This morning, I arrived in West Palm Beach, Florida, for work. I'll be teaching two jet engine classes down here this week. And as this is the first night of my stay, I was doing my typical ritual of ironing all my clothes for the week, or at least as much of my clothes as I have patience to iron in one setting. To make things go easier, I watched Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown as I worked. I really wished I had the wherewithal to watch Mr. Brown perform live before he passed. That man's moves were truly amazing.
Also, I'm currently reading Born to Run, the Bruce Springsteen autobiography. Although I'm not a big fan of his music, I really respect Springsteen as an artist. I listened to his interview on Fresh Air and was really impressed by how he reflected on his craft.
I'm fascinated by the really successful people. Those that are skilled enough and practiced enough to make their craft seem effortless. I'm thinking now of a former lead guitarist of the regional band Spiritual Rez. This is a Boston-based reggae/rock band that would play over at Sully's Pub in Hartford once every four or six weeks back in the day. The first time I'd saw them, their lead guitarist was a really, really short guy with long-ass blonde dreadlocks and beard. He looked straight out of a Lord of the Rings movie. He sported a golden guitar -- not solid gold, mind you, only gold-colored sparkling finish. I remember him shredding ferociously during this one song -- absolutely pouring a ton of energy through his instrument.
I wanted to be a guitar player in that moment. So badly, I wanted it. Now, I have four, yes, four guitars at home -- a Yahama acoustic, a Fender Squire fat strat, an Epiphone bass, and a warped, unplayable no-name Guitar Center house brand electric. I also have enough equipment to record my own albums at home: mics, converters, software, and so forth. But I can't really play anything. I can noodle OK-ish, but that's about it.
What happened? The answer, I suppose, was no discipline.
If there's a common thread between The Boss and Soul Brother No.1, it's hard work and discipline. Both of these artists honed their craft over hours and hours of hard work. You can talk all you want about talent and natural ability, and I'm sure both men have that in spades, but you can't get around the hours put in.
Years ago, I was at a party thrown by a couple in their house. I was interested in the girlfriend, though of course I wasn't going to do man up anything about that even if she wasn't living with someone. But that didn't stop me from going to their party. The boyfriend played in this jazz/jam trio, and I watched play in the basement that night. I told the guy afterwards, I want to play music, but I don't have the discipline to practice. He told me, "Maybe you don't practice because you don't like playing music. Maybe you just like to listen to music." That response ticked me off a bit. I mean, how dare he question what I liked and didn't like, am I right?
Well, it's been ten years, and I still haven't consistently practiced any instrument. I do listen to music all the time, however. I guess that proves who was right after all, eh?
When it comes to this podcasting and radio story making, I wonder if I've set myself up in the same situation. I'm not consistently putting out stories. I do, however, listen to podcasts all the time. I've begun to worry if audio making is just not what I want to do, like really deep down. Is all this a waste of effort? I mean, if this is what I love to do, then I should be doing it every single day, like Bruce or Brown, right?
But, then again, I'm not exactly disciplined in any part of my life. So maybe I'm not "practicing" as much at audio making simply because I've never consistently practiced at ANYTHING, EVER. So maybe it's just a matter of learning to develop this discipline that comes in really handy at becoming great at something. I don't know.
In any event, that's the kind of stuff I think about when I'm ironing clothes for the week in a strange hotel room.
(As a side note, not being disciplined at all is a theory that would explain a TON of stuff in my life over the years.)