The Uses Of Cultivated Boredom: All Work And No Play

by Randy Murray on August 4, 2011

Too much of even the most engaging work can become boring. But believe it or not, this is a good thing.

To really master a musical instrument, you have to do a lot of boring exercises. It’s this alone that drives most people away from playing music or learning to play very well. You do scales. You work on a single phrase, a chord over and over and over again. It is boring.

And that’s where the magic happens.

If you’re not working hard enough on any task you want to master, you probably won’t get bored. But as you repeat an action, then repeat it again, pressing onward, you’ll find that you hunger for something else, something unique and new. But don’t stop and don’t move on quite yet. Keep repeating. Try and focus on not just repeating the task, but aim for an ideal state of the task you’re performing. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

And as you repeat and grow closer to that desired goal state for the task, accept the boredom, let it fill you. Embrace the fact that you are engaged in something boring, but something necessary. And what you’ll find in that moment, if you’re anything like me, is that this is the time where you begin to understand what the task means, what it does for you, and your mind begins to think forward to what’s next, what might be possible. Now take one small step forward.

This works for musicians, but also writers, athletes, cooks, and virtually every pursuit that offers the hope of artistry, grace, and intellectual challenge.

You just have to keep working until you get bored, then keep working.

And see where your mind takes you.

The The Uses Of Cultivated Boredom: All Work And No Play by Randy Murray, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Suzi Button August 4, 2011 at 10:23 am

I really love the way you write. Have a great day.


Matthew Fedak August 4, 2011 at 11:14 am

From a web programming perspective I can relate to this. Sometimes creating something scratch constantly over and over again helps you understand how to do it better. Whenever I am stuck creatively or technically that usually means I am onto something unique. I push through when I can and it does pay off usually too.


Randy Murray August 4, 2011 at 11:21 am

Good example, Matthew. Thanks for sharing.


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