Are you stuck in a rut? Try this approach to get unstuck

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2012 was a phenomenal year for British cycling.

Bradley Wiggins became the first British rider in history to win the Tour de France – world’s most prestigious three-week-long race.

The story behind his victory is rather fascinating.

In 2010 Dave Brailsford became the new General Manager and Performance Director for Team Sky. Brailsford is a man who masterminded British cycling team’s amazing success in Bejing 2008 (14 medals). As the new  Manager he had put up a plan to win the Tour de France in 5 years.

He was wrong, however. They made it in 2 and half years.

Not only that. At the 2012 Olympic Games in London British cycling team dominated again. They won 12 medals, leaving other countries far behind.  In 2013, Team Sky repeated their Tour de France victory; this time with rider Chris Froome.

Could all these victories be accidental? Hardly.

When it comes to acquiring peak performance under most stressful conditions, Dave Brailsford is a genius.  He really understands how to optimize every aspect of ride’s life to produce outstanding results at the right time.

We always start by analyzing the demands of the event we want to win, so we really figure out what would it  take to win whatever it is we  want to win, then we prioritize because you know you can’t win everything, you know you will lose more than you win, that’s for sure, so you decide what you want to win, and then we work back to where we are  today and look at the gap between where we are today and what we want to win, and create a plan and execute it. Dave Brailsford

Brailsford secret weapon is the concept he refers to as the “aggregation of marginal gains.”

Here’s how he explained it:

The whole principal  of marginal gains came from the idea that if you broke down everything that could impact on a cycling performance, absolutely everything you could think of, and then you improved every little thing by 1%, when you clump it all together you get quite a significant increase in performance. Dave Brailsford

In cycling world that means improving obvious stuff like rider’s nutrition, training sessions, bike ergonomics, etc.  But Team Sky doesn’t stop there.  Fascinating thing about Brailsford’s approach is that he surrounds himself with a supportive team of “secret squirrels”, a small group of people who look outside of cycling industry to look for latest innovations that could be applicable to cycling. This way they make sure to take advantage of cutting edge technology.

When you look at all this, suddenly all those victories don’t look so accidental but rather carefully designed. Continue Reading →

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How and why to keep a guitar practice journal

large_4762384399I know you have already heard about the importance of a practice journal, yet you’ve decided not to do it.

I know you are already busy and don’t have time for some extra work.

I know you have a great memory and you can remember everything you’ve been practicing.

But …

Just for this moment, let’s pretend you’ve never heard of this idea. Let’s pretend it is completely new to you. And since you are an open-minded person, you’ll at least give it a try.

Keep reading and maybe I’ll persuade you that keeping a practice journal might not be the dumbest idea.

Are you in?

Ok, let’s go.

The evolution of my practice log

First, let me make a confession.

For a long long time I didn’t have any practice log. Surprised? (Common I am same as you)

For the majority of my life guitar wasn’t that important to me. I liked to listen to a good music but I never thought I would be able to play any of that stuff.

Guitar was just a hobby for me – I didn’t practice, I just played. Maybe three times a week max. That was it. I didn’t want to be a musician; I wanted to be a philosopher (more on that maybe sometimes in the future).

But then something has changed. I started to be more attracted to guitar playing. Suddenly I wanted to be a GUITAR PLAYER.   I wanted to make living by making music.

This change in attitude didn’t improve my playing skills, however. I still sucked badly.

In order to solve my sloppy playing, I did three things:

  1. I found a guitar teacher.
  2. I started to practice guitar (I started to understand the difference between playing and practicing).
  3. I begun journaling how much hours did I practice.

These three things made a drastic change to the results I was getting. Finally, I was able to play something that actually sounded like music.

I hope I don’t have to stress the importance of a good guitar teacher when you are just starting. But I was dumb enough to ignore this advice, please don’t do the same mistake. Also the understanding that there is a big difference between playing and practicing guitar helped me to improve a lot.

And the third thing that I found really valuable was my practice journal.

The first one was pretty simple. After every practice session I just jotted down how many minutes or hours I spent practicing. That was it. It wasn’t very fancy and yes, it wasn’t very helpful.

But it did help me to build a habit of tracking my progress.  At least I knew how much time I spent working on my playing. Better than nothing. And it also kept me accountable because finally I saw how much time I actually spent with guitar. And as you can imagine, there was a big gap between what I was thinking and what the reality was.

From then on, my journal took many alterations, from analog to digital and back to paper. As I was improving as a guitar player, my journaling skills also improved.  Nowadays my practice log looks completely different than how it used to, and it is also much more helpful. Continue Reading →

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