something as complex as the classical guitar.

There’s a term they use in the business world – micromanagement.

That’s what you do when you try to get into the details of your body functioning. You begin to micromanage your body.

When you dictate precisely to your fingers how they should play, which joint to move, in what order, how much follow-through to effect, you’re micromanaging your body. When you prescribe detailed instructions on how to hold the wrist, what angle to hold the hand, you’re also micromanaging your body.

You’ve already predetermined for your body how it should operate.

I believe we all have an innate body intelligence, that our body knows best what works for it and knows best how to optimize its inner workings.

When you micromanage it, you kill these natural instincts, you prevent your body from reaching its full potential, because you’ve preempted the need for it to discover those innate gifts.

Much the same thing happens in the business world. When you micromanage your subordinates, you kill their natural initiative and creativity, because you’ve preempted the need for them to think for themselves. You end up with a bunch of yes-guys who think their only job is to follow your orders precisely, and not much else.

Ironically, one of the things you lose when you try to control your body by micromanaging it is control itself.

Micromanaging your movements by enforcing a fixed system of playing on your body usually goes against the natural grain in your body. It creates conflict in the body. As a result, you’re much less likely to achieve control because you’re so constricted with tension.

So why do we still micromanage?

The answer is trust.

You don’t trust your body to perform its functions properly, so you think you can do better by giving it precise instructions on how to do it.

It comes back to the question of body intelligence.

Is there such a thing as body intelligence?

I’ll let two observations answer that question.

First, if you have an itch, no one can scratch it for you. Only you know where the itch is.

Second, I have yet to see one documented case of a baby teaching himself or herself to walk by following precise instructions on how to do it.

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