It’s no secret there are thousands and thousands of books available that have the potential to be life changing for anyone reading them. However, many of these books require the reader to be open to the message it is trying to preach. If you finish reading a book about changing habits and never change any of your habits, you’re not going to get the maximum benefit of what that particular book has to offer. In one of the books on this list, Burton Kaplan says it well: “Understanding is doing, and doing is understanding”.
I’ve been doing copious amounts of reading in the past few months, and I would like to share three of the books I’ve read that have affected me and changed the way I think.
Practicing For Artistic Success: The Musician’s Guide To Self Improvement – Burton Kaplan
I was recommended this book by a bassist that I wrote an audition program for. She thought the program was great, and she told me that if I could combine the programming idea with the concepts from this book, it would make for a complete package. I was intrigued, to say the least, so I picked up a copy and began reading.
Within the first five chapters of this book, I felt I had found a kindred spirit. Many of the questions about personal practice and practice pedagogy were addressed in a way that hits home. The book includes a number of strategies for increasing the efficiency and efficacy of your individual practice, such as strategies for improving your performance success on the first try. It also asks some challenging questions about the state of practice pedagogy in our current model of music pedagogy.
Whether you want to try these specific methods, or you want to read to learn how to think outside the box, I highly recommend this book for all musicians that practice.
Braving The Wilderness: The Quest For True Belonging And The Courage To Stand Alone – Brene Brown
In the early months of dating Kathleen, we had a system set up to ensure fairness when picking what TV show we would watch or what activity we would do: we alternated nights. That way, if I picked something she didn’t really want to do, she only had to wait for a night to get her own choice. It worked out surprisingly well actually. I’m not quite sure why we stopped doing it.
One night, Kathleen showed me a video of Brene Brown’s TED talk video about vulnerability. We both thought it was incredible, and wanted to know what other material Brene Brown had out there. A few days later, she came across her book “Braving The Wilderness” at a coffee shop and decided to buy it. We began reading it together.
It was a really great book, but the business of life took over and we never finished reading it. We got through some good content, and it helped clarify how we might approach some struggles we were having. In the end, it was good, but didn’t move me.
Fast forward one and a half years to now. I’m deep into my own personal development journey, and my good friend Karen recommended that I read “Braving The Wilderness”. I told her the story I just wrote about, and said I’d love to give it another shot.
That day, I read the introduction, and it made me cry. I had been feeling a sense of being alone, and this book gave great clarity to that feeling. I wasn’t ready for the message before; I needed to grow. But now, her message has impacted me greatly. I resonate so much with the Maya Angelou quote she shares:
“You are only free when you realize you belong no place – you belong every place – no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.”
I can tell you what this quote means to me, but that’s not important. Everyone should know what this quote means to themselves. I cannot recommend this book enough for musicians and non-musicians alike.
Awareness: The Perils And Opportunities Of Reality – Anthony de Mello
The words of Anthony de Mello were the genesis of my spiritual awakening. I was in a rocky place in my engagement and I had just found out I didn’t get tenure with the Indianapolis Symphony. I was lost and was looking for answers. I had remembered having some conversations about spirituality with my friend Blake, so I reached out for more information. He pointed me in the direction of Anthony de Mello.
I consider that point in my life to be the closing of one chapter and the beginning of another. One of those pivotal times where you recognize you’ve become something new. Learning about awareness was mind-blowing and life changing.
The day after I watched Anthony’s videos on YouTube, I remember walking to get lunch and feeling as if everything were different. I was in a trance-like state, as if I were floating above everything. I haven’t felt anything like that before or since that moment. I would consider that moment to be something from the level of “spiritual joy” that David Brooks speaks of in his book “The Second Mountain: The Quest For A Moral Life”. It was a fleeting moment in which I felt totally connected to something bigger than me, and I didn’t understand it at all.
About a month ago I was listening to an episode of the Tim Ferriss podcast in which he was outlining some books that he recommended for his listeners to check out. One of them was this book. I knew right away I needed to read this book, and I am so glad I did.
It might sound hard to believe, but the secret to happiness really is in this book. It’s just not the answer one would expect. Some of the most impactful parts of de Mello’s book has to do with non-identification; that we are not what we do or what we feel. This is precisely where I learned that I play the trumpet, I am not a trumpet player. I do not identify with being a trumpet player. So many musicians make the mistake of saying, “I am a (insert instrument here) player. This is who I am”. This is a terrible mistake. To take the complexity of a human being and reduce it down to an activity. It happens all the time, and this type of thing is reinforced and rewarded in our culture.
If this sounds like you, I highly recommend you get this book. Read 10 pages a day, and you should meditate on the ideas presented. The hardest part about a personal development journey is that no one can give you the answers. They can use words to point the way, but you are responsible for doing the work.
This book will teach you how to be happy, if you’re open to it. This book will teach you how to live with joy, if you’re open to it. This book will teach you how to let go of anger towards those who have wronged you, if you’re ready to receive that message. Of all the books I recommend in this article, this one requires the most open mind of all. If we are going to have any true and meaningful change in our life, the first step will always be having the willingness to think the unfamiliar.
“Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.” – Isaac Asimov
If you read these books (or have already read them), and are interested in discussing your thoughts, reach out and let me know! You can send me a message from my website, on social media, or you can find me streaming on YouTube (www.youtube.com/ryanbeachtrumpet).