How do I form a good habit?

So now that schools are reopening, many of us have more time to ourselves. And it’s a great time of year to make new resolutions. Maybe you want to practice your instrument more? Save more of your income? Exercise more? The thing is, no matter how good the intentions, willpower runs out eventually. So in order to convert those good intentions into results, given we won’t be able to rely on that willpower forever, we should instead use the willpower while it’s strong to form a good habit. A habit is made up of three distinct parts – a cue, a routine and a reward. It’s called the habit loop. When I see CUE, I will do ROUTINE in order to get a REWARD. For example, when my phone buzzes, I will pick it up and check my messages in order to satisfy my craving to read the message. Thus emerges the habit of picking up my phone as soon

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How can I feel like an impostor today?

The craic was always better after we won than after we lost, especially when we won and no-one expected us to do so. It might seem obvious, but the feeling of achievement after stretching yourself to the limit and succeeding is unrivalled. So in aiming for that feeling, let’s work backwards from that. It doesn’t come from choosing the safe option. It doesn’t come from doing something that you did yesterday. It comes from waking up in the morning and asking how can I push myself today. How can I get out of my comfort zone and do something exciting? Or in other words, what can I do now that will make me feel like an impostor? Then you know that you’re on the right track… Photo by Dorian Hurst on Unsplash

How to be a musician

I received a lovely handwritten note today. In one part of it, the author thanked me for teaching him how to be a musician. It was nice of him to say so, but I really don’t remember doing it. Perhaps there are some unwritten rules that I passed on unknowingly. So here’s an attempt to write them down. Learn how to play your instrument (but that’s only a small part of it) Respect everyone else who plays an instrument, no matter to what standard. Be honest and up front with your bandmates. Respect any opportunity you get to make your band tighter. Even though people may think our jobs are fun and even trivial, be professional. Play each gig to the best of your ability. Have pride in it. Respect the audience, even if they’re less than respectful to you. When watching other musicians, be generous with your applause and feedback. Be kind to yourself. Give as much to an

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Where is George Gibney?

This blog follows a model of regular communication. It’s the way I like to do it at the moment, but there are of course other options. One alternative would be to stop writing so regularly, and instead focus all the time that went into daily blogs into one blog. Something longer and deeper perhaps. Maybe some day. For now though, regular readers of the blog will know that I enjoy listening to the Second Captains sports podcast. Podcasts are a relatively new addition to the media landscape – indeed I met a man the other day who wasn’t quite sure what they were. They’re basically audio shows that you can listen to at any time. Second Captains producer Mark Horgan says they were lucky to start producing podcasts just as the medium exploded 5 years ago. Personally I doubt luck had much to do with it. Second Captains usually produce 5-6 podcasts each week. But interestingly, in contrast to this,

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On asking advice…

Firstly, do it. If you’re starting to write a newspaper column, talk to someone who has written one before. But be careful. Don’t fool yourself and think that simply by asking for this advice you will necessarily get better at writing newspaper columns. As Joe Hunt told us in Theme Night #27 (original lyrics by Mary Schmich) – ‘Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts, and recycling it for more than it’s worth’. Real improvement only starts to happen when you do it yourself.

Not for you!

Here’s who my piano lessons are not for… If you want to do exams, they’re not for you. If you want to learn to read sheet music, they’re not for you. If you want to be able to play your scales really fast, they’re not for you (but you will learn scales). If you want to learn the way people have always learned, they’re not for you. If you want to play classical music, they’re not for you. If you do want to learn any of the above skills, there are lots of really good piano teachers in our area who will help you do so. I would be happy to recommend one. It’s just that I’m not one of them. However, if you do wish to learn how to play piano in a natural and flexible manner, or if you would like to understand how your favourite songs are put together and to be able to work them out

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An elegant ending

Endings can be stressful. Be it breaking up a romantic relationship, leaving a band, or even telling a teacher that your child isn’t returning to his lessons, the build-up to and aftermath of these conversations can dominate your thinking in an unnatural way, leaving room for little else. I wrote this about goodbyes a while ago, trying to establish what a good and bad goodbye might look like, and it might be worth thinking similarly about endings. Because while a good ending allows everyone to move on, a bad one can leave an unhealthy psychological loop unresolved for years after the event. So turn it on it’s head. Rather than it dominating us, what if we took charge instead? Figure out what a good, even an ideal ending would look like. Something where we were true to ourselves, respectful of any other person that may be involved, and mindful of everyone’s feelings. Because everything, good and bad has to end.

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How we think about making and losing money…

Psychologists Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman are interested in the concept of loss and gain. During the course of their research, they conducted one experiment in which a group of people were told to imagine they had $300. They were then given a choice between (a) receiving another $100 or (b) tossing a coin, the outcome of which would determine whether they received $200 or $0. They found that most of us prefer (a) to (b). They then conducted a second experiment whereby participants were asked to imagine they had $500. The choice they were then given was to (c) give up $100 or (d) toss a coin to determine whether they lost $200 or $0. Here, interestingly, they found that most of us prefer (d) to (c). So when it comes to making money we are more risk averse than when it comes to losing money. We prefer steady gains to the possibility of making more on a once-off

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Why we get so many things wrong…

I’m stealing this headline from an article in today’s Irish Times, dealing with a survey showing significant gaps between our perceptions and reality on issues such as the threat of COVID-19, the amount of young people living with their parents, and use of social media, to take three examples. One reason posited for the latter example is that we overestimate the amount that people consume social media (usually done while out and about) because we can see it happening, but we underestimate the amount that people consume other media (usually done at home) because it’s not as visible to us. I regularly write in this blog about a weekly Monday night gig that Seamie O’Dowd and I have played for almost 5 years now in Thomas Connolly’s. People who work 9-5 Mon-Fri were often disbelieving as I told them of the sizeable crowds that would be in (thanks Declan Harte for the pic). Again because in their world they meet

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In praise of Sligo’s young musical community…

20 weeks. 58 videos. Almost 80 past and present performers from 19 Teenage Theme Nights. Families making music together. A community living up to its promises and entertaining themselves and many others along the way. Today’s blog would like to pay tribute to Sligo’s young musical community – who have relentlessly kept us entertained week after week since early April. Vocal covers, instrumental covers, new arrangements, clever videos, the teenagers and young adults involved in these sessions learned new skills, new songs and even new instruments in some cases while creating these performances. When the idea was suggested back in March soon after lockdown was imposed the response was great from the word go. The aim was 3 songs per week, one week for each theme used so far in 19 (soon to be 20) Teenage Theme Nights. And performers past and present, one after the next, got in touch to pledge a video on one week or another. And

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