An exciting and profound new episode that could transform the way you practice, learn and perform.
It’s a long episode, but worth listening through to the end for important tips on deep musicality, easy (well… easier!) learning, and performing with less nerves.

Show Notes

  • What is narcissism? (including a brief foray into individualist vs. collectivist cultures that perhaps I should have left until later in the episode!). [2:30]
  • A tentative definition of ‘spirituality’ as the opposite of narcissism, and its relevance to piano playing. [9:00]
  • Why do we play, learn and practice the piano? Why is this important?
    Validating and proving ourselves. Being ‘good enough’.
    Practising states of mind at the piano. [15:00]
  • The practice of looking for what there is to love in every moment of music-making.
    Similarity to loving kindness meditation (Metta Bhavana).
    My belief that the best musicians all do this instinctively, and this is what makes them great.
    Learning to love reduces tension and makes learning easier, quicker, and more long-lasting- among other benefits. [26:30]
  • The benefits of self-compassion to combat narcissism, self-doubt, and fragile self-esteem [42:30]
  • The pros and cons of music exams. [46:35]
  • Self-esteem & narcissism vs. beginner’s mind. [51:20]
  • The magical easy & quick way to become good?
    Letting go of narcissism by looking at the positive values of ‘laziness’ as opposed to striving. [1:00:40]
  • How self-criticism vs. self-compassion affect our nervous systems. [1:05:10]
  • Unhelpful self-consciousness and how to deal with it. [1:06:20]
  • Narcissism and the fear of vulnerability. [1:11:00]


One of many academic research papers summing up the links between loving-kindness meditation and neurological & behavioural effects:-

An academic paper on the role dopamine has in forming long-term memories:-

One of the key books on cultural narcissism in the West:-

A particularly useful and relevant chapter from a superb book on the study of self-esteem that I found after recording the podcast! Every person learning a musical instrument should read this to become enlightened about the dangers and pitfalls of pursuing self-esteem:-

This is an excellent podcast with clear and well-explained information about zen meditation-

A very salient academic article by one of the most important researchers and best writer on self-compassion as opposed to self-esteem, here she makes the direct link between narcissism and self-esteem. Every musician and person learning an instrument needs to read this, and other articles/books by her (Kristin D. Neff):-

A must-listen podcast episode with Kristin Neff as guest explaining more about the pitfalls of self-esteem & the practical benefits of self-compassion:-

The best book I’ve read on Buddhism, which really gets behind a lot of misconceptions and does a great job of examining some of the paradoxes at the heart of the path. This book is mainly about the felt perception of time which I believe is a very useful thing to be aware of as a musician:-

Unfortunately the free access to this online summit on narcissism has now ended, but I found many of these videos to be incredibly useful and enlightening:-

A very useful academic article on the egoic self-consciousness we were talking about in the podcast that gets in the way of performing and learning. It’s well worth reading the whole paper if you like reading this kind of thing:-