How Long is 10 Minutes?

Image Credits: Fidel Fernando on Unsplash.
One of the most profound lessons I have learned was from my father. All he asked me was, "Andrew, how long is 10 minutes?'

How Long is 10 Minutes?

How long is 10 minutes? This was the question my father posed to me when I was 11, a question that would become one of the most important pieces of advice my father would offer me. 

You see, I had just joined the middle school band and my homework was to practice my clarinet 20 minutes for five days a week. Now for many students, myself included, this was an easy request. I would come home from school, go down into the basement, practice and the moment my 20 minutes was up, I was done. I was already doing well in band, so I thought at the time, and this was just another minimum requirement of me. 

The most important lesson my father ever taught me

“Not very long…” 

My father responded, “Yes, but that is 50% of the total time you spend practicing. Imagine what would happen if you practiced for 30 minutes instead of 20? You would be putting in 50% more time than everyone else. Just by adding 10 minutes, which you said is not very long. You would learn 50% more and you would be learning faster. Hell, you could maybe even raise it to 40 minutes and you would be putting in double the effort everyone else was putting in. You would be twice as good as everyone else.”

So here I was, my 11 year old mind completely blind to the life lesson presented to me, and I could not figure out if this was a subtle demand or overt encouragement. At the time I was apathetic to band, so I thought, “Well? What’s the harm?”

He would later emphasise that long practice sessions at my level would lead to practicing mistakes. And he was right. I did not have the endurance to practice for 2 hour blocks. On the other hand a small extra effort everyday would lead to the greatest successes. And so, I practiced 5 days a week for a minimum of 40 minutes.

The Power of 10 Minutes

By my first concert, I played my first solo on stage. Several audience members and band friends congratulated me for my intonation and technique. My father who beamed brightly, said “See son? ‘Not very long’ makes all the difference”.

In my second year of Clarinet, my peers and I participated in a competition hosted by the Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association known as Solo Ensemble. Students would either perform solo pieces accompanied by piano or play as an ensemble. The ranking system was from 1 through 5, with 1 as the highest ranking. I was awarded a 1 for playing Mike Hannickel’s grade 2 piece ‘Chalumeau on the Go’ solo with accompaniment. 

In the years moving forward, I joined several different concert bands, played numerous concerts and I was always 1st Clarinet. When I joined the Bishan Park Secondary School Band I played the Eb Clarinet (Soprano Clarinet or Piccolo Clarinet) for several arrangements of Joe Hisaishi’s music in Studio Ghibli films. This opportunity was only offered to me because I had strong intonation and the technique to play the fast flutters and rhythms with the flutes and piccolo.

10 Minutes Today, Success Tomorrow

As I continued to grow as a musician, I never forgot my father’s lesson. A little bit of extra effort everyday will snowball into greater success. Anything I chose to apply myself to be it writing, studying psychology, or even learning something completely new, I would devote a little bit of time everyday, sometimes making the most insignificant progress. But I know I am not doing this for instant results, I am doing this for the long term. 

Currently I am teaching myself French solely because the language interests me. Truthfully, I only have tiny pockets of time between work and my writing endeavours. As a result, my progress rate is indeed slower than it was for Clarinet. However I am willing to bet that I will be fluent enough to read, speak, and watch French films in the years ahead. All with the power of 10 minutes.


Andrew Folkler

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Hi, I am Andrew Folkler

I am a full time writer with a deep passion for learning about the world we live in.

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