To motivate your people, first just relax

A frightened captain makes a frightened crew.
- Lister Sinclair,

The great music teacher and motivator of artists Rodney Mercado had a simple recipe for success.

He said, "There are only two principles that you need to get to play great music or to live a great life: concentration and relaxation. And that's it. That is it."

Michael Richardson recalls this remark and what he said back to Mercado, "What? That doesn't have anything to do with music!"

"It has everything to do with music."

And the way he taught relaxation was to teach, "You need to have the maximum relaxation. For instance, if you want to play faster, Michael, you need to relax more. If you want to play louder, you need to relax more. If you want more sound coming out, you need to relax more."

Up to this point in my life, it sounded like someone saying, "Well, if you want to become a cowboy, go to Harvard." It didn't make any sense. It seemed like a contradiction.

Doesn't it sound like a contradiction? If you're going to motivate people, don't you want to get them all hyped up and worked up? That's what I had always thought: light a fire! Get the lead out of your pants!

So up to this point in my life, if I wanted to play faster, I would get hyped and tense up. And I would try harder. In any aspect of my life where I was trying to get more of something, I would become more tense from trying.

But Mercado said, "I'm going to play a passage of music and I want you to just listen for a moment."

I did. I don't remember the passage played at the time, but he almost ripped the strings off the violin. It was a virtuoso passage, but it sounded like he was going to make the strings just fly apart, there was so much sound and motion being produced. And I was awed.

"Now, Michael, I want you to put your arm on top of my forearm while I play this passage, and feel what's going on while I'm doing this."

When I put my arm on top of his forearm and he played this passage (and by the way, I'm trying to hang on for dear life, because his arm was flying), I was stunned, because his arm was almost totally relaxed. There was no tension in the muscles!

And all of a sudden, I got it.

Getting it changed my entire concept of playing the violin, but it also changed my concept of what I was doing in life. I had been tensing and straining for success instead of relaxing for it.

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