The truth is I’m not a particularly good drummer.
I have no illusions about this.
I’m a reasonably competent drummer and I can play tastefully and I sing fairly well, but I don’t really register on the “Dude, that was amazing!” scale. And to be honest, it still bothers me sometimes.
It doesn’t bother me that nobody faints over my drumming – I don’t need accolades for that. I do what I do well enough and I’m trying to get better. What bothers me is the little voice that persists in my head.
You know the voice, right?
The voice that says, “Sooner or later they’re going to realize you don’t really have it. It’s only a matter of time.”
I call that voice Little John.
Little John is that frightened, worried, diminished part of me that feels like a fraud. He’s the one who knows how good everyone else is. He’s the one who’s convinced that I’ve reached my level and it’s not level enough. He’s the one who pops up immediately when I feel like I haven’t done my best (and, in many cases, when I have).
Little John is my ego, fragile and defensive and scared. I’ve been at odds with Little John for most of my life, but lately I’m trying to be a bit more generous with him. The bigger part of me – the true me who is conscious and powerful and gifted and wise – recognizes that Little John is a child. That Little John is trying to protect the me from embarrassment and pain and a perceived death. I really do try to appreciate that.
But Little John isn’t helpful to a person who aspires. The problem is that his voice is strong and older than his name suggests. He’s been there since I’ve been self-aware and it can take a long time to root him out. The first step was to recognize him. The second (and third and fourth and fifth) is to acknowledge him and reassure him that everything’s going to be okay, like a parent. I have to do this constantly.
Little John can’t believe I’m sitting in a coffee shop in Nelson, British Columbia on tour.
Little John can’t believe I’ve played all over Canada and in Europe.
Little John can’t believe I’ve recorded albums with people.
Little John keeps waiting for shoes to drop and it’s exhausting sometimes.
But here I am. Here we are. Somehow, the road goes on and the opportunities come. Somehow I continue to escape the fraud police and get hired by people to play their music. Little John calls it a fluke. Sometimes I listen and it’s hard. Other times (and more often these days), my authentic self pats his little head and reassuringly nods. We’re okay. We’re working hard. We’re improving slowly and steadily. We’re getting experience. We’re using what we have.
And that’s the thing in the end.
Use what you have.
Last night I played a show in Nelson. I thought I played okay, but I’m a harsh self-critic. Little John reminded me how much better I “should” be but I was wise enough to be proud of that fact that I’m using what I have. Whether I’m Jason McGerr or Gavin Harrison or Todd Sucherman or not, I’m giving the best I can give.
You’ve got to shine the light you have. There’s a temptation sometimes to not do things because you don’t feel like you’re as good as other people are, but you don’t have to be the best.
Whatever gifts you have are gifts that the world needs in whatever capacity you can give them. I didn’t blow any minds with a drum solo last night, but I hopefully made a couple of beautiful artists very happy and gave a crowd of lovely people a reason to dance.
That’s enough, isn’t it?
So who can you make dance today in whatever way you do it? What talent are you hiding that can bring joy or peace or encouragement or benefit to people? Don’t bury it because someone else can do it better. Don’t shield your glow from someone else’s spotlight.
Do your thing.
Use what you have.
Make peace with your personal Little John and see what you can be.