“If you sit there long enough…it will get done”- words of my mentor that still rings in my head after all these years.
This was in the 70’s…fresh out of school.
As a young guy I wanted to light up the world and do everything. But, I was having difficulty focusing on the task at hand. My mind would wander as I sat in front of empty score pages…more often than not because I had no clue as to how to start, scared to death I would do something stupid and/or worse, embarass him.
Billy could sense my indecision as we would work together and would look over to me and at times be kind but as often frustrated with my lack of productivity. Deadlines don’t wait for the inexperienced. And in this business, if you miss a deadline you might as well pack up your things and go.
So the answer was to sit in the chair and, over time, train myself to focus. In the process I ended up becoming more disciplined about my work habits but at the beginning it was abject fear that kept me in that chair 12, 16, sometimes 20 hours a day.
In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “Outliers” he makes a pretty good case. In his words “the exceptional put in at least 20,000 hours of dedicated work into their craft”. The examples of this range from Bill Gates to Charlie Parker.
I have no idea how many hours I spent. I will say this: after about 5-6 years of concentrated effort the lightbulb went on and all of a sudden the world seemed different. I no longer had to struggle each time I put pen to paper…gone was the constant examination of all possible solutions to a musical problem. Yes, there have been times when I’ve struggled, we all do, the difference was I knew how to get to the end of the assignment.
So the thing to remember is that if you truly want to stand out and be exceptional, at anything, there is no shortcut. You have just have to sit there long enough….