People often discuss the notion of how long and how much work it takes to master something.
Malcolm Gladwell popularized the notion of “10,000 hours” of practice being needed to master something. I just read an article written by Jay Jay French, founder and guitarist for the band Twisted Sister. Jay Jay writes about The Power of 10,000 Hours.
Recently AJ Pero, long-time drummer for Twisted Sister, passed away. Of course, this caused much sadness and unknown in the Twisted Sister camp. But as they say, “the show must go on”. Twisted Sister has been around since 1973, and with all the shows, all the rehearsals, they’ve got much more than 10,000 hours of practice under their belts.
Jay Jay reflects:
The truth is, these days, we only play about a dozen shows a year, almost always between May and August. It means that we are off doing other things the other nine months of the year. We usually only run over the songs once at a rehearsal. I am always feeling just a little queasy and unsure. That’s why, before we go into our first rehearsals, sometime in April, I’m gripped with anxiety. But this time, I was also anxious about a new drummer who had only three rehearsals to learn not just the music but also the pacing of the show; the fact that we were doing a live recording for DVD; multiple bands being on the same bill with us (their equipment changes can always cause problems); and special effects, flames, sparklers, and explosions that will possibly light you on fire if you stand in the wrong place. Plus, I’m not just a guitar player–I’m the manager of the band, with a long mental checklist. More important, I was really sad that A.J. wasn’t up there with us.
Here is my confession. There were just too many unknowns this time. Too many potential areas of disruption. Too much emotion. Because it was the first show of the year, I just couldn’t get lost in the performance. My mind was overwhelmed by the confluence of information. And I was still dealing with my own emotions about this first show without A.J.
So what did I do? I consciously let go. I set my brain on autopilot and let the songs flow out. I kept in the back of my mind an idea of what I would need to do if something really went out of control. But I tried not to think about it, and instead, I relied on my ability to do something I’d done for more than 10,000 hours.
And … nothing bad happened. The show went on about as smoothly as I could have hoped.
This is what separates the big boys from the also-rans. The confidence–in our case, forged in the fires of the live club circuit — that we could always deliver, no matter what was thrown at us, is burned into our DNA. As long as we want to do it, it will be done at the highest levels.
The same is true for companies and entrepreneurs. For you or your company to be great, nothing can ever present an obstacle to excellence. You need to practice until you’ve got muscle memory. You can’t stop Twisted Sister. And you can’t stop a great company when you have a great foundation.
So, get to practicing.
You won’t get better overnight. It’s going to take a lot of time, dedication, and discipline. But if you really want to master something, it’s what it takes, and it’s worth every bit.