The breakthrough

May 30th, 2011

I wrote in my last post that virtuosity is about knowledge and skills. If you want to master a task, you must know how to do it.

In other words, like uninstalling the old lock, you need instructions on how it’s done.

But where do you get these instructions, where do you gain these skills and knowledge?

The answer lies in a few places.

You can be like Cook Ting and gain this knowledge from constant doing — over nineteen years of carving oxes until you know every detail of the ox’s anatomy and you’re able to slice through effortlessly where you want to go, even with your eyes closed.

Or you can be like Cook Hii and have an expert in the field teach you.

Or you can just go to Youtube and watch others do it.

All these are important sources of information and knowledge.

But nothing can substitute for real practicing.

Practice is important because it puts you directly in the driver seat. You’re no longer just discussing it, talking about it, theorizing how best to do it, you’re actually doing it and experiencing the sensation of doing it.

And sooner or later, if you keep on doing it, the answer will come to you in a flash of insight, and you will understand how it’s done.

When that happens, you’ve made a breakthrough.

The breakthrough moment is what most of us live for. It’s like finding a nugget after years of digging, it makes all those years of toiling worthwhile.

And when it happens, you know straightaway you’ve found it. That you have the nugget in your fingers because it feels so right and it sounds so good.

You feel a lightness in your fingers, you feel as if your fingers are on fire, as if they have a life of their own. And the notes just ripple out from your fingers effortlessly.

These are key indicators that you’ve arrived at virtuosity.

You can also use these indicators to determine whether you’ve achieved the breakthrough too.

If you’re still struggling through the task, if it feels hard, if your fingers feel tight, if you find yourself rushing through the piece, or if it sounds choppy and uneven, those are clear indications that you haven’t experienced the breakthrough yet.

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