The definition of insanity, according to Albert Einstein, is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result. This does not sound like insanity to me. In fact, it sounds like my band's business plan. Actually, it sounds like the plan of most successful artists and athletes. Probably, after peeling back enough stories, it can also be the unofficial or unspoken mantra of many successful people. It perfectly melds with Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000-Hour Rule, which is based on a study by Anders Ericsson, a Swedish psychologist, scholar and professor. In his book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes roughly ten thousand hours of "deliberate practice" to achieve mastery in any field.
I added up all the hours we spent playing in the bars during the first 10 years of our history and found that just in playing time and rehearsing alone, we spent about 9,600 hours from 1973 to 1982! Once all the travel and performance prep time was added up, I was amazed to discover that we actually spent 50 percent of every waking hour of everyday working toward our goal of a record deal.
I thought about that for a moment and what it really means. Talk about endless repetition becoming a habit. I thought about the ability we all have to actually rewire our brain's synapses so the real results of repetition become an automatic and almost perfect replication of a defined goal. It's the ability to call up the delivery of that habit, like having it On Demand, whether it's performing a piano solo or gymnastic exercise.
We played about 7,000 performances before we got signed. The shows never seemed to end. The repetition of playing five or six nights a week, four or five shows per night--day after day, week after week, year after year--was very, very boring at times. And that's just it. That's the downside at becoming good at something. The monotony.
We did the same show for months at a time, playing until every aspect of the performance was right, and then changing the show again and performing in hundreds of new shows again for long stretches. Repetition can be tedious. However, if it's all for the good of achieving your goals, it's time well spent, no matter how much. This is what it takes to achieve excellence. This is what it took for us.
Are you prepared for the monotony of excellence?