As a teacher and a performer, I love reading books about performance psychology and business. Anything that challenges me to reevaluate ways I’ve been thinking and design smarter habits is great for both me and my students. I’ve been thinking for a while about which books I would choose for this post and it was actually been pretty difficult since there are so many great options. I decided to limit my choices to books that are not specifically about music but are still extremely relevant to musicians.
I have been reading this book for years since my parents gave it to me in high school and it is a great book for any creative person with goals in mind. We have all heard the story about the tortoise and the hare – about how persistent hard work will always prevail far beyond raw talent – but it is true!
One of the parts I enjoyed most about this book was its easy to read format; some pages even only had one sentence! Large print and easy legibility make the potentially intimidating ideas this book addresses approachable. The book starts out with these three sentences: “Nearly all rich and powerful people are not notably talented, educated, charming or good – looking. They become rich and powerful by wanting to be rich and powerful. Your vision of where you want to be is the greatest asset you have.”
This was one of the first books I read after finishing my Masters degree and, wow, was it helpful!!
Being in music school is a very self-critical experience that can be very overwhelming, even if it is always focused on positive improvement and support. It is so easy to compare ourselves to our mentors and other people around us that may have entirely different personal circumstances and situations. Remember, especially on social media, we only see the everyone’s highlight reel of all of the best things happening. I really liked how this book helped me change my thinking and was exactly the motivation I needed to read after finishing school. Sincero includes actionable steps in each chapter to reevaluate your beliefs and your actions – and she helps you refocus them. This book is great for throwing perceptions back in your face, helping you to face your strengths and work to improve your weaknesses. Here’s a great quote: “Our entire experience on this planet is determined by how we choose to perceive our reality.”
This book is so great for teachers and students or anyone that is actively involved in learning. This book identifies the fixed mindset and the closed mindset. The fixed mindset is believing that your qualities are carved in stone – leading to urgently needing to prove yourself over and over. The growth mindset is believing that your basic qualities are things that you can change on your own over time. These different outlooks translate directly into your daily actions and reactions to situations. For those of us who teach, these ideas can frame how we interact with students and how our students and children interact with each other.
For example, what if you are an orchestral trombone player and you get called for a gig you usually play, but one of the pieces has a big featured jazz solo in it? As an orchestral player, jazz may not be your strong suit. So, if you have a fixed mindset, you may believe that this is a situation that will expose your lack of talent and end up labeling you as a failure because you couldn’t possibly improve in that area. You simply are not that kind of musician. If you have a growth mindset, however, then you will react to the situation with motivation, confronting the problem, and believing that your efforts will make a difference in your playing. Of course, we are not all black and white with one mindset 100% of the time. There are almost always things about ourselves that we can feel strongly that we can’t change. And yet, with hard work and awareness of your mindset, anything is possible.
Although this book is written for women in a typical business office structure, the way Bennett describes the difficulties women face in those situations feels all too familiar and relevant for musicians. Feminist Fight Club was a very quick read with a conversational tone and fun illustrations in the margins. This amusing style helps hammer some of the points home and makes a book that is primarily directed at people in business in a typical office environment much more relevant and applicable to freelance musicians.
For those who might worry that this book is just a complaining manifesto against men: don’t worry! The book is full of statistics, references from actual studies, quotes, and interviews that Bennett uses to back up her points. She outlines the problems that women face in the workforce by describing characters like the “Mansplainer” who condescendingly explains things to women who usually already know what the answer is. I am sure we have all experienced this. After illustrating each of these characters, Bennett describes ways to fight back and counter the behavior. She also includes problematic behavior that women sometimes display that unknowingly makes these stereotypes worse like the “Credit Defaulter” who upon receiving a compliment about a job well done will immediately respond, “Oh thank you, but I couldn’t have possibly done it without xyz” or will attribute recent success to luck or something else. Sound familiar? Of course it is important to be modest, but in a world where men are quick to point to their own innate qualities and skills it is important to take personal credit when deserved and value your own contributions!
I recently finished this book and I have to say, it has become my new favorite. In a way, The Slight Edge combines many of the ideas from the four previous books all into one. This book is about evaluating your everyday actions, thoughts, and decisions, and realizing how that all figures into your greater success (or failure). Olson identifies the power of the “slight edge” – the awareness of those daily choices – and how it can affect and impact all areas of your life. Here’s a great quote that summarizes many of the ideas he writes about: “Successful people do whatever it takes to get the job done, whether or not they feel like it.” This book has helped countless people, including myself, become happier and more productive, so check it out!
We hope that everyone has a happy holiday season and is gearing up for 2018 with excitement and motivation. Hopefully these books will help!
NB: These are not Amazon affiliate links and we receive no payment for recommending these books. We just like them!