When I was in high school I took trumpet lessons for a few years. At first, I was enamored with my teacher. Not only could he play the trumpet in a way that I wanted to, but he had an ability to share what other trumpet players–Wynton, Miles, and Dizzy–did to advance the genre of jazz.
I was taught the language of performance in both action and word including abilities such as circular breathing and double-articulation. Most importantly, I was taught the value of learning and practicing scales in order to become a better musician.
But I never really understood any of what I was taught. All I wanted to do was be able to solo. I wanted to be able to free-flow an amazing, unwritten masterpiece.
I yearned to be great. I eventually quit.
To Be Great Is To Practice
Eighteen years later, I find myself in the position of the teacher. Sharing everything I can about art, design, and filmmaking, much like my trumpet teacher did with the trumpet and jazz: history, foundations, and practice.
Before me are students asking the same questions I once asked: Why do I have to learn about history? Why should foundations and principles be second nature when software can take care of them for me? What good will practice do? I just want to be a rock star.
What I know today that I did not know yesterday is that the solo is built upon the second-nature knowledge of scales. And for scales to become second-nature, a lot of time must be spent practicing scales in every key.
To be great is to practice the foundations of the craft that is being studied. Whether the subject is web design, filmmaking, or the trumpet, there are foundations that must be learned and practiced on a daily basis.
To Be Great Is To Never Forget What It Takes To Be Great
I quit a lot of things throughout my life because I wanted to be great at everything I set out to do. What I often forget is that greatness requires time and devotion.
Time = Patience + Silence + Focus
Time spent in practice requires patience in the absence of ability, silence in the presence of the world, and focus on the task at hand. When I was younger, there was an abundance of time. Now, I find that abundance lessening as I am pulled in too many directions. I ache for some patience, silence, and focus.
In the writing of the post I continuously battled with the desire to check my phone, e-mail, social network accounts. What is going on? What am I missing?
Am I really serious about what I want to do? Do I really aspire to be great? Then I will spend the necessary time.
Devotion Leads To Mastery
Devotion fuels our ability to spend time in the pursuit of greatness. Our love for “the subject” keeps us coming back when failure and mediocrity tells us to quit. Without devotion, we would be satisfied, content with today.
To be great is to never be satisfied with our current level of understanding. There must be something more than greatness. There must be a point and purpose to our practice. For many, it is the love of the craft. For others, it is the promise of riches and rewards.