“Refine your skills so you can support your instincts”

I heard an interview yesterday with Roseann Cash, the daughter of Johnny Cash.  During the interview, she was asked for advice on being successful in the music business.  I really liked her answer:  “Refine your skills so you can support your instincts.”  She indicated that someone had given her that advice years ago, and she had found it helpful.

This has business implications, so stay with me.  I’ve been a musician all my life.  I started playing the piano when I was 3 years old — by ear.  Later, my mother insisted that I take piano lessons.  It was a drag.  I could listen to someone play something and copy it–why should I learn to read music?  In my first years as a piano student, when I was about 7 years old, I’d ask my piano teacher to play over the new things she was assigning me.  She didn’t know I played by ear, so she would preview the pieces for me.  After that, I didn’t really need to read the music — I just copied what I had heard.

I thought I was pretty slick, but I was really cheating myself.  I can read a little music, but not much.  Sure, I play well by ear, but I envy those folks who can sit down at a piano with a complicated piece of music that they have never seen or heard and play it.  I didn’t spend enough time refining my skill — I relied only on my instinct.

In business, the same principle applies.  It’s great to have good instincts, but you can improve your ability to apply those instincts if you are continually refining your skills.  Most of us know what areas we struggle with, and we often choose to avoid those areas.  We should embrace them and make ourselves learn more about them.  We don’t have to become experts at everything, but well-rounded knowledge can be a great asset.

As business leaders, we should be reading, listening, and talking to others.  We should live in the posture of a student, always eager to learn something we don’t know much about.  Rather than trying to show our knowledge, we should be spending lots of time asking questions and gathering pearls of knowledge and wisdom from those around us — both older and younger than we are.

We can find business applications in principles from engineering, science, history, math, travel, sports, and yes, even music. 

What are you going to do to refine your skills today?

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One Comment on ““Refine your skills so you can support your instincts””

  1. Libby Says:

    Very well put! Many people rely on instincts and “past knowledge” instead of building on these very valuable assets. By continuing to add to your knowledge and skill base will increase your satisfaction in your work and your life.


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