Envy vs. Motivation

I am a grass is always greener person. It’s not a trait that I am happy with, and I’ve constantly strived to get rid of that type of idealism. And yet, I can’t help feeling that there is a positive aspect of having that type of outlook. Let me explain.

I once saw a clinic with Steve Gadd. Before he spoke he sat down and played ‘Bye, Bye, Blackbird’. Everyone, of course, was floored at his performance. He grabbed the microphone and said he had just played everything he knew in that song. He then went on to say that if he had members of the audience came up to play for him, he would learn, and want to learn, something from each person that played. And that is where my ‘envy vs. motivation’ perspective rears it’s head.

You see, Steve was right. There is always more to learn. In my position as a professional drummer I am always looking to learn more, play more, BE more. When I see a drummer doing something that I have not done, cannot do or would like to do, it creates this innate sense of envy. It’s a feeling I get in the pit of my stomach that says ‘Why isn’t that me?’ I hate this feeling, I hate feeling a self-centered or holier than thou attitude like that. Envy is one of the deadly sins (labelled DEADLY for a reason).

And yet every time it happens, I have realized that there is one outcome that consistently happens. I work harder. If it’s a technique that I don’t know, I will sit down and try to learn it, or at the very lest go and practice all day. If it’s a style I don’t know, I will find a book on how to learn it. If it’s a drummer, or just a musician in general, landing a gig for a band I would love to be in, I find that I work harder on looking for ‘The Big Gig’.

And so I find that there is a direct correlation (at least for me) between envy and motivation. I want to clarify that I am grateful for all that I have in my life. My recent change in profession has solidified my ‘dream’ of being professional musician into a reality. I gig regularly, I teach regularly, and long gone are the days when my response to the questions “Are you a good drummer?” was answered by “I guess”.

I also know that I can learn those techniques and styles by being a dedicated musician. As for ‘The Big Gig’ if it’s meant to be, then it will be. Opportunity is luck + preparation, and I believe I have both. As for being envious of others, I know that as long as I am aware of how blessed my life is, it might not be so bad to have the success of others motivate me to push harder.

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Taking the Plunge

I recently left my full time job to pursue my career as a professional musician. This was one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to make. I’ve been playing an instrument since I was 5, and although it took me a few years to settle into the drums (I started with guitar, then trumpet, then violin, and finally percussion), I’ve wanted to do nothing but music for as long as I remember.

On the other hand, I’ve been working my musical career around full time jobs since I was out of high school. I find people have a tendency to get comfortable quickly, and I was no exception. I would tell myself, “Once I accomplish this goal, or overcome that hurdle, then I will leave my job”. Y’know, it never really worked out that way for me. I toured, had a few indie deals with some of the bands I was in, and still that ‘moment’ never came. So, what happened that now at this late stage I decide to take the plunge?

Well, I think that my issue was that I was trying to force things to happen the way that I saw fit. Any band I was in would be run like a military operation, with me at the helm. It never worked. I finally decided to change my entire view on things, my whole perspective, everything.

I went back to school, at the Drummers Collective. I learned every style that was thrown at me. I practiced night and day, which wasn’t any different from what I was doing before, except now I was following direction, instead of giving them. I listened, I learned, I investigated, I asked questions, I WAS A SPONGE. I opened my eyes to what was out there, and let the universe guide me in whatever direction it wanted. I started teaching, I started going on every audition available. I said yes to everything. I reached out, I made and kept connections. And finally, I started to get work. And then more work.

And so it has come to the point where I was able to leave my full time job. I’m currently teaching part time, and gigging. My goal is to be a full time performer (which was my goal all along). It’s scary not being sure where your next paycheck is coming from, but at the same time it allows me to see that the possibilities are limitless. I am not constricted by the guidelines that a corporation sets for me as far as what I am valued at. In the long run, I feel I will be able to grow spiritually this way. I will enjoy the journey.

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Audition Blues

I recently went on an audition for an upcoming TV show. The casting director was asking for very specific requirements, things such as being able to play with restricitive clothing, versatile style, etc…Then there was the height requirement. All auditions needed to be between 5’10″ and 6’1″, since the house band for the show would need to emulate and/or shadow the actors for certain segments. I myself am 5’6″ or so. I questioned the spec, and was told to “come down and give it a shot, you never know”….

Well needless to say I was the first one in and the first one out. The songs I was required to play were simple enough, some funk, some punk and some rock. When I walked into the studio the guitar and bass player running the audition were both over half a foot taller then me. My first red flag. 2nd, I had to lower most of the drum set to be able to play comfortably. My second red flag. My playing was on point, and I wasn’t nervous at all, quite the opposite, I was in fact energized and excited.

I was told immediately I didn’t get the gig.

When I followed up, I found out that it was because of my physical specs, which of course I have no control over.

Being a musician, struggling or successful, it’s crucial to have thick skin. You will knock on 1000 doors and if you’re lucky one will open. I’ve been playing the drums since I was 9, I’ve been in bands that have toured, recorded, played well together but never got along personally, and vice versa. Whatever your goal is, you have to live in the moment. If you dwell on a failed audition, a band that broke up, a gig that gets cancelled, all of these things will prevent you from moving forward to whatever could be around the corner. Success in music might not come to you the way you want it, it’s imperative that you open your mind and your heart to what the universe puts in front of you.

Case in point. The above audition I’ve described opened the door for a possible TV commercial. Had I not gone on the audition I might never have been considered for another one. Had I not prepped all the songs, known the material, went prepared and grasped the opportunity in front of me, then I may not have been in the good graces of the contact that got me the TV show audition. I don’t know where this will lead to, if anywhere, but if I had not given it my all then my quest to be a musician is moot.

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