We all know the power of momentum that is created by practicing DAILY. You probably know the '10,000 hour rule', that to get to a high level at your craft you need to put in 10,000 hours of focused practice. But daily practice adding up to many hours doesn't automatically mean you'll get to mastery. Getting to mediocrity isn't that hard, but then a plateau is hit. Why? Two other elements must be there: Accountability, and Discomfort.
'Iron Sharpens Iron, and Man Sharpens Man'
Accountability is being held to a higher standard. Just this act of observation is powerful! This can be done in so many ways, by declaring your intention to the world, by having a teacher or mentor, or just by measuring your progress. I have an app on my phone that measures the days I practice, and I know I'm accountable to see at the end of the month what I've achieved. Sometimes when I practice I'll record myself, and just KNOWING I'm being recorded is a form of accountability, even though I'm the only one that will ever hear it. It's a little Jedi mind trick, but it works. Creating deadlines also works because you will be accountable even if just to yourself, and not just getting it done 'whenever you feel like it'.
'Embrace The Suck'
Humans are amazingly adaptable. Life itself adapts to extreme environments in ways science didn't think was possible just a few years ago. When you're uncomfortable you adapt! If you've ever noticed when you failed at something, after you come back to it you're just a little better at it, even without trying. If you can't think of an example, remember learning to ride a bike. Balancing on a few inches of rubber and gliding through the air is uncomfortable at first! Taking the training wheels off creates discomfort, failure, and forces you to ADAPT. When we practice, it's easy to become too comfortable. Find little ways to keep yourself on edge. If you hear the little voice in your head saying 'why do I have to do this?', then you're on the right track. Change the temperature of the room, play the song a different way, change your kit around (try open handed drumming!), record yourself, try extreme tempos, exaggerate the dynamics; use your imagination! Get used to living at your limits, going daily to the razor edge of your abilities. I find little ways throughout the day to keep myself in discomfort. I may park my car in a slightly farther away parking spot, or say hello to a stranger when I don't feel like it. This eventually becomes habit, your new normal. Now you are always competing with your former self, becoming a little better each and every day, never stagnant.
Practice daily but add accountability and discomfort, and watch yourself soar to places you couldn't have imagined before. Your ego will take a few hits when you're not having any fun and it doesn't feel good, but this is what it means to walk with giants.
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‘You don’t choose the drums, the drums choose you.’ This is how I feel about what I do, and many of us feel this way about our craft. It is an OBSESSION, we love it, it is our fun and joy, our escape from the world. Motivation is not needed, in fact sometimes the challenge in when to walk away and not ever do it! But there are two other areas that are the very foundation of the craft you love, and can easily be neglected: BUSINESS skills, and shaping your CHARACTER.
If you are only ever going to work in a room alone and you’ll never take what you do out into the world, then read no further. But even as an amateur, you will need to relate and connect with other people. Let’s define what these two areas mean: your character will determine if people want to work with you or not, and what people say about you when you’re not in the room. Your main currency is your reputation! This is about controlling the darker angels of your nature. For myself, I am impatient. If I let this take over, I will snap at someone I work with, or not have the patience to see the long game through and quit. This can create my reputation pretty fast as being someone to avoid working with, so I constantly have to watch this. This is a double edged sword because it comes from a good place of being passionate and energetic, but I have to constantly work on this DAILY.
Some people say business is about making money, and that is part of it, but to me it is about much more. Business is about taking something you love and believe in out into the world, adding value to people's lives by making the world better place, and receiving value back for your efforts. If it truly is valuable to others and is affecting lives in a positive way, then the money will take care of itself over time, but it takes consistent awareness, focus, and skills learned over time.
When I was a teenager playing drums and forming bands, I wanted nothing to do with the ‘boring’ business, and didn’t think twice about how I was showing up in the world. But as I worked on my drumming constantly, these other two neglected areas were right under my nose. I had to learn my business to reach others to form bands, to get rehearsal spaces and book venues for shows, and advertise to get the word out. I had to learn character skills to have the fortitude to overcome the inevitable failures that came, and to be able to work with my bandmates to write songs, travel, and get along in the other 23 hours in the day that we weren’t performing.
If I’d sought out mentors and sharpened these skills sooner, I would have been a lot more prepared for the storms that came, and you can believe 100% that your challenges are coming. I had to learn some of these lessons the hard way, that to fuel the craft I loved, I had to have these other areas together equally, if not more. Take constant effort to renew, reinvent, and sharpen your business and character, and watch what you love and grow in ways over time that you can’t even imagine!
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Technique is the HOW of what we do, the study of MOVEMENT. Flowing motions equals a flowing sound, so 'how you move is how you groove'! This is not about getting as fast as we can or competing with other drummers, but about SELF EXPRESSION, and removing any barriers in the way of you sounding like your best self on your instrument.
Once we get out of our heads and into the movements, intuitively reacting to the PRESENT MOMENT, we use our instinct as a tool, which is much more powerful that having to critically think out every part of what we do. This opens the door to getting into flow states when we play the drums. Playing from THE ZONE is the most fun we can have when grooving on the drums and in life!
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Music is more about the MOVEMENT and SPACE between the notes, rather than the notes themselves. In drumming, I call this 'the martial arts of drumming'. How you move is how you groove!
When you play drums, even if you tried you can't help but sound like YOU. This comes from how you glide through in the air between your notes. Your movement creates your sound! Think of the rhythms we hear as the final product, the tip of the iceberg, but the movement and space in between is the depths beneath that makes the outcome possible. Video yourself and get a mirror to analyze your movements to see what is serving you and what is getting in the way of your personal and unique expression.
TENSION is what will hinder you; relaxed intense motions will create relaxed intense sounds. In drumming the Moeller stroke really epitomizes this movement in an efficient and beautiful way, where our drumming becomes a dance. Many drummers just listen to their final sound, but by this time it is too late, as the movement has already happened. That's where the magic is! Think of your own personal 'martial arts' of MOVEMENT and SPACE in your drumming and life!
'Know the rules to break the rules.' Question everything, stay curious! This to me in drumming and life is embodied in Stewart Copeland. His drumming and attitude was a bombshell which challenged me to be bold, break the rules, and be myself. I love his concept of 'why do I have to always play a backbeat?' He challenges the norm, and walks the path of true expression, authenticity, and individuality.
If you adopt this attitude to the next level as a LIFESTYLE, you will regularly REINVENT yourself by breaking your winning formula. Those around you may think you are crazy, but you are following your gut INSTINCT. Using the 'break things' protocol, you will consistently question, challenge, and alter your winning formula. Here are some action steps:
1) Take your influences from unconventional sources. Look where no one is looking, and go where no one is going!
2) Live on the edge, where you are uncomfortable. This means you are growing! Go into the blue ocean of the unknown. This is where growth happens, on the cutting edge!
This is where the success of your winning formula will actually HURT you, because you are staying where it is safe, where others have been.
Always stay hungry, stay uncomfortable, stay great!
I just watched a great special on Netflix, ‘Standup For Drummers’ by Fred Armisen. This was a fun reminder for three essential concepts: history, humour, and finding the balance of ‘caring so much we find the zone where we don’t care’, or not giving a f**&. Let’s get into all three concepts, then dive in and enjoy watching this special.
The history of the drumset is about a century old, but you can go deeper. Drummer Steve Smith is an enthusiastic student of history, and he recommended a book called ‘Blues People’ by Leroi Jones that goes back all the way to the 1600’s and roots of slavery, which is tandem to the history of the drumset and modern music. So, you can go back as far as you want! Drums are the original human instrument after all, perhaps after the voice. This richness found in the past gives us an understanding on how things evolved to the way they are today. One of my favorite reasons is the uncovering of all the great music, stories, and characters that make up the past one hundred years. Ironically, knowing your history also gives you a firm foot towards the FUTURE, because you are seeing more clearly with detachment, and can now question the present, seeing with fresh eyes. Let’s be curious and constantly question everything, allowing us to reinvent ourselves and live on the edge of our abilities to uncover our truest potential. This is not a comfortable place to live, but the rewards are great! This is true self expression of YOU, and not letting your voice get lost in the crowd of mediocrity.
Let’s not forget to LAUGH! Drums are supposed to be fun… that’s why we PLAY the drums! With such a challenging instrument, we need to keep our sense of humour. And, let’s see the ridiculousness of what we doing, hitting things after all! I have been lucky to spend time with some of the elder legends of drumming, and you always see a strong sense of humour in the greats of our craft.
As for ‘Not Giving A F**&’, what does this mean?? This is the yin yang of the balance of art, meaning we care so deeply about improving our craft, that we need to live slightly in the space of thinking (almost pretending) that we DON’T care about the outcome. There is the yin yang of a balance of the two sides, finding a little of both in each, because this is admittedly a bit of a paradox. But no one can strangle an ability to grow, force ideas, or to make an outcome happen out of sheer will. We need to let go, surrender, and trust our instincts. Saying ‘F-it’ is where great art lives. Go for it and trust yourself! BELIEVE. Not knowing what is going to happen, following a crazy idea, and surrendering to the process when you listen to your gut, feels scary! But this is the only place where true innovation lives, in that split second of taking the leap off the cliff. After all, what’s the worst that can happen?? Let us create fearlessly.
Watch this comedy special, let the world melt away, and then learn, laugh, and create!
If you can last through the mundanity of the 10,000 reps mindset, you will open the floodgates to a freedom that you can't even imagine! The best in the world all have this self discipline, from Bruce Lee, Frank Sinatra, and Kobe Bryant. This is about getting to the state of 'non thinking' by doing so many reps that you free up your mental bandwidth to unlock our peak creativity through FLOW, and being fully in the richness of the present moment to respond and react to all that is available to us. The 10,000 reps mindset is also about SURRENDERING to the process by cultivating patience, living our practice as a true LIFESTYLE with no ultimate destination, and not rushing the goal towards the paper tiger of perfection.
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This idea was born from students coming to my studio thinking they had to live up to a certain level, or come in a good mood, or come to play well. That's great if it happens, but also show up tired, in a bad mood, not feeling like playing, not at your best. If our practice is a LIFESTYLE, we can't judge ourselves, or try to live up to perfection. We just need to SHOW UP consistently, and accept the situation with perfect EFFORT, not results. Drums have a magic that way, in that when you start MOVING, playing, and getting out of your head and into the rhythm, you will always leave better than you came. The challenge is coming exactly as you are... just showing up, taking ACTION. Just knowing you showed up on THE PATH feeding your potential, you may not always hit the mark, but your consistent actions will give you more confidence over time than you can imagine.
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'Lessons From Dying': Drummers In Cars Getting Coffee with Aubrey Dayle & Chris Lesso | LTR Podcast #6
This was an awesome drive getting in the zone with amazing drummer and outstanding human Aubrey Dayle! Aubrey shares his incredible story on how he came close to dying, and his rise to coming back stronger than ever. These are some seriously heartfelt and deep insights that will show you how to take these lessons to your drumming and your life.
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In the NFL, the difference between the best in the league and the worst in the league is only a margin of 2%! This is because the standards in that arena are so high; we can take these same standards and hold ourselves accountable to these as well in our daily practices. The difference between excellent and OUTSTANDING is a tiny gap, that takes work and daily discipline to stay on the path. 'Miss 1 day of practice and you notice; miss 2 days of practice and the band notices; miss 3 days of practice and the audience notices.' Push yourself to keep these high standards alive in your life everyday, ESPECIALLY when you don't feel like it!
Check out the 2% Variance concept, let me know what you think, and share it with those you care about!
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