“There’s Always Somebody Better Than You!”

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If you read enough of my writings, you’ll begin to take note of the fact that I’ve had a lot of great teachers throughout my life. Consequently,  many of the things that they have said to me have really stuck with me, even to this day.  If you are a student and reading this, remember to always be a sponge and seek information as much as possible.  Never underestimate the gift of a great teacher and get as much knowledge from him/her that you can!

Although I cannot remember the exact year, I do remember being at a summer drumline camp at what would eventually become my alma mater – Western Illinois University.  I was a young lad at the time, and went eager to learn how to play snare drum better and more importantly,  learn how to play traditional grip.  The instructors that year were David Fodor and Marc Jacoby.  I was coming from a small town and immediately thrown into a pool of talent from all around the state.  It was intimidating at times and exciting at others.  Dave Fodor said something really interesting to all of us one of those days, and I can’t quite remember the context or why he said it.  To paraphrase, he basically told us that no matter how hard you practice, there will always be somebody better.

At the onset, this could seem like a very negative comment.  On the contrary I believe he was telling us this to inspire us.  It wasn’t to put us down or try to squash any dreams.  Rather it was to get us to practice harder and always strive to climb to the top of the heap. Thinking back on this makes me realize that some 20+ years later, this statement is still exactly true.

There’s always going to be someone that practices longer and harder than you.  There’s always going to be someone that is willing to sacrifice more than you.   There may even be someone that’s more naturally gifted than you.  The list goes on and on.  Ultimately, you cant’ really worry about the other guy.  If you’re spending more time worrying about what other people are doing, you’ve got the wrong focus.

Now don’t take this concept too far, either.  In music, it’s always good to check out what other people are doing from an inspiration standpoint or a knowledge standpoint.  At the heart of it, we’re all still big fans of drumming.  I don’t think that we’ll ever outgrow that.  Don’t look/listen to great musicians and project any ill will toward them.  Instead, figure out what you can learn from them.  After all, they’re doing their thing; you need to do your thing.

Most of the reason that I’m writing about this today is that earlier I was involved in an interesting conversation with a guy.  He was telling me about his teenage soon and his aspirations to become an NFL player.  Apparently, his son is a pretty big fellow.  A few years ago, his son had the fortune of speaking with a current NFL player and asked him how realistic of a shot he thought he’d have to get into the NFL.  I think that the advice that this guy gave this young man was absolutely brilliant.  Instead of giving him an idealistic answer of “of course” or a negative response simply of “no,” this guy gave him some practical advice.  He told him that if the coach had the team run for 30 minutes, run for 45.  Stay after practice.  Double your workout routine.  Work harder than everyone else.  This was the best advice he could have given this kid.  Essentially instead of giving him a yes or no answer, this guy put it into the kids’ hands.  It’s really up to him.  There’s no guarantee for success for anyone.  Sometimes life isn’t quite fair and seems cruel and imbalanced.  But almost always hard work is paid off in some sort of fashion.

The same goes in music.  You may not get a record deal, become a millionaire from your record sales, or you may not ever become anything more than a weekend warrior.  But sometimes I think it’s about the chase.  The desire and the passion to become a better player and ultimately a better person.  Passion is contagious – people will recognize it in your playing and your work ethic.  So become that guy that’s doing a little bit more than everyone else.  Push yourself to practice a little harder.  After you practice, push yourself a bit harder on your business side of things.  Make an outlandish statement to the world that you’ll do 30 blogs in 30 days and stress yourself out for the next month (a little joke slamming yours truly, the author!  haha).  The opportunities are opening before our eyes these days.  While record companies are going into the tank, independent artists are seeing the flood gates open to opportunity like never before.

Remember that movie  “Dead Poet’s Society?”  Carpe Diem – Seize the Day.  It still rings true.  What are you doing to be the best at your craft that you can be?  What is it that you’re doing different than anyone else?

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