Breakdown or Break it Down

A lot of my coaching conversations come around to some form of breakdown. Whether it’s a broken promise, an unexpected decision or correcting a mistake, breakdowns seem like impediments to achieving our goals. Even the word breakdown indicates a breakdown is a problem. It makes me think about being stuck on the side of the road with no tools and no way to call for help.

However, when we peel back the layers of the types of “breakdowns” I mentioned above, we can almost always find the place where a conversation was avoided, a step was missed, or the end goal became the primary focus. In other words, the breakdown could have been avoided if the steps had been broken down into smaller pieces.

When I practiced piano as a middle school child, my teacher encouraged me to practice difficult passages in the music over and over again. It seemed so boring to me! What I really wanted was to just get to the end and call it good. When I practiced as an adult, I struggled with the same thing. It wasn’t until I read The Talent Code that I realized that breaking the music into small chunks and practicing it that way would actually speed up the process to getting better at the whole piece.

In order to be proficient, sometimes we have to go slow in order to go fast.

We rarely get to see someone achieve their proficiency. When we listen to an artist sing or play a finished song, it’s hard to imagine the song didn’t start that way. Nowhere close. Most songs start in pieces and chords and lots of rejected ideas that don’t work. The show Songland gave me a new appreciation for how a song gets created. Even more, watching Paul McCartney awkwardly find the tune and words to Get Back reminds me to keep taking baby steps towards whatever I’m doing. What if he’d given up because he hated the process? There are moments in this video where he sounds like the air guitar wannabe musician listening to the radio, trying to fake his way through the lyrics he doesn’t know.

It’s so easy to quit when our performance doesn’t match the picture we have in our head for how something should turn out.

Instead, we can break it down. In the case of practicing anything from music to sports to conversations, we simply need to break it down into smaller pieces. It can seem boring. And it is if we see it superficially. However, if we peer more deeply into what we are doing – and stay in the moment – breaking it down can be an exquisite experience, like that of suddenly stopping to take in the beauty of a single flower petal. Sometimes simply pausing to take a deep breath can give us the space we need to slow things down

Where are you rushing through to get to the end? Where do your breakdowns start? Where can you bring things into smaller baby steps in order to master the more difficult parts of what you are doing?