Notes From the Field: Marching Your Way to Mastery

by Jun 8, 20211 comment

Mastery is a lost art.

Too often, we allow ourselves to be pulled in so many directions we fail to be really good at anything. A jack of all trades, master of none. How much better would our lives be if we took the time to get good, to master the skills in the key areas of our lives?

Watch the video … at least the first seven or so minutes. You don’t need to know what rhythms they’re playing. Nor do you need to truly understand what the instructor is telling them. Just watch. As you do, think about your life. Are you applying this level of effort to master the important areas of your life?

For context, these guys are “tracking.” Simply put, it means moving in a parade block, playing music while marching to a beat. It’s a very effective tool in cleaning music; it helps students play better together.

If you pay attention to what they’re playing, you’ll notice they’re playing about 15-20 seconds of music. They run the same segment over and over. This video is 16 minutes long. It’s important enough to say it again. They spent 16 minutes focusing on a 15-20 second segment of music. I guarantee you if they did it for 16 minutes, they did it for at least an hour or more.

While effective for developing mastery, for students, it is a double-edged sword. Tracking speeds up the improvement process; you get better faster. Yet, it can simultaneously be one of the most grueling, challenging, and god-awful experiences. The moment things go sideways, you’re being told to stop and start again. Instructors bark out orders at you faster than customers at McDonald’s during the dinner rush. “Cut!” “… and again!” “Slow left hand!” Push through the roll!” “Slow feet; keep in time!” “Push!” On and on it goes. Seconds feel like minutes. Minutes like hours.

Eventually, though, it begins to get better. Feet are in time with the metronome. Hands play to the feet. Step by step, it starts coming together.

As a section, generally speaking, they’re dragging; their hands are a hair slow relative to the given tempo. Collectively, they need to move their hands slightly faster in order for the music to line up. That is, to play clean.

However, it’s up to each student to put it together for themselves. Each individual must apply the skills and techniques they’ve learned on the fly. They need to self-evaluate moment-to-moment and adjust accordingly. Striving to be better each rep, each time through the music in order for the collective ensemble to be the best it can be, working tirelessly to master their craft. How often do we do this in our own lives?

To be sure, our lives are nothing like marching in a drum and bugle corps. We don’t have the luxury of focusing our attention on one solitary activity from the time we wake up to the time we go to bed. In life, we’re pulled in so many directions and have so many responsibilities. However, we can still “track” in our own lives, and it starts with determining where we spend our time and our focus.


Are you better at video games than being a father? Is your relationship with Instagram thots and OnlyFans better than your relationship with your spouse? Is your man cave set up and organized better than your finances? Are you more knowledgeable about the specials at various local bars and restaurants than you are about what it takes to maintain health and vitality?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then it’s time to reevaluate your life. You need to determine what’s truly important; what are the areas of your life you really should be focusing your attention on. Then, figure out what you need to do to be the best you can be in those areas. Perhaps you need to brush up on existing skills. Maybe you’re starting from scratch and need to identify what you need to know before you even begin. Regardless, once you have identified your priorities, you can take the next step by developing the instructor’s eye.

Take a critical look at your performance in any of the areas you’ve identified. Step outside yourself; take an instructor’s perspective of you. What are you doing well? What can be improved? Write it all down. Evaluate everything. For all the things you’re doing right, how can you maximize the impact of those things?

Of all the things you need to work on, which one would yield the greatest results by improving? Then, set your mind to work on developing that area. If you want to become a better father, for example, maybe you start by searching online for articles and blog posts on parenting. Maybe try reading a parenting book or two. Perhaps reach out to other fathers you know and ask them what they do, how they parent, and what has worked for them.

The best and fastest way to learn is the real-life application of the tools and techniques you read about. Going back to the previous example of being a better father, you must actively apply what you’ve learned in your interactions with your children. As you try new things, you’re bound to fail.

Perhaps you snap, fall back to old habits, and start yelling at your kids. Or worse, you completely lose it and hit them. Whatever happens, take a step back. How could you have done better? What changes would you make if you had to do it over again? What could you have done in the moment to achieve a better outcome? Remember those things for next time. Write them down if you have to so when the next opportunity arises, you can better apply what you’ve learned.

Mastery takes time. Wisdom comes from experience. There’s no magic dust, no silver bullet to make you better. Striving for mastery in the important areas of our life will be difficult, but the rewards will be worth it. All it requires is our willingness to do the work.

It won’t be easy. Given the many responsibilities we have, it will be downright challenging. The improvement will take longer than we’d like because of the many responsibilities we may have in our lives, but we can improve.

Grab some water and get to it.


Questions Thoughts? Leave them in the comments.

Written by JimeeGee
Twitter @JimeeGee
IG @thejimeegee


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1 Comment

  1. Well written! I have said this about musicians often, that we think differently than others. We put the time in to master something, (or at least be good at it). Applying it to life is the hard part! It takes time, and lots of reps! Keep at it, it will improve.


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