The One Secret to Getting Good At Anything

Beethoven’s 23rd Sonata, Third Movement

I was playing the guitar the other day and found myself playing Beethoven’s 23rd Sonata.  I hadn’t played it in a very long time and memories of learning how to play it came flooding back.  I remembered recording a video of me playing a part of it a few years ago (posted above).

Before I went to medical school I was a guitar teacher for a while.  I remember getting all sorts of students walk through the door.  But you could easily tell the students who were gonna’ make good guitarists and were going to progress super quick.

There’s one secret to getting good at anything.  Whether it’s fitness, playing a musical instrument or getting good grades.


When I gave students a piece of music to learn the bad students would go home, learn the music and put their guitar away.  Mission accomplished.

When I gave good students the same piece of music to learn, they would not only learn it, but they would ask the questions.  Why did Beethoven use a 13 note motif as the introduction?  Why did Beethoven use that chord substitution?  What would happen if I used another chord substitution?  What’s up with these chromatic notes that don’t make sense, but sound amazing?

Some questions can be answered.  Beethoven used a 13 note motif with chromatic notes so that the important chord tones would be heard on the downbeat which are naturally accentuated to the listener making it sound awesome.

Some questions can’t be answered.  Why did he use that chord substitution?  That was Beethoven’s genius.  You will likely never be able to answer that question.

But the journey!

The journey that the unanswerable questions will lead you to are key.

It’s the journey you go on when you are curious and ask the questions others do not ask that make you great.

Do you think it’s the medical student who sits all day with his or her books, memorising everything in sight, ready for regurgitation, that will make the good doctor?  Or do you think it’s the medical student who is genuinely curious about the subject, that asks the questions others haven’t asked that will make the good doctor?


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