Could you nail two planks together using just your hand?
You could give it your best shot, but I’m guessing it would take you longer than it’s worth, and you’d end up pretty sore and sorry after a few attempts.
What if you had a tool to help you, like a hammer? That would definitely make it a lot easier – a few well-placed swings (and maybe still a sore thumb if your aim isn’t great…) and you’d have nailed it.
But what if you had to hammer in 100 nails? A hammer would be ok, but you’d probably want to upgrade to a nailgun, which could do the job in much less time.
And what if you had someone like a skilled carpenter there to help you with tips on how to use the nailgun and do it faster? And if the weather was perfect, not raining or foggy or so cold your hands would freeze? And you'd had plenty of sleep and could focus easily?
All of those would make it a much smoother project.
These factors are what are known in military strategy as 'force multipliers' – tools and other elements that help you amplify your effort to produce more output. When used in combination, like the more efficient nailgun combined with the coaching and better conditions, you achieve a far better result than if you had to build a whole fence with your bare hands.
In the military, force multipliers are things like technology, morale, diplomacy, training, intelligence, and even weather and geography. They’re complementary factors that a good strategist will combine to amplify a better outcome.
In a broader sense, force multipliers are simply factors in our lives that give us the ability to accomplish greater results than we would without them – they expand your locus of control.
So what might be some ‘force multipliers’ for bagpiping?
Undoubtedly, your ‘piping multipliers’ would include the quality of the tools you use to play music – for example, you’re going to set yourself up to produce a better and more consistent sound if you play a set of pipes from a reputable maker than you will from a set of Pakistani rosewood pipes you bought from eBay.
Your ‘piping multipliers’ would also include things like musical skills – your ability to play with good rhythm, on the beat, without crossing noises, with great posture and blowing technique, and eventually, with well controlled, accurate and even grace notes and embellishments as well.
What about your location? Access to great quality bands and instructors would undoubtedly help you to improve and become a better player faster – that's why 'immersion' in bagpipe music and culture is our first commandment of mastery here at the Dojo.
And what about your systems? Having replicable systems – like asking the ‘four questions’ every time you put your pipes together, or knowing the exact steps you need to take to tune your pipes every time you play, or setting up a distraction-free space where you know the exact ratio of focus and ‘dessert’ time you’ll spend on each practice session – don’t just make your instrument easier to play and sound better every time you do it, they also become more efficient over time and make your practice time far more effective as well.
Arguably, however, the most important multiplier of all is your mindset. Having a positive, focused, disciplined and productive ‘growth’ mindset – where you inherently and automatically implement the 11 Commandments of Mastery in everything you do – would make all of the things listed above easier.
The 11 Commandments, if you’re unfamiliar, are:
- Immerse yourself in bagpipe music and culture every day
- Take consistent, daily action (not massive action inconsistently)
- Use simple (but quality) tools
- Reject multitasking and work with a singular focus
- Constantly vary your materials
- Practice objectively (and reject subjectivity)
- Operate at the right intensity
- Strive towards unconscious competence
- Learn in the right order
- Indulge in dessert, but only in moderation
- Record yourself regularly.
Just like force multipliers amplify the outcome of any objective, when any ‘piping multipliers’ are combined, they amplify the others to propel you toward faster improvement as a player.
So if, for example, you live in a piping-centric area like Scotland, where you can hear great bands all the time and could see a master tutor once a week if you wanted, but you play a low-quality instrument and only practice at band rehearsal once a week, you’d still experience pretty slow progress (if any!).
Or, if you have the most expensive Blackwood chanter you can possibly get your hands on, but you’ve been playing the same set of tunes for a decade, and practice for 30 minutes a day but without any real plan for what you’ll do when you pick up your practice chanter – you’re also setting yourself up for stagnation.
But even if you’re stuck in an area where there aren’t many good instructors or bands… if you have a great quality instrument, are disciplined and motivated to succeed, have great systems in place, and are working every day on improving your piping skills – despite the drawback of geography, all of the other factors combined are going to lead to an exponentially better outcome for you as a player.
How many ‘piping multipliers’ do you currently have? Here’s a handy list of possible multipliers to get you started:
- A good quality, simple instrument
- Musical skills (rhythm, melody, scale navigation, grace notes, embellishments, ability to sight read, etc)
- Instrument knowledge and competency (posture, maintenance, tuning, blowing steady, not reliant on electronic tuners, etc)
- A standardised process for instrument maintenance
- A standardised process for tuning
- A standardised process for practising
- The ability to troubleshoot issues on the spot
- Plenty of experience playing as a soloist, in bands, and in competitions
- A distraction-free practice space (for practice chanter and bagpipes)
- Access to in-person instruction in your area
- Access to online instruction (and the funds to do so)
- Access to a range of musically focused pipe bands in your area (i.e. musicians who are focused on improvement, not there to dress up and drink)
- Other pipers and drummers in your area to learn and socialise with
- Enough sleep and a healthy diet and exercise regime to keep you focused and sharp when playing
- Enough water to hydrate you for a practice session
- Time to dedicate to ongoing instruction, workshops and piping schools
- Available funds to upgrade your instrument or travel to contests and workshops
- Piping ‘fitness’ to play for long sessions without compromising tone
- A healthy mindset (see the 11 Commandments for inspiration!)
Can you think of any others?
Now – be honest with yourself – how many of these were missing from your list? What are some ways you could increase the number of multipliers you have access to?
While some multipliers, like funds or time, may seem out of reach for now, there are still plenty of items on this list that you could look at introducing to your practice regime or environment if they’re currently missing.
The more multipliers you can add to your life, the exponentially better your piping will become in a fraction of the time.
If you're a Dojo student, you can explore how to realign your mindset for success as part of our 11 Commandments of Mastery course, or browse our many related articles and resources on the Dojo U blog.
If you're not yet a Dojo Student, we'd love to welcome you! You can take the 11 Commandments course, which covers the 11 essential mindset tweaks you'll need to prepare yourself for mastery, or explore our monthly membership options and join us as a student, where you can access our world-champion teaching faculty as part of your own challenge network, along with hundreds of other pipers around the world cheering you on!