This post isn’t exactly about practice, but it still belongs on the In Practice blog. Mindset is the topic and it has a direct effect on how you practice, but while it still affects practice, its scope is wider than that. I write this blog to dig deeper into what people with successful practices have in common, and what I’ll talk about here has come up consistently over the course of the podcast.

When people say “go with the flow”, I dig the sentiment, but life is rarely as passive the expression makes it sound. I prefer to say “walking the path.” To me, it means the same thing, but makes it your responsibility to get somewhere. You may not decide where the path goes or where it ends, but it’s yours to walk.

One of the things I’ve noticed about our guests is the comfort they have in walking their own paths. It shows up in a few ways. Walking the path means letting go of expectations for how your practice will grow. It also means letting your vision for the future change and develop.

“Get your damn hands off the song. Listen and figure out the key that life wants you to play in.”

When people give up early on in a practice it’s often because they lack faith in the future. A young practice can die as soon as frustration, discontent or impatience sets in. Not having an expectation of how things should go takes the pressure off of taking the next step. Getting hung up on how much more there is to go before it’s “good enough” might be what keeps you from getting there.

In episode one, the eminent sage of guitar, Nick Tuttle said “Get your damn hands off the song. Listen and figure out the key that life wants you to play in. You’ll think it’s beautiful.”

A survey showed the one thing most millionaires had in common was that they didn’t give up. They would keep at it until their dream matured into reality. The ones who kept nurturing their “practice plant” were the ones who got to enjoy its shade.

Nick told us “I kept moving. I mean, to my credit I kept putting one foot in front of the other and that’s something that a lot of people can do.”

Nick, who’s had a wonderful career as a musician and as a teacher, didn’t plan on his success taking the shape it did. “What was of benefit to me was my concept was so vague. It’s a little bit like knowing where north is. Like, I don’t know where I’m at, I just know I’m supposed to walk that way… It wasn’t my idea. There was not one part of me, even in the throes of not being in Mt. Adam’s anymore (a move that forced a new location for his business), there was not a single part of me that was like ‘Oh! Maybe this!’”

“I put it out there and it’s manifested into this thing. It just looks SO different than I thought it would.”

Many people who like where they end up are rarely able to picture it before it happens. Lindsey Conroy, our guest on episode 4, knew she wanted to be an entrepreneur from early on. Recounting her goals at the beginning of her career: “I was very driven by the financial success idea. Wearing a power-suit, I wanted to be a CEO one day… My favorite number is seven, so I wanted to be financially successful enough to have seven houses all over the world.”

Lindsey became the CEO that she wanted to be. Her company, Adzentures, is growing fast and in her words, “I put it out there and it’s manifested into this thing. It just looks SO different than I thought it would.”

As for having seven homes; “It was my birthday and I was talking about that (CEO, seven houses) with a friend and I just stopped in my tracks and said ‘oh my gosh’, because I had been getting all these messages from wonderful humans all over the world, and they were all asking me when I was going to come home… I have a place that feels like home in Nashville, in Montana, New Zealand, Minnesota, Slovenia… I went down the list and I realized I had way more than seven homes.”

“Tune out that noise, do your thing and get a little bit better everyday and that sh*t will come.”

Chris Groppe and I talked about the absurdity of having a “five year plan” in episode 2. Chris didn’t have a master plan for his career. He focuses on daily improvement and learning what he can from his experiences. “even a year ago, I had just started this internship with GE. I was trying to focus on graduating and proving myself at this internship, I didn’t know I was going to get a job with them. I didn’t know what life was going to give me, I just knew I had to learn everything I could while I was there. At worst I’d have GE on my resume as an internship, at best I’d get a job there.”

Not having an expectation for the outcome of what he does makes room for a sense of play in his practice. As Chris put it: “have the practice be more fun than the show. Make doing your calculus homework a good time, then when the test comes you’re just showing off your skills… A lot of people have things to prove that they don’t need to. Tune out that noise, do your thing and get a little bit better everyday and that sh*t will come.”

It would have been hard to plan on that to happen.

When I met Ben Rossi in episode five, his excitement for the program he was directing at InMotion was palpable. InMotion offers exercised-based and art-based programs to people living with Parkinson’s disease . Ben’s training experience made him perfect for the role, and judging by his enthusiasm you’d have guessed it was his lifelong dream job.

When I asked him how he got involved in treating Parkinson’s Disease he said, “I had a longtime client who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. He called me on an afternoon and said ‘Ben, you know I’ve been diagnosed. What do you know about PD?’ I said, ‘I know nothing about Parkinson’s Disease other than Mohammed Ali and Michael J. Fox’ and he said ‘Well, I heard about an amazing exercise program out of the Columbus area called Delay The Disease. I’m sending you in two days’… so that’s where it started.”

It would have been hard to plan on that to happen. Ben’s openness to the new experiences his client offered him led to an exciting new chapter in his career.

“Do the next right thing.”

Growing up, I was an anxious kid and that’s something I’ve had to learn to shake in adulthood. When I started moving from one major to the next in college, I was full of doubt about my future. During that time, my mom said to me “do the next right thing.” It cut straight through fog of anxious thoughts to what was needed at that moment. It’s simple advice but it almost always presents the next step, whether it’s the first or if it’s halfway into a journey.

The lesson from all these stories is that the only way to walk the path… is to walk the path. It’s easy to throw yourself off course by worrying about where you’ll go or about how you’re not there yet. These are concerns about the future, but practice takes place in the present. Do the next right thing.