That Time My Pants Got Pulled Down in Public

One of the more humiliating moments of my life happened in front of several hundred people.

I was playing lead guitar in a rock band, and it was one of our first live gigs. Terrified at the sea of faces watching my every move, I stared at my hands to make sure my fingers hit the right strings on my red Fender Stratocaster. At first, things went well. I was hitting my notes on cue, and the songs sounded great.

But then, without warning, the bright spotlight that illuminated my area of the stage went dark, and I started missing almost every note because I couldn’t see my hands.

It felt like having my pants pulled down in public. I still remember our singer looking over at me, his face confused and concerned, as I hit one sour note after another, ruining the song.

From that night on, I practiced in the dark, or else closed my eyes while playing so I couldn’t see my hands. I began waking up at 5:00 a.m. every morning, spending two hours practicing in my mother’s basement before going to work, wearing headphones and working on my lead guitar parts until I could play them half-asleep, on auto-pilot.

I found that when I got into a tense situation – such as recording an album inside a music studio or playing on live television – the only thing that allowed me to function was the muscle memory and timing I’d built in from hundreds of hours of early-morning solo practice sessions.

No matter how nervous I was, I could hit the notes.

Hollywood vs. Hard Work

Movies always make it look so easy.

The formula is the same – after an early setback or failure, our character begins working to improve himself or herself. He or she begins training for a competition, learning a new skill or improving some area of his or her life. We see the early failures, the struggles, the sweat, the grit, and then, as energetic music pumps in the background, we begin to see breakthrough – our character is getting it. He or she is making it happen! By the end, with the music at full volume, our character is grinning – prepared, ready and transformed.

And it all happens in the span of about 90 seconds.

If only real life were like that!

Clapton and the Pa Chompa Chomp

I first picked up the guitar when I was 18 years old. I learned the pentatonic blues scale from a guitar instructor along with a simple three-chord blues progression.

I staggered, stumbled and stammered through that simple three-chord blues melody every single day for several months until I mastered it. My college roommate nicknamed the song “pa chompa chomp” because he heard it every single day after class.

Later that year, I discovered Eric Clapton’s “From the Cradle,” an album of blues covers that featured the soaring, gritty guitar solos that have made Clapton one of the most famous guitarists in musical history.

I played along to each song on the album, trying to copy the licks Clapton delivered. I took sheets of paper, a ruler and colored markers, and sketched out an entire guitar fret diagram, writing in the names of each note along the guitar’s neck and sorting the different scales and keys out by color.

I played that Clapton CD every single night in my room, clanking and clunking along on my guitar. I played it to the point where the CD became scratched beyond recognition, worn out from being played so often. I bought a second disc and kept going.

In those solo sessions, sweating in an attic bedroom of a crappy college house, I became a guitarist. I discovered my musical voice and my playing style.

Ideas vs. Execution

Almost a decade ago, a friend of mine and his partners came up with a brilliant idea.

He secured investors, called in favors, leveraged relationships and raised thousands of dollars based on this idea. (Which was, and still is, brilliant.)

The obvious customer need, the “win-win” simplicity of the business model and massive appeal to consumers and businesses alike made this a million dollar idea – and then some!

And my friend had it first.

Today, almost eight years later, my friend and his group are still trying to get their idea off the ground. Without going into gory detail or assigning blame, the reality is that with each day, week and month that passes, their vision becomes less valuable and viable.

Over the past several years, I’ve seen – and been part of – a pattern that has become all-to-familiar in the business world: Brilliant Ideas are everywhere. Execution is not.

Here’s the reality: Without work, without hustle, without execution, your ideas are worthless.

For instance, I doubt Steve Jobs was the first guy to come up with the idea of a personal computer (Macintosh), digital music player (iPod) or tablet device (iPad). But the reality is, he and his team at Apple executed on those ideas better than anyone else. That’s why Apple is one of the most profitable companies on the planet.

It comes down to this: Do you have a million dollar idea? Great! Now, are you willing to put in the work? Are you willing to overcome the inevitable obstacles and roadblocks and push forward? Are you willing to get up early, stay up late and do whatever it takes to see your vision become reality?

Go to Work!

One of the ways Gary Vaynerchuk built his Twitter following from 0 to more than 1 million people was by engaging with every single person who mentioned him on Twitter.

Nobody handed him a thing. His parents weren’t celebrities. He wasn’t a movie star. He didn’t inherit a platform or huge audience to appeal to.

Instead, Gary Vaynerchuk hustled. He dove into Twitter and engaged with anyone he could find who was asking for advice on what wine to drink. Once he built a small following, he began interacting, responding and answering every single person who mentioned or “Tweeted” at him on the platform.

In addition, he gave out his email address everywhere, encouraging people to email him questions or problems they needed help with.

And he answered those emails personally. Every. Single. One. Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of, “Hey Gary, love your wine show on YouTube, and I’m wondering, I’m having a party next week, and I wanted to find a new red wine to try, and we’re serving steak, what would you recommend?”

I’m not suggesting you follow Gary’s insane work schedule or obsessive desire to respond to every single person who gives you a shout out online.

I am suggesting you hustle. I am suggesting you do the work.

Before we finish, I want you to repeat after me:

NOBODY OWES ME ANYTHING.

ANYTHING I WANT, I NEED TO GO OUT AND EARN.

THIS WORLD DOES NOT OWE ME A THING.

I’ll never forget the humiliation I felt on that evening in front of several hundred people. I’ll also never forget the hard work and hustle that helped me realize some of my biggest musical dreams as a result.

How about you? Can you relate? Let me know what you think in the comments!

email

Comments are closed.