March 26, 2018
I used to play in the Sarah Halabecki Band with a fabulous bass player named Richard Miron. Great guy. Consummate pro. One of Richard’s (many) quirks that I like is that he always refers to gigs as “jobs.” He’ll say, “I was on a job last weekend with so-and-so,” or “Once I did a job in such-and-such.” That always stood out to me. I love his frame of reference on performing. Even at his level, with his experience, he approaches his craft as a job.
Believe it or not, music is work. It may not look like it when you see a band on stage, but believe me, it’s work. Learning the material is work. Writing the material is work. Practicing is work. Rehearsing is work. Packing up gear and driving to shows is work. Setting up is work. Performing is work. Tearing down is work. Driving home at 2:00 a.m. and then perking yourself up the next day to do it again is work. Fun work most of the time, but work all the same.
Some people don’t want to do the work. They see a band at Budweiser Gardens or the ACC and they think, “I want to do that!” And it’s totally possible – it really is – but if that’s what you want, are you doing the work it takes to get there? If you want to play Massey Hall one day, are you giving everything you’ve got to the little club show you’re playing for 20 people? Are you coming in prepared and professional for that $50 gig on Friday night? Are you practicing so you can be ready for opportunities? Are you taking lessons? Do you even pick up your guitar between gigs? Do you sit at the keyboard every day or do you brush up for an hour on gig day and go with that?
It’s okay if it’s just a hobby, by the way. Super. You’ve got to direct your energy where you really want to go, but what I’m saying is you can’t expect to get to a pro level with a hobby mentality. Even if you’re some sort of a prodigy, your talent will only take you so far. Your work ethic will betray your ability every time in the end. For those of us who most definitely aren’t prodigies, the work is that much more important. It’s the great equalizer.
I’m not just talking about music either. The principle applies everywhere and to every dream. If you want to start a business, are you doing the work? Are you developing your product or service and building a foundation? If you want a better body, are you doing the work? If you want a better relationship, are you doing the work? If you want a better job, are you honouring the job you have and giving it your all and building the qualifications you need to move up? If you want to be a writer, are you writing? Ditto painters and sculptors and photographers and every other kind of artist. Are you doing the work?
Are you really doing the work?
If not, why not? Fear of failure? Fear of success? Self-doubt? Don't know what the work actually is? Do you really want this or are you just pretending? If you’re not doing the work, take a serious look at why not. Look at the arguments and justifications you give yourself. Be real about whether they’re legit or just convenient. And if you don’t want it, are you using it to cover over what you do want that you’re afraid to face? Figure that stuff out.
You should know that I’m not accusing anybody of anything here. As ever, I’m writing this to myself. When I shut the computer off I’ll be staring at my own face in the blank screen. I have to answer these questions all the time too, because dreams demand a lot from you. They demand perseverance. They demand time. They demand a bit of suffering. They demand courage. They demand faith. But most of all, they demand work.
Work, work, work.
It’s Monday. Let’s get busy.
(Pictured: My dear friend Deni Gauthier, sick as a dog, working out guitar tones in our Berlin hotel room on the Sarah Smith Euro tour. Doing the work.)
(Recommended reading: Steven Pressfield's excellent motivational trilogy: The War of Art, Turning Pro, Do the Work.)