This is the beginning of a seven-part series that I am starting on what I believe to be seven principles that most efficiently promote professional development. I wrote these focusing on a musician’s perspective, but keep in mind, these can all be tweaked to fit any line of work – and I think they can be adapted to anything you do, whether it be music, sports, writing, various labor jobs, etc.
Virtue No. 1 – Diligence
“Don’t practice until you get it right, practice until you can’t get it wrong.” – Unknown
First and foremost, a commitment to hard work is imperative to achieving any sort of musical goal. No matter how lofty your goal might seem, I believe that it’s possible, if you demonstrate strong work ethic. Check out the article on Wikipedia for the word “diligence” at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diligence. In the introductory paragraph it states: “Expertise in a field such as music requires about 10,000 hours or 10 years of practice and so diligence is commonly required to achieve this.” Now, I’m aware that anyone can put anything on Wikipedia, but I agree with this statement completely. Whoever posted that was apparently an individual with a similar mind as myself. Always remember; you can’t expect to have anything handed to you. You might be a talented individual, but without supplementing your talent with skill, you’ll never see progress. Don’t be lazy. Work hard, and make it a point to continuously improve.
A good technique for improving on musical ability is to write music of your own – and don’t just write whatever you feel like, make sure you push yourself just beyond your current abilities. Then, make it a point to master what you’ve written. With regular practice, you’ll have it perfected in no time. I’ve used this technique for years. Whenever I write a song, I push my boundaries just a little bit. This might be with actual playing dexterity, musical complexity, harmonic exploration, or even something like lyrical complexity (for example, making four lines rhyme instead of just two). If you have a musical idea, but you feel that your performance abilities aren’t quite up to par – make it your goal to practice until you can do it. Works like a charm. Before you know it, you’ll be surprising yourself.
Success doesn’t just come by being good at your craft, though. If you’re serious about being successful, especially as a musician, you have to put in just as much work on the business side. The key word here is networking. You won’t get anything handed to you out of nowhere, and if you do, I’d be willing to bet it’s more than likely a scam. So what is networking? Simple – talking to people. Go out of your way to shake hands, introduce yourself, and ask questions. After you develop a professional relationship with other people in your industry, you’ll start hearing about more offers. 99% of the time when I get hired for a gig, it is a result of personally knowing someone who is directly involved with that gig. Sending your resumé out is a shot in the dark, and it will more thank likely end up a music contractor’s trash can. If you want work, get out there and establish yourself. Become a regular at local music venues. Be a familiar face. Importantly, make sure you are behaving in a way that represents you as a professional. When you’re out and about, see every chance to meet someone as an opportunity to expand your professional network. When you look at it that way, you’ll be a lot less likely to introduce yourself to a fellow musician by saying “Man, you guys RULED” and then vomiting on their shoes because you’ve drank one too many. Be smart, and don’t lose control. And once you’ve landed a gig, make sure you be in touch with the promoter or contractor by phone and/or e-mail. Communicate frequently, that way they will know what to expect of you, and you’ll know what to expect of them. Don’t be afraid to set a price well in advance, but be flexible. Sometimes compromising is the only way to get any sort of compensation for musical gigs. On the date of the gig, be prepared, on time, and behave professionally.
The point I’ve been trying to make (and I think you should get it by now) is that hard work pays off. Put extra effort into improving your skills, expanding your style, and in making positive impressions. If you’re lazy, things just won’t happen for you. Put in the effort, and you can achieve anything.