It’s easy to be Smarter

piano trophyDo you consider yourself successful?

Do you know how you know you’re being successful?

Last week we identified your top three dreams or goals, so let’s make sure you have the greatest opportunity to achieve them.

During my college years a friend at a different London music conservatory did not take his piano lessons very seriously – it was his secondary instrument, after all – but about ten years later Geoff’s career as a music teacher was suffering. Many of the advanced fundamental techniques he could have learned in his formative years were lacking and now he was passing piano and composition students onto his colleagues and failing to accompany students of his primary instrument in recitals. In order to improve and earn respect from his students and their parents he somehow had to learn what he ignored before, but with a family to feed, a hectic teaching schedule, and regular performances as a cellist, Geoff was not sure how he would succeed. So he got smarter.

Our paths would not cross very often, even during our college years (I attended Trinity College of Music and he attended the Guildhall School of Music and Drama), but one day we unexpectedly played in the same concert in Folkestone. After the rehearsal and before the performance we walked to a nearby eatery and Geoff opened up about his problem. He had heard that making goals was important but never really subscribed to it. I asked if he had heard of “smart” goals but he had not. Over our sandwiches we explored what they were, and actually added a couple of additional elements which made those goals much smarter. By the time we returned to the concert hall, we knew how and when Geoff would accomplish his desire to be a competent pianist again.

Here are the elements of a smarter goal, more recently defined by Michael Hyatt:

  • Specific. Geoff wanted to be able to play scales in thirds in both hands.
  • Measurable. To start with, he selected three major scales and three harmonic minor scales, and wanted to play them in quavers (eighth notes) at a tempo of 100 crotchets (quarter notes) a minute.
  • Actionable. This was something Geoff could do on his keyboard at home, and in practice rooms before or after his teaching schedule.
  • Realistic. Initially, we thought he should learn all 13 major scales as well as all 39 natural, harmonic and melodic minor scales. Then we remembered he had to teach, perform, and spend time with his family!
  • Time-bound. We figured he could learn six scales in thirds at that tempo within three months.
  • Exciting. Most people do not think scales are very exciting. That is, until they see that music is full of them! Especially piano sheet music. Being able to quickly and competently play scales in thirds was going to help him feel like he accomplished something and open up a whole host of opportunities not available to him before.
  • Relevant. Being able to quickly and competently play scales in thirds was also going to help Geoff accompany his students in recitals.

Because Geoff’s passion was to relearn how to play the piano and focus on the techniques he ignored in college, we figured out how he would be able to play scales in thirds in three major and three minor keys, at a pace of 100 beats a minute,  within 12 weeks. A year later I saw him accompany one of his students at a youth festival and I couldn’t stop beaming, knowing how hard he had worked, and how much smarter he had been. He told me it took him 8 weeks, not 12, and his dream to accompany students came true after setting more and more smarter goals. Clearly he was successful, and we both knew exactly what that meant and how he had achieved it!

Take Action

  1. Think of the three dreams or goals you prioritized last week (if you didn’t yet, click here now).
  2. For each dream, narrow down just one thing you can do to make that dream come true.
  3. Apply the SMARTER elements to that task
  4. Begin!

Share Your Passion

I’d love to hear what one of your smarter goals is. What is it you will do, and by when? Be specific by sharing something specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, time-bound, exciting and relevant.

Leave a comment below or join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter. Hundreds of passionate people visit my sites for weekly insight and inspiration, so thank you in advance for adding your voice to the conversation.