Ideas are easy. Consistency is hard.
I think that one of the reasons I return to that epigram so often is because of my music training. The business world has much to learn from the musical world.
In music we keep going back to the fundamentals over and over again. You keep practicing all the time. Inspiration and creativity matter, but if you are a professional, it is your chops that really matter. No one expects to get it right the first time. You make mistakes, but you keep practicing until you don’t make mistakes any more. Yes originality matters, but at least in the worlds of jazz and classical music, you won’t get a lick if you can’t perform.
I heard an interview with Paul Simon a few weeks ago. Simon made a comment about having some great material in his head for another recording, but he had put it all on hold because he was on tour now. The interviewer asked, clearly perplexed, if that meant he just stopped writing, if he just put his creativity on hold. Simon response was that he was a professional. He didn’t sit around waiting for inspiration. He had a job to do, and when it came time to write, he would write.
Paul Simon has, among a crazy wealth of other abilities, solid writing chops. It is his craft, and he practices it.
That’s the way it is. So close your copy of 10 New Laws of Success I Just Discovered or any book with the words new, secret, laws, or success in the title, and start acting like a musician.
Practice your Craft
Business is an art and a craft. Practice it. Learn the fundamental rules of finance, social sciences/psychology, operations & logistics, communication and information theory. Understand the real laws of cause and effect that are the constants of your world much as the laws of acoustics, theory, and rhythm are the constants of a musician’s world. Study, study, study.
Then then practice. Practice, practice, practice. There are no shortcuts, no magical ‘laws’, no real silver bullets. The 10,000 hours that Gladwell writes about in Outliers won’t be ignored. Honour them or you will get nowhere.
Do you have to love what you do? Of course. Who wants to do something for ten thousand hours that they don’t love? But if you want to excel at it, if you want to make a living at it, it becomes a labour of love. The love must come first, but the system, the labour, the practice cannot be ignored. And if you want to be successful as a business owner, it is the practice of business that you must focus on. Not what got you into the business: baking or sales or mechanics or construction. The business itself is now your craft.
In music school, I spent 1,000’s of hours in study cubicles and Wenger practice studios. In the cubicles we were mastering the theoretical fundamentals of our art. In the tiny practice modules we were all practicing the performance of that art. And in the middle of all those hours, what struck me was not how hard I was working, it was what I heard when I took a break in the common area: the sounds of pianos, voices, trombones, trumpets, violins, double basses, percussion… heard faintly through the almost-soundproof doors of the other Wenger studios. The same scales, the same passages, the same failures and triumphs over and over and over again. The relentless patterns of the search for mastery.
I just don’t hear enough of that in the world of business.
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