Become the sort of person who can
December 3, 2018
I’ve had this one on my mind for a while, and it took the experience of my friend Seamus to shake it loose. If you’ve been reading the blog, you know about Seamus. He was, until recently, the host of the popular Drumgab podcast – a show that he built from nothing to become one of the most influential and listened to podcasts in the drumming world. He eventually did 100 episodes, not only interviewing many top drummers, but uncovering a genuine passion along the way.
What a success story!
Seamus announced a couple of weeks ago that he was ending Drumgab. It came as a bit of a shock, but it turns out the announcement was just one of two shoes dropping. He revealed shortly after that Drumgab would henceforth be known as Drumeogab, and it would be a companion to Drumeo, which is probably the world’s biggest online drum instruction resource. It’s a huge opportunity, and for me it’s exciting and affirming in two important ways.
I’ve talked before about becoming the sort of person who can do whatever it is you want to do. Nobody starts out as the finished article. Nobody. Not LeBron James or Lionel Messi or Gary Vee or The Rock. Not Eddie Van Halen. Not Elon Musk. Not Salman Rushdie. No matter what dreams any of those people may have had, at a certain point in their lives they were incapable of achieving them. They first had to become the sort of person who could do it.
So it was with Seamus.
Had Drumeo come along three years ago, before Drumgab even existed, and asked him to do a show for them, what could he have said? He didn’t have the capacity at the time to do it. He maybe didn’t understand the technology. He maybe didn’t have the confidence or experience to interview people in a way that would create compelling content. He wasn’t the sort of person who could do it successfully at the time. He is now, but how did that happen?
He did it by taking the first step. By becoming the sort of person who could handle the first rung on the ladder. He learned how to create a show. How to conduct and record interviews. How to book guests. How to edit audio. How to upload it. How to market a show. How to network with people in the industry. He did this diligently and long enough that eventually he became the sort of person who could host a show for Drumeo.
It’s been the same for me in music. My first step wasn’t to tour Europe with Sarah Smith. If that opportunity had come to me five years ago I would have collapsed. I wasn’t capable at the time. I didn’t have the infrastructure. I first had to become the sort of person who could jam with strangers. And then the sort of person who could handle a small club show (not as easy for me at first as you might think). And then the sort of person who could handle bigger shows, and then short tours, and then longer tours, and then playing for two or three thousand people. This takes confidence. It takes experience. It takes understanding how things work, how to play a room, how to sound good and work with a band.
The problem for a lot of people is that they look at their dream as if it’s supposed to be one giant leap. That perspective can kill an ambition faster than almost anything. Maybe there’s a teenager who wants to be the next Mr. Olympia. He looks at pictures of Shawn Rhoden or Phil Heath and thinks, “It’s impossible. I don’t look like that.” What he doesn’t understand is that his job isn’t to look like Shawn Rhoden or Phil Heath. His job is to look like whatever it takes to win his local amateur competition.
To do that, he has to become the sort of person who can. The sort of person who can understand the basics of diet and training and implement them. The sort of person who has enough discipline. The sort of person who understands how a contest works. How posing works. How tanning works.
It’s the same with anything else. You might want to lose 50 pounds and you think it’s hopeless. But losing 50 pounds isn’t your job. Losing five pounds is your job. To do that, you have to become the sort of person who can lose five pounds. You learn about food. You learn about exercise. You commit to healthier habits. After you become that sort of person, maybe you take your education to the next level and begin to lose more weight and shift focus to building a physique.
Maybe you want to be a motivational speaker. You see Tony Robbins on t.v. and want to give up the dream. You’ll never be at that level. Again, your job isn’t to be at that level. It’s to become the sort of person who can speak to fifteen people in a room for ten minutes. Then it’s to become the sort of person who can speak to a bigger audience with confidence and engagement. And then, and then, and then ....
Funny thing: I still fall into this trap. I did it just the other day. I was flipping the channels on Sunday night and happened upon a Garth Brooks concert. I’m not a big Garth guy, but I always stop and watch when I see that sort of thing. He was playing a college football stadium somewhere in America. Huge crowd. Thirty or forty thousand people, probably. I wanted to see if I recognized the drummer. I wanted to see how he works. How he looks. How he operates. You can learn a lot from watching people at the levels above you.
Eventually the camera fell on him. I didn’t and don’t know who he was, but obviously he was a top pro. You don’t get that gig if you aren’t. I watched for a song or two and found myself getting depressed. I thought, “There’s just no way I’ll ever be able to do that.” A show that big. A crowd that big. A band that seasoned. Stakes that high. Forget about it. I’ll never be pro enough.
Then I started laughing. My job isn’t to play football stadiums with Garth Brooks. Not yet, anyway. I’m not the sort of person who can do that. I may or may not be able to play the music, but I need to learn about technology that might be running through the drummer’s rig. I need to understand band dynamics at that level. I need to know how it feels to be in front of much larger audiences. What it sounds like on-stage. What can go off the rails if you’re not aware of it. I can become that sort of person, but not without going through probably ten stages of development first.
My job is to become the sort of person who can play at my next level, however you might define it. Theatre tours, maybe. And then bigger theatres. Small arenas. Opening larger arenas. All of this takes knowledge and experience. The steps help you become the sort of person who can do what you want to do. They take you to the dream and deliver you if and when you’re ready.
That’s the other exciting thing about Seamus’s story for me. When he had become the sort of person who could do it, his opportunity came. Those of us who are in the trenches need to be encouraged by that example. It’s the proof that hard work will be rewarded. That development will open doors to further development. Seamus made himself into a professional podcaster (his new Awakening series launched on iTunes last week and it’s excellent), and the world took notice.
So my encouragements to you are two-fold today. First, don’t get down if you feel like you can’t reach the dream. Learn from the masters but don’t compare yourself to them. Look at your next level and become the sort of person who handle it. Maybe that means practice. Maybe that means getting experience or credentials. If you’re not there, find out what’s missing and do something about it. If you want to reach the top – or some particular rung on the ladder – start by reaching the next step in front of you.
My second encouragement is to be excited about the opportunities. Believe they will come to you when the time is right. Hard work will be rewarded in the end. It has to be.
Just keep going and see.