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Ideas. Insights. Inspiration.


I can usually play Beethoven's Für Elise on the piano well enough to impress most people who aren't Beethoven aficionados or classically trained on the piano themselves.

I can even play parts of it with my eyes closed. Literally.

Some people who've watched me play have said I make it look easy. And sometimes, I do.

But it's not easy.

It's sprezzatura.

Sprezzatura is an Italian word that has come to mean, "studied nonchalance" or "graceful conduct or performance without apparent effort."

But "without apparent effort" doesn't mean the effort didn't happen at some point.

The reason it looks effortless when I play Beethoven's Für Elise is that I've been playing the piano since I was seven years old. I took piano lessons for over a decade, and my parents would require me to practice an hour every day during that time before I could watch any television. Eventually, I passed both my Grade 8 Practical and my Grade 2 Theory exams with the Royal Conservatory of Music, which was enough to earn me a high-school credit.

Of course, none of that's apparent to those who watch me play: it just seems "effortless".

You very rarely get to "effortless" before you put in lots and lots of effort to make it so.

So there are two takeaways from sprezzatura.

First, the next time you watch someone who appears to be doing something effortlessly, remember that while there's a chance they're naturally gifted, there's a better chance they put in a lot of work to get to that point. That's not just true for great performers; it also applies to great instructors, marketers, leaders... anyone and everyone, really.

And second, if you find yourself doing something that causes somebody to say you make it look easy, don't forget to appreciate all the effort it took for you to get to that point.

Here's wishing you eventual sprezzatura in whatever it is you choose to do.

P.S. If you're wondering, had I kept up the rigorous practice schedule I maintained as a child, I'd likely be extremely good at playing the piano today. As it happens, I didn't... and so I'm not. But I'm okay with that; these days I play only to relax or entertain my children.


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