Book of the Month: September 2021

Here in America, we are celebrating hard work by taking an extra day to rest this weekend, also known as Labor Day. Thankfully, technology has allowed that this post be pre-posted, so you can be sure that I am not working to get this posted on the day where I’m supposed to rest. You can also be sure that there are many people who are still required or choosing to work (as yes, I have done before).

Living in our consumerist and product-driven society, it’s necessary that we take the time to remember the past, evaluate the present, and take time to rest in preparation for the future. Both books this month have ties to the past, and both will keep you from turning to screens and productivity to learn about and enjoy high-quality leisure.

So without further ado…

For Students – Hold On To Your Music by Mona Golabek and Lee Cohen

Hold on to Your Music is the true story of Jewish pianist, Lisa Jura. Lisa lived in Vienna and loved her weekly piano lesson. Her dream was to be a concert pianist. One week she arrived at her teacher’s house only to be informed that he was no longer allowed to teach Jewish children. Lisa’s mother told her that “whatever tomorrow brings, you must always remember to hold on to your music. It will be your best friend.” The story continues as Lisa’s life is changed by the war. But music never leaves her side. She eventually attends the Royal Conservatory of Music and sees her dream come true. This story is living history – detailing the power of music during hard times and encouraging the reader to find something important to hold on to no matter what life sends their way.

For Teachers –

Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport

I’ve read a lot of good books this year. The list of life-changing books is a bit narrower. But Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism easily makes that list.

Why? Because we do live in a noisy world, and I do desire focus in how I live my life.

Several months ago now, my husband and I sat down to watch the Netflix Documentary The Social Dilemma. While extremely eye opening, we simply walked away with the sense that we used social media too much. I resonated with what it was saying – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc are not the product being sold. I have become the product being sold to big business. And the more they can keep my eyes scrolling through the social media site (using slot machine technology), the more of me they are selling as I see more and more ads.

It’s interesting, and to be honest pretty scary, I did recommend this to a few people. And I still do. But now I don’t stop there 🙂

Chapter 1 of Digital Minimalism is basically a summary of Netflix’s documentary. But it’s what he proposes in chapters 2 through 7 that got to me. Newport offers a new way of handling technology, digital minimalism, that not only reminds you of the dangers of technology, but simultaneously encourages you to use it and gives specifics of how it can be done well.

In his own words, digital minimalism is “a philosophy of technology use in which you focus your online time on a small number of carefully selected and optimized activities that strongly support things you value, and then happily miss out on everything else.”

He puts it another way like this: “minimalists don’t mind missing out on small things; what worries them much more is diminishing the large things they already know for sure make a good life good.”

Before you dismiss the idea and think digital minimalism may seem archaic, I can assure you nothing could be further from the truth. Newport holds a PhD in computer science and is a professor in the composer science department at Georgetown University. He loves technology and the possibilities it holds.

But he practices digital minimalism and sees “new technologies as tools to be used to support the things [he] deeply values- not as sources of value themselves.”

He is very clear in saying “digital minimalism definitely does not reject the innovations of the internet age, but instead rejects the way so many people currently engage with these tools.”

In reading this book, you’ll find …

1 – It to be interesting. Newport talks about everything from Silicon Valley, Henry David Thoreau, to The Amish and Mennonite communities. He draws from people in aspects of life – businessmen, social media experts, bloggers. He keeps things moving, interesting, and varied enough to keep my attention wanting more!

2. It to be helpful. As I said earlier, the Netflix documentary was heavy. But it didn’t offer much hope – other than a “let’s stop using so much social media” approach. Newport has put together a practical series of steps that can be done to take hold of your technology use and allow you to control it rather than it controlling you. I hate being told that change is needed, without being given the steps towards change. Newport gives those steps in a completely accessible way.

3. It is realistic. Newport doesn’t even begin to suggest that digital minimalism will look the same for you as it does for me. The book is full of principles that will make digital minimalism possible if followed, but the applications of these principles will display themselves differently in each person’s life based on each person’s values and responsibilities.

Newport says that we must base our technology usage off of our values – not the other way around. But he never actually tells you what your values should be. He takes it a step further by giving real life examples of a variety of different people in a variety of different situations. They all fit with the principles he offers, but he makes it clear that these are just suggestions as to how to fulfill the principles in your own life. Realistically, Newport has found a formula that is successful in banishing almost every objection one would have to the necessity of practicing digital minimalism in their own life.

Why do I go into so much detail for you? One is to rehash it in my own brain. I have made some drastic changes to my technology usage in the past month, and will be continuing to do so.

But as a piano teacher and blogger, I know that my focus is of the utmost importance. In and out of the studio, I want to take hold of those things that I know “make the good life good.” Why settle for less? Why model less for my students?

Digital minimalism may just be the next step needed in becoming the best piano teacher you and I can be for our students today 🙂

Wondering what else I have been reading lately? Check out my newly designed bookshelf!


2 thoughts on “Book of the Month: September 2021

  1. Pingback: Book of the Month: November 2021 – Piano Possibilities

  2. Pingback: 100 Blog Posts and Counting – Piano Possibilities

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