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Hitting The High Notes

April 07, 2018

Today I want to take you back to 1993, and specifically to a film called Sister Act 2. If you haven’t watched that movie you need to get online and watch it.  Speaking of going online, isn’t it amazing how innovation and technology has made life easier (yet more complex) for us? Today you can Google the movie and watch it online without having to go down the road to borrow the movie from the movie library down your street. Plus you don’t even need to have a TV to watch the movie; as long as you have a smartphone and bundles, you are good to go. Amazing and scary times we are living in I tell you.

So, why am I bringing up Sister Act 2 in this article today? I’ll explain. 

There’s a scene in the movie where some kids are singing, and one kid called Wesley Glen Ahmal James (real name Ryan Toby) is leading the song. Then the kid  hits a very high note that shocks everyone, including their choir mistress, Sister Mary Clarence (Whoopi Goldberg), who is so shocked that she stops conducting the choir to turn back and look at James in utter disbelief. I would have done the same if I was in her position; that kid hit a note nobody expected. But then again you know in real life Ryan Toby who played the role of that kid (he was a teen then) is a singer, a songwriter, an actor, artist and musician. I guess you also know Whoopi Goldberg is no Catholic Sister, right?

Anyway, moving on.... 

So on Friday, that’s two days ago, a friend of mine had this 15 seconds clip as her status message  on WhatsApp that shows that segment of James hitting that high note. As he was hitting the note, there’s this caption that said, “that note everybody tried to hit, but when you tried it sounded like...”.  That part of “it sounded like...” is what caught my attention. Like I said before, technology is amazing. So what someone did is that they got a clip of a goat bleating and stitched it together with the clip of James hitting the note so that as you are reading the part that says, “when you tried it sounded like” the goat bleats. 

Let me tell you something, for a whole 10 minutes I laughed until my ribs ached, tears were streaming down my cheeks, my nose was running, my stomach hurt and eventually, I had to use the bathroom.

Honestly speaking, it’s been a long time since I have laughed that hard. But why was I laughing? Because the goat sounded like someone was literally strangling it, or the kind of “sounds” people make when they are listening to loud music via headphones/earphones and trying to harmonize with the singer at the same time. You know what, I’m sure some of you don’t understand what was funny. If you can, just visit my Instagram page (@wachukaliz) or click here to see the clip. I had to post it because it was super funny.

As always, I try to see things in different dimensions and so after watching that clip and after the laughter had subsided, my mind went into "Think Mode". 

Was Ryan able to hit that note simply because he was talented? Is there something else he did in order to be able to do that? Then I “asked” a voice coach on Google how one can be able to do this and this is what he had to say:

“Like any other muscle in your body, the vocal folds can’t achieve the level of flexibility we need to hit those high notes over night. It takes time, practice and correct technique to learn how to reach high notes”.

Did you hear read that? It takes TIMEPRACTICE and CORRECT TECHNIQUE to learn how to reach high notes. 

He also said something else which I found quite intriguing. 

Knowing your vocal range is an important part of being a singer, and choosing appropriate repertoire and keys will enable you to be the best singer that you can be for now. As your training progresses you can start pushing the boundaries.” 

Well my dear friends, I’m sorry if you are not a singer and are probably finding this “how to hit high notes 101” lesson somewhat boring. But here is the thing, the very same principles apply to every other area of interest you might be having in life. 

Friends a lot of people fail to reach their full potential in life because of ignoring three very important elements of growth i.e. TIMEPRACTICE and CORRECT TECHNIQUE. Every person who is considered a master in their field has had to apply, those three elements in their life without measure. They take time to look at their current abilities against what they are expected to achieve, then they work on bridging the gap between what is and what should be. 

Let’s look at one example, but before we do, I want to provoke you by asking you a question or two; do you know the “gaps” you need to bridge in order fully live up to your potential?  Do you know where you are now ("your vocal range") versus where you know you need to get to?

As you are thinking about that, let’s go to my example.

Cristiano Ronaldo or (CR7 as he is fondly known as).

I have intentionally picked him as my first example in light of the unbelievably spectacular overhead pass he used to score for his team last week.  I’m sure all football fans will remember this pass for a long time to come and I am almost certain many coaches will be referencing this goal during training with their teams. I mean, it was so surreal that the Juventas fans gave him a standing ovation! 

How did he do that? The answer lies in his daily routine. But before we get to that, did you know that when Ronaldo was joining Manchester United as an 18-year-old back in 2003, he had braces, acne and the physique of a university freshman? Mick Clegg, his former power development coach while at Man U can tell you all about it. 

Now 15 years later, can you compare the CR7 you know now with the person described above? Of course not! The one we know now plays “air football” and has a body every woman drools over (Yeah, I just said that), and one most men probably hate him for admire.  Anyway, moving on swiftly...

According to www.ronaldo7.net website, CR7 practices around 5 times per week in Real Madrid training camp, Valdebebas, though this depends on the games schedule they have that week. But on average, he trains around 3-4 hours per day and follows a strict diet plan. It also says that he respects his sleeping hours a lot and that he likes to go to bed early at night, so he can get up early as well. 

The website sums up star’s training routine as follows:

  • 3 to 4 hours of daily practice that assure a very low body fat level (<10%)
  • Several periods of running for state cardio (25-30 mins)
  • High intensity and "explosive" sprinting drills (short-period exercises)
  • Technical drills to enhance skills and ball control
  • Football tactical exercises to improve understanding with teammates
  • Gym exercises to develop specific muscles but also his total body strength

From the above three things are evident: TIME, PRACTICE and TECHNIQUE have been used and applied in order to create the CR7 we know today, and then you there just want to wake up one morning and become a master in your trade without ever going through what it takes to make you a master. How now? 

I know I’d said I’ll give one example but then I remembered another guy who has some serious daily regimen; Denzel Washington. 

The six-foot, one-inch Denzel Washington also has an intense daily workout plan that would likely exhaust men half his age. For instance, when Washington prepared for the movie The Hurricane, he followed a 16-month training schedule with trainer Terry Claybon. The training included boxing training, with 10 rigorous rounds for five days per week. His boxing exercises had a good combination of strength training and aerobic workouts. (I’m already exhausted imagining this workout).

The most interesting thing is that he still does boxing training! It helps him burn fat and build lean muscle mass at the same time. He doesn’t stop there! His other exercises include lifting handheld weights and some cardio training.  Read more about his training regimen on www.foodsforbetterhealth.com  

What?!? And you wonder why at 63 years of age a brother looks so fine....wink it boils down to three things again; TIME, PRACTICE and TECHNIQUE.  Friends, it doesn’t matter how talented you are but if you don’t work your talent, if you don’t intentionally grow your talent, at some point that talent will "fail" you, or maybe the best way to put it is that you will fail your own talent. 

Stephen King, the guy with the “morbidest”  imagination I know has this to say about talent, Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work. As if to echo this thought, Irvin Stone, the author of The Agony and the Ecstasy says, “Talent is cheap; dedication is expensive. It will cost you your life. To wrap it up Erica Jong, the author of Fear of Flying says, “Everyone has talent. What's rare is the courage to follow it to the dark places where it leads.

The reason why many people are unable to “hit those high notes” in their respective areas of talent is because it involves a lot of sweat and pain, a lot of hard work, a lot of practice, a lot of time and a lot of learning so as to improve on their technique(s) in order to hit those notes. Unfortunately most people just want to be handed things on a silver platter. They don’t want to do what it takes to get to where they should be.  

I believe everyone of us came to this world with a special package of gifts and talents within us. I also believe that becoming the best version of yourself goes beyond those talents. It requires that you grow yourself every day. It requires that you stretch yourself to the point that you can be able to “hit notes an octave higher” (figuratively speaking) than you are currently comfortable with.  

That is why this week in the ongoing #52BooksIn52Weeks2018Book Reading Challenge I am recommending yet another book by John C. Maxwell called, “Beyond Talent”. As a by the way, don’t be too quick to judge the book by its cover or title.  Get yourself a copy and you’ll be amazed at what you will find in it.

As I conclude this article this week I’d like to leave you with the words of the late Pope John Paull II who said, “Artistic talent is a gift from God and whoever discovers it in himself has a certain obligation: to know that he cannot waste this talent, but must develop it.


What are you doing to develop the talent(s) in you?


Be Ignited. Be Inspired. Be Influenced. Become the best version of yourself you can ever be.


PS: This article was originally published in Tanzania's Guardian On Sunday on the 8th April, 2018, under my weekly column "Thoughts in Words".




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