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  • Matthew Guggemos

Why Skills are important...

Playing drums, speaking languages, skiing, practicing jiu-jitsu, cooking, juggling, drawing -- each of these is a skill. There are millions of skills to learn, which could take literally several lifetimes to master. Skills take time to develop, requiring commitment and practice to master. In today's busy world, where our attention is scattered throughout the day and our time is accounted for in five-minute segments, how and why do we make time to learn a skill? Because they can enrich our lives and improve our brain's ability to learn, in general.

To be an expert at any skill takes time -- so don't be in a hurry to be great! Set small, realistic goals at first. Turn on a calendar alert on your phone for five minutes every day: use that time to practice basics. For drums, try starting with one rudiment only, and practice for perfection. If you can only play double-stroke rolls accurately at a very slow tempo, start there. Play them for five minutes; then stop -- and be sure to do this every day. By the end of the month, you will have practiced doubles for 150 minutes! You'll see that, over time, your speed will increase.

Practicing every day for a little bit is, in fact, much better than practicing 150 minutes once a month. Each time you play, even for that short period, you reinforce neural connections in your brain. The same holds true for speech and language development.

For children learning to speak, If they use a word everyday to solve a problem in their environment -- such as saying "more" to request something they've just run out of -- they'll remember that word more quickly. Consistent practice helps people quickly access and execute any skill -- whether it's speech, a drum rudiment, or a jiu-jitsu move.

The hidden treasure in becoming an expert is that you can learn the process of mastering other skills. In short, being an expert means that you can effortlessly apply a variety of basic and advanced techniques.

Skill mastery is often associated with fluidity. In fact, if you can speak any language fluidly, you are a master conversationalist: someone who can immediately coordinate complex motor movements in order to make symbolic sounds, which are part of an information exchange system (language). How did you learn to become a master speaker? Through gradual cumulative daily practice, starting from the age of about 12 months.

Now that you're a master speaker, apply those daily practice habits to drums -- but be patient: mastery takes time.

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