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Learn to Play the Clarinet

When legendary Winged Foot golf pro Claude Harmon asked his mentor, Harvey Penick, what he could do to be a better teaching professional. Penick told him to learn to play the clarinet. 

Harmon was of the old school and followed his mentor’s instruction without resistance and to the letter. He took clarinet lessons for a painfully long six months. Even after weeks of practice, he was frustrated with how hard it was to play even a few notes properly. He quickly learned he didn’t have much of a musical ear and the clarinet as an instrument was far too hard for him. Yet, he stayed with it in the hope that the lessons would prove to be valuable learning. 

After the clarinet experiment, he approached his mentor and asked him why he had encouraged him to play the clarinet. Penick’s answer: Now you’ll know exactly how your students feel when you try to teach them to swing a golf club. You’re going to be a better teaching pro because of the clarinet lessons. 

We could all stand to remember how hard it is for others to master what we now find second nature and take for granted. All leaders are teachers, and good teachers must possess the empathy to understand the difficulties of learning the basics. It’s a lesson one should never outgrow or forget. 

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