Monthly Archives: June 2015



This piece was first posted on Doing Life Together. On Saturday, I’ll post a slideshow of photographs I’ve taken at the MIM.

Doing Life Together

MIM ext from

If you are ever in the Phoenix, Arizona area, I recommend you spend a few hours at the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM). This world-class cultural center will delight your senses. I’ve gone five times, and I look forward to going again. The MIM was founded by Robert J. Ulrich, former CEO and chairman emeritus of Target Corporation.

The Building

Inlaid marble floor at the foot of a circular staircase at the MIM Inlaid marble floor at the foot of a circular staircase at the MIM

The MIM opened in April, 2010. Although the building is relatively new, its organic style makes it seem like it’s been there forever. That was intentional. Architect Rich Varda designed it to evoke the topography of the Southwest. Indian sandstone is the primary element on the building’s façade. Patterns on the floors, walls, and ceilings suggest the geological striations of the Arizona landscape. The museum encompasses 200,000 square feet on two floors.MIM 007

The Collection

The MIM…

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Monday Morning Wisdom #1

Monday Morning Wisdom #1

“Beware of artists. They mix with all classes of society and are therefore most dangerous.” –Queen VictoriaMMW

Why I Like Pinterest  

Why I Like Pinterest   

When Pinterest first launched in March, 2010, I didn’t get it.

Some of my co-workers tried to explain it to me, diddling their iPhones in the teachers’ lounge. “It’s like an electronic bulletin board. You ‘pin’ things you like.”


It seemed pointless to me, but months later I signed up for an account so that I could see what it was all about. I set up some boards with suggested titles, like “Favorite Places and Spaces” and “Recipes.” They went unused for a few weeks, while I started looking at the feed, trying to get a feel for it. Little by little, I saw pins that I wanted to save. Oh, THAT’S why Pinterest exists. Now I get it. I started following people I knew, and then I started following strangers who pin neat stuff.

Then I noticed that my favorite YouTube videos, which I had posted on my Facebook page for safekeeping, were no longer there. I created a “Music I Like” board on Pinterest, and it is my biggest time-waster online. At least once a week I visit it to watch some of my favorite videos, and hours go by before I realize it.

I will someday write a separate post extolling the virtues of YouTube. But for now I would like to share some of the videos on my Music board. Listen to them–they’re a little out of the ordinary.

I currently have 59 boards, including “Quotes,” “Stormy Weather,” “Doxies,” “Teacups,” “Beautiful Instruments,” “Arizona,” and “Cute Animal Pictures.”

In case you’re wondering what this has to do with creativity, I see Pinterest as a collection of ideas, jumping off points. For example, I have a board called “Pictures I Like” which I plan to use to practice my drawing and painting. I also have a “Writing” board that I go to when I need inspiration or a kick in the pants. I invite you to take a look. Click here.

Do you have a Pinterest page? What’s your take on it? Do you have an alternate idea about how to use Pinterest?

Sit. Stay.  

Sit. Stay.  

rafe esquithIn his 2003 book, There Are No Shortcuts, East Los Angeles master teacher Rafe Esquith speaks of his struggle to communicate to his students the level of commitment and self-discipline required to go beyond mediocrity and achieve excellence. “They seemed too easily pleased with their efforts; if they got most of their arithmetic correct, they figured that was better than they had done the year before and they were off the hook. . . how many children pursue their dreams anymore? How can you go after things when you’re sitting in front of a television set or computer screen?”

He accompanied forty-five students to a concert, and they were invited backstage afterward to meet world renowned cellist Lynn Harrell. When asked how he could make such beautiful music, Harrell responded, “Well, there are no shortcuts.”

That slogan became his inspiration to help his students make it to the next level—and the next, and the next.

Many of us have a desire to be good at something. We make excuses why we are not. “I’m not a born teacher like Rafe.” “I don’t have Lang Lang’s musical talent.” “I’m just not as artistic as da Vinci.”

The biggest difference between us average people and the great masters is: they put in the work. Even when they aren’t feeling particularly inspired. They pursue excellence for its own sake.

I had the pleasure of meeting Rafe Esquith and some of his students at a book signing. The students performed some music they’d added to a Shakespeare play they’d presented at school. Their guitar prowess was amazing. These fifth graders played much better than me—and I have a Masters degree in music education!

After the presentation, while I was waiting in line to get a book signed by the author, I asked one of the students, “How much do you practice your guitar every day?”

“Three to four hours. Usually four,” he answered. Hmmm. I practiced guitar half an hour a day.

In order to have that much time available for practice, that fifth grader has to forsake some of the other pursuits of typical ten-year-olds, like video games, computer time, television, or hanging out with friends. That’s a big sacrifice—but the payoff is a high level of skill on guitar.

Daniel J Levitin

Daniel J Levitin

Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell

In Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell talks about the 10,000 HourRule. He quotes the neurologist Daniel Levitin as saying, “The emerging picture from such studies [of people who are undeniably the best in their field] is that ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert—in anything. . . But no one has yet found a case in which true world class expertise was accomplished in less time.”

Gladwell uses the Beatles as an example of this principle. To baby boomers, their explosion into the music scene seemed sudden and immediate. It was anything but. “The Beatles ended up traveling to Hamburg [Germany] five times between 1960 and the end of 1962. On the first trip, they played 106 nights, five or more hours a night. On their second trip, they played 92 times. On their third trip, they played 48 times, for a total of 172 hours on stage. The last two Hamburg gigs, in November and December of 1962, involved another 90 hours of performing. All told, they performed for 270 nights in just over a year and a half. By the time they had their first burst of success in 1964, they had performed live an estimated twelve hundred times. Do you know how extraordinary that is? Most bands today don’t perform twelve hundred times in their entire careers.”

The Beatles certainly put in their 10,000 hours before they became famous. And Rafe Esquith’s guitar students? 10,000 hours divided by 4 hours a day = 2500 days or 6.85 years. By contrast, 10,000 hours divided by 30 minutes a day = 20,000 days or 54.8 years. So who has a better chance of becoming a really good guitarist, me or those fifth graders?

The 10,000 Hour Rule applies to everything that requires skill, not just music, but art, sports, math, learning a foreign language, hammering nails, you name it. There are no shortcuts. You have to put in the time.

When I resigned from my teaching job a year ago (click here to read about my transition from teacher to non-teacher), I thought maybe I’d write again. However, I couldn’t get going. My brain was like a desert; I didn’t have even a drop of an idea. Sitting in front of a blank Word document was absolutely excruciating. But you can’t be a writer without writing.

The 500 Word Challenge from blogger Jeff Goins finally got me out of my dry spell. Last October I wrote almost every day. Some of the pieces eventually became posts on Doing Life Together. Sitting down to write every day helped me make writing a habit. It got me over the hump; it started the juices flowing. I think my skill has really grown in the last eight months, because I am spending hours every day articulating the thoughts coursing through my mind.

What is it that we say to dogs when we want them to stay put? “Sit. Stay.” That is my shorthand for showing up to do the work. Sit down at the computer. Stay there until I have met my daily goal. Or until it’s time for dinner, whichever comes first.

Is there something in your life that you committed to working toward? Have you noticed yourself improving over time? Share with the ARHtistic License community by commenting below.