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Top 7 Tips to The Most Powerful Tool in The World - The Goal and the Plan

By Chris Punis

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Ok, once the hair on the back of your neck has gone down we can get started with the planning process. I don't know what it is about "planning" that gets so many of us creative types squirming in our seats. I've had monumental arguments with fellow bandmates over planning and I've even had bands break up because of it. Musicians seem to think that goals and plans are anti-creative or anti-artistic. That couldn't be further from the truth. Goals and plans serve to focus our energy and focus our creativity. They actually help us produce more and better art. If you only absorb one concept from this set of 21 let it be this: "Set Goals, Make Plans to Achieve Them, and Work on Your Plans Everyday." Nothing else can mobilize you and move you forward faster than a good plan and a little discipline. Now let's talk about how to make a plan.

  1. Decide Exactly What You Want. Pick a goal. If you're new at this, start small. You don't have to reinvent jazz with you first goal. Pick something that you know you can achieve. Something challenging but doable. If you don't believe that you can achieve it, you will not. Make sure that it is measurable, that you will be able tell when you have completed it. Make it detailed and specific. For instance, don't say "I want to become better at playing in all twelve keys." Instead, decide to memorize the melody to the song "I Got Rhythm" in all twelve keys and be able to perform it at 160 BPM in any key from memory.

  2. Write It Down in Vivid Detail. Write it down on paper. With as much detail as possible. What exactly will you be able to do when your goal is accomplished? How will you know when you've accomplished your goal? How will you measure it? The more clearly defined your goal is, the greater the likelihood of achieving it. Physically writing it down on paper can not be over-emphasized. Write and re-write your goals daily. This will keep your mind focused and your "eyes on the target."

  3. Give Your Goal a Deadline Without a deadline a goal is simply a wish. Decide when you will achieve your goal. On what date will you be able to perform "I Got Rhythm" in all twelve keys from memory? If you find that you are not going to hit your deadline, simply create a new one. Not to say that deadlines should be changed on a whim. You should always strive to hit your goals on time, but there will be occasions when you will have to modify your plan. As you practice this method you will get better and better at estimating how long a goal will take to complete

  4. Make a List Write down everything you can think of that you will have to do to achieve this goal. List every single step. Break your goal down into tiny bite-size pieces that you can complete in one practice session. As you think of more steps, add them to your list. This is how you accomplish a big goal. You have to break it down into the actual steps that you will complete in your daily practice sessions.

  5. Put Your List in Order Now turn your list into an actual plan. Put every step in order. What will you have to do first? Second? And so on. This will now serve as your blueprint. This blueprint will move you forward fast. With out a blueprint you are at the mercy of luck and chance. You are simply meandering around aimlessly. It's kind of like firing a bow and arrow with a blindfold on. It's worse actually. It's like firing a bow and arrow with a blindfold on and no target. You could hit anything, but chances are you will hit nothing. With a plan, it's as if you have a target in front of you, there's plenty of light and your blindfold is gone. You can work until you hit the target, and then move on to the next one.

  6. Take Action Go practice. Get busy. Work on your plan. Action is the key to success. Without action you cannot accomplish anything. With action you will accomplish great things. Even if your plan is flawed you can accomplish a lot, simply by taking action. Action, Action and more Action.

  7. Practice and Work on Your Plan Everyday Develop the habit and discipline of practicing and working on your plan every single day. Even if you only have twenty minutes to practice, do it. Learn something or take a tiny, tiny step forward. You will be amazed by how much you can learn and how fast your music can progress by utilizing this formula. This is the most powerful tool to help you progress on your musical journey and become a monster jazz musician.

Chris Punis is an active jazz musician in the northeast. He is founding member of the critically acclaimed group Gypsy Schaeffer and a member of renowned saxophonist Charlie Kohlhase's group The Explorer's Club. Chris is also an accomplished jazz educator. For more information and to get your free lessons entitled "21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician", visit http://www.learnjazzfaster.com

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Article Submitted On: January 09, 2008