Do The Practice

In the best selling book, Outliers: The Story Of Success, Malcolm Gladwell has written about the popular theory of The 10,000 Hour Rule. The idea is that for success, you need to put in around 10,000 hours of practicing a specific task. This idea has both its champions and detractors. In many ways, it's a very general, simplification of how to be successful. But putting in 10,000 hours is only a part of story. It certainly helps to have some sort of natural talent in the area you are pursuing. I could put in 10,000 hours of drumming practice (and probably have over the years), but I will never be on the same level as someone like Vinnie Colaiuta. I know Vinnie worked hard, practicing all the time in his younger days, but he also just has a natural gift for playing drums and playing seemingly impossible rhythms.

 Similarly, as much as I love ice hockey, even with 10,000 hours of working on it I could never be a professional hockey player. I could make a list of all my other interests that with time put in, I'd be sufficient, but not proficient in. But this is not to put down the idea of 10,000 hours completely. What's important to realize is, that if you want to do something, you have to do it. I know that as a professional writer for more than 30 years, it's all been a matter of writing everyday. The same with being a percussionist. I have to play everyday. It's not enough to just think about doing something—"Yeah, I'm going to practice."—you have to actually do it.

Do The Practice

If you want to play drums, you need to practice everyday. You need to work on not just things you know, but things you don't know. Otherwise, you're just treading water. 

You need to turn off the computer, turn off the TV, put away all the distractions and get on with serious work on what you want to be. And today there are so many distractions competing for our time. But you have to decide what it is you really want, and then do that. I remember reading about author Chuck Palahniuk, who wrote Fight Club, in his spare time while working at a truck factory. He could've watched TV, or gone out and partied, or played video games, but he wanted to be a writer, so he wrote. This really inspired me. There are many other stories of artists in various disciplines pursuing their art in their spare moments while they worked a day job to pay the bills. 

Right now, I could be watching TV or doing some other sort of distraction, but it's been over a week since I posted to this blog, so I need to write a new post. And I'm sitting here writing. I'm doing the practice. I've been both writing and playing drums since I was a kid, and I still do it. I still work on both of them. I'm always looking to push myself forward. I'm doing the practice.

Are you doing the practice?

~ MB


  1. I'm very impressed by the first concept you illustrate. Do you think that "the natural gift" is so important to become a great musician? I don't think so and I consider talent more as a trap than as a gift because it could just represent an excuse for not working hard. What do you think?
    Completely in agreement with the importance of doing the practice and not just thinking about it... So I'm going to make some practice right now :)
    Thanks for the post!

    1. Hello Paolo! Thanks for your input. As far as "the natural gift," I don't think it's always necessary to become a great musician, or any other type of artist. But some sort of innate ability certainly helps. As a teacher for 40 years, I can attest to the fact that some of my students have had very little natural ability for music, and no matter how many hows of work they put in, they will never be any sort of a musician, as they just don't have the right wiring in their brain. Yet I've seen others, who desperately struggled at the beginning, only to finally figure things out and become very successful.

      Now to become some sort of genius, or major star, there are some people who just seem to possess a remarkable natural gift. Yes, they worked hard at it, but they also seemed to have some sort of natural inclination to do what they do to an exceptional degree. In many cases, they were at the forefront of new artistic movements. I mentioned Vinnie Calaiuta as one example. Other examples, from various arts, would be Tony Williams (who played with Miles Davis while still in his teens), Buddy Rich, John Coltrane, John Cage, Mozart, Merce Cunningham, Stephen King, Picasso, Pablo Casals, and many others. But even these people put in their time working on their art (and in some cases may have even put in more time than others, because their art is/was their life/devotion). And that’s just the thing, to get anywhere, you have to work at it, not just say you will, or dream you will. And you have to work at it consistently over time. Do the practice, do the practice, do the practice…



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