It's not about the test

May 01, 2022
a desk with a pencil and test on top
 
 
Having given a week of masters and doctoral oral exams recently, we were reminded that being a "good student", preparing with study guides and lists, and putting in the work to cover what "they might ask" - isn't going to ensure success. 
 
What was missing in the "A" student who didn't pass?  1) The ability to recall and demonstrate independent thinking across topics, and 2) a sense of curiosity and engagement. The latter contributes the most to the former!  
 
When you don't have that innate curiosity, at worst you don't "pass", or maybe you will pass - but leave an impression of complacency or indifference to your craft and your industry. The students who nailed the oral questions AND demonstrated independence of thought, depth of knowledge and lived experiences? These are the ones we know will succeed.
 
When you embark on any journey, whether it's getting a music degree, preparing for an audition, or applying for a job, one of the worst questions you can ask yourself is: "will it be on the test?".  Literally and figuratively approaching life as a set of requirements to meet likely won't get you the outcome you want! 
 
Getting good grades and checking all the boxes? This isn't the key to success.  
Even putting in hard, very hard work? Unfortunately, this isn't the key to success either.
 
Both working hard and being thorough are definitely great attributes. But if you fail to look beyond the test and fail to ask more than the question, "What?", most likely you won't achieve the outcomes you desire.
 
 
So the question: is merely getting that certificate or degree your definition of success?
 
If you answered anything remotely like, "Hell no!" read on.  
 
If the outcome you want is a life-sustaining, income-generating, fulfilling career in music, you have to think beyond the "test" (literally and figuratively!). Getting that 4.0 doesn't mean you can put ideas together. Memorizing facts and dates doesn't mean you're able to think in creative ways. When you conform to standards and limit yourself to bare-minimum learning, you aren't motivated in the right ways, and you aren't asking the right questions!
 
Some of you are far away from school, some are just embarking on college, and some are just finishing but no matter where you are in life:
 
The key to success lies in a mindset shift where enrollment, curiosity, and real-world experiences help you work smarter and ask the better "how" questions.
 
What are these keys? 
 
Enrollment.
This is committed engagement based on a burning desire for something, to be on the road forward. To be eager to learn in action. Are ya on the bus? When you decide you have to get somewhere, you buy the ticket. You're enrolled and are owning the journey.
 
Curiosity.
It's a direct line to the creative process. Get yourself off cruise control! There's a great book out called the Wonder Switch, which nudges people to turn their sense of wonder back on. As something we lose along the path of life, when we allow ourselves to get curious (again), magic happens!  So ask questions, watch, listen, volunteer, listen to podcasts, or try new things.
 
Experiences.
Go out and live. When you interact with the world, you change, you see things differently. You can find a group, club or community. You can enlist a mentor. You learn what you DO.
 
About school? It's great, but it's just a start. We're definitely not discounting school, even years of it!  But the important thing to remember is that the learning is in the doing!! It's (generously) 20% book knowledge, 80% learned experience.
 
Ixi's dad was a licensed pharmacist when he came to America - he ended up creating a patent for microchip technology. Our good friend, a clarinetist turned nurse - her lesson on giving someone a shot was: pinch the flesh like so, insert the needle at this angle and voilà - you can now give a shot.  And remember Tiffany's friend Cheryl from last week?
 
 
Get these 3 key ingredients in alignment and you're ready to find your success through the abundance of resources available in the world, the courage to find or create opportunities, and the joy in allowing yourself to wonder.

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