Thinking you’re above simplicity, minimalism, and the fundamentals, is the root to the disaster of your evolution, and the ceiling of your learning. Having a never ending ‘white belt mentality’ or a beginner’s mind is the key to discovering possibilities and living your potential through drumming and life. There are worlds waiting to be revealed by looking deeply into simplicity to experience the depth. The legends of our craft were all life long students. They knew that to work with nature and not against, tapping into the long game through compounding time reveals our absolute best through the power of an exponential rise. There is no END POINT. This is a lifestyle where we CHOOSE to experience curiosity, enthusiasm, and the joy of discovery. We don’t have to, but we GET to do this every day! Masters of minimalism fascinate me. Think of drummers like Phil Rudd and Ringo Starr, or song writers like Neil Young and Willie Nelson. How did they do so MUCH with so LITTLE? The answer lies in the realization that music is so much more than just NOTES. It is phrasing, emotion, and SPACE. They turn their weaknesses into strengths by doing more with less. They create things of depth with simplicity. Time spent exploring what you DON’T do matters.
“Half my life is an act of revision.” John Irving
Deciding what to CUT AWAY is the playground where the real masters play. The root meaning of the word decision is ‘to cut away’, and knowing what to DELETE will refine your expression to give more of YOU to your drumming and life. Becoming a life long student is to embody the art of NOT doing as well as taking action. Drummers all have in common a passion, energy, and a hunger to learn, but this can lead to information overload by taking on too much. This is when well meaning enthusiasm leads to worlds of frustration, and I’ve fallen into this trap myself many times. As the ancient maxim says, ‘the man who chases two rabbits catches none.’ Anyone taking on a path of mastery has learned the hard way that you can’t reach the summit of accomplishment with willpower alone. Having the humility to see the vastness of how much went before you and what will come after you, is where the masters live.
“What I love doing is cold calling people and getting their book list. What did you read? What did you learn?” Kobe Bryant
Basketball legend Kobe Bryant lived the white belt mentality lifestyle, always staying a humble student of the craft. Taking on new challenges after his retirement, he would approach anyone he wanted to learn from that could help guide him to new areas unexplored. The world is your teacher, and just by reaching out to those whom you look up to with the right QUESTIONS, the answers you get have the power to alter the trajectory of your life. Anyone you choose can be your mentor, and you would be surprised how giving most people are with their hard earned expertise and life experiences that can saving you years of toil and frustration. On Kobe’s list of self chosen teachers was billionaire Chris Sacca to learn about finance, designer Giorgio Armani to learn about retirement, and titan Oprah Winfrey for business advice. He has even studied cheetahs to learn about the way they move and hunt. He also posed his insatiable curiosity to legendary music composer John Williams to learn about leadership. What does conducting an orchestra have to do with basketball? If you’ve got all those musicians at your fingertips, knowing how all the different parts come together to harmonize is essential. Keeping them all together to make one glorious sound is a big accomplishment, and looks easier than it really is. All those different sections uniting under one leader was the overlapping lesson Kobe took to the basketball court. Something we learned earlier in the LTR METHOD, is that to master your craft you have to go OUTSIDE of it. Kobe had the perspective to draw the parallel between conducting a world class orchestra to leading a basketball team to multi championships. To guide others, Williams also told him that it’s better to ask people questions than to tell them what to do if something is wrong. To remain humble is to ask better questions to others, and to yourself.
Kobe’s office. Notice the framed pictures of his mentors J.K. Rowling, Walt Disney, Steve Jobs, among others. This is an ancient concept you’ll see in yoga and martial arts spaces of keeping the presence of your teachers close to you through pictures, symbols, and totems.
Learning to ask better QUESTIONS is the key to a life of living the white belt mentality. Letting your ego hijack your learning is the beginning of your decline. Think of your brain as a connection making machine. Whatever questions you pose to yourself, your brain will give you an answer. The QUALITY of your questions have the power to keep you on the path of being a lifelong learner, or to bring you to the doorstep of disappointment and obsolescence. Asking yourself questions like ‘why does this always happen to me?’ will never give you empowering answers. A revealing question I always go to is ‘what’s the opportunity here?’ When you can learn use what life gives you as FUEL, the obstacle in front of you actually becomes the way FORWARD. But you just won’t see it if you’re clouded by your own ego. Detach to see how much BIGGER this is than you to keep your WHITE BELT MENTALITY at all costs.
This knowledge is of course not new. The ancient book ‘Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai’ written nearly 300 years ago by Yamamoto Tsunetomo captures the essence of the Japanese Samurai bushido warrior spirit. There is a passage advising the path of the aspiring Samurai to one of life long learning. ’This person is aware of the endlessness of entering deeply into a certain Way and never thinks of himself as having finished. He truly knows his own insufficiencies and never in his whole life thinks that he has succeeded. He has no thoughts of pride but with self-abasement knows the Way to the end. It is said that master Yagyū once remarked, “I do not know the way the defeat others, but the way to defeat myself.” Throughout your life advance daily, becoming more skillful than yesterday, more skillful than today. This is never-ending.’