Monday Motivation: Ignition

Happy Monday, practice pals!

Our Monday Motivation for this week is about ignition.

Ignition is a concept discussed heavily in Daniel Coyle’s The Talent Code. He referred to it as the “2nd Element of The Talent Code,” meaning that after deep practice, an ignition event is a huge indicator of long term success.

So what is it?

Ignition is an often serendipitous event that sparks a desire to learn something new.

For Dr. Suzuki himself, his moment of ignition to learn the violin happened when he heard famed violinist Mischa Elman perform Ave Maria. He said:

“The sweetness of the sound of Elman’s violin utterly enthralled me. His velvety tone as he played the melody was like something in a dream. It made a tremendous impression on me….I brought a violin home … I tried to imitate him. I had no score, and simply moved the bow, trying to play what I heard.”

For me personally, my ignition moment happened when my elementary violin teacher helped me play Twinkle at an instrument try out event for orchestra recruitment. I still remember it – I very clearly thought “this is the coolest thing I will ever do.” The rest is history.

You’ve probably experienced your own ignition moment. That sudden wave of “whatever this is, I wanna do it.”

Ignition is special. It feels like magic. Coyle himself recognizes that ignition is what inspires the action required to develop a skill, but that ignition cannot be forced.

You can nudge it, though. 

You can’t have ignition without exposure. So, create opportunities to expose your child to things. It obviously doesn’t have to be just violin – but that is my lane – so here are some suggestions:

  • Catch a live performance. The CSO offers concerts for kids regularly and there are free concerts at Millennium Park in the summer. 
  • Come to group class. Seeing how other kids play is what Coyle calls a “primal cue.” If a student overhears a peer playing something really well, they are often inspired to work a little harder the next time they practice.
  • Explore YouTube together. There’s access to tons of world class violin performance, both classical and contemporary. Here’s a playlist to explore
  • Don’t force it. Don’t hover. Let them be free to enjoy the experience and see what follows.

Happy Practicing!


Monday Motivation: Mindset

Happy Monday! 

Today is day 2 of our studio’s annual practice challenge. Each Monday of the challenge, we’ll be posting a little bit of Monday Motivation covering some of the neuroscience of practice, skill building, and talent development.

This week’s motivation covers the concept of mindset and motivation.

Dr. Carol Dweck has spent her career researching mindset and motivation. 
The summary of her findings over her career have separated mindset into two categories: growth mindset or fixed mindset.

People with a fixed mindset believe that all of their abilities are unchangeable and they are unable to improve. Because they believe effort does not make a difference, they often don’t try. These people tend to give up on tasks quickly, especially when they perceive the task to be too much of a challenge.

People with a growth mindset, however, believe in the power of “yet.” They believe in their ability to improve and eventually reach their goals, even if that goal feels out of reach to them in the present. People with a growth mindset are resilient and persevere to reach their goals, no matter what.

Dr. Dweck has found over the course of her research that when a growth mindset is carefully modeled and reinforced for young children, they make HUGE strides in what they can achieve.

In one study, Dr. Dweck discovered the role that specific feedback plays in fostering a growth mindset.

In the study, young children were given a low difficulty quiz. When they were graded, the feedback they were given was brief, but carried different messages. One group of children was told “you must be so smart.” The other group of children was told “you must have worked hard.”

The students were then given another quiz, this time much harder than the previous. This time, the children that were praised for being “smart” achieved less than the children who were praised for working hard. Dr. Dweck was so surprised by the result that she replicated the study several times. The result was the same each time: children who were praised for effort outpaced children who were praised for intellect.

The message is clear: ability is cultivated, not innate, and we can teach children to achieve by fostering the mindset that they can accomplish anything if they work hard.

My challenge to you this week during your practice time is to choose the feedback you offer your child carefully. Spend this week praising their effort rather than their ability and notice what changes it inspires in their motivation.

Watch Dr. Dweck’s talk on growth mindset below.

Happy practicing!