The band at a friend’s party resumed, but the drummer was no where to be found. So I picked up the sticks and tapped out a 4/4 beat to keep time with the song. I had never played drums before. My friend who played keyboard was impressed, and invited me to come and practice with his band a few days later. I started telling everyone that I was going to be the drummer in a band.
Three days later, practicing in the garage of his house, I was an absolute train wreck of a drummer. No training, no music theory, no coordination, no ability to do anything but 4/4 time…I was exposed. We sat down after practice and he very nicely told me I didn’t have what it took to be a drummer. My one-day career as a drummer was over. My dream of being a rock star was crushed. Soaring and then crashing to earth in a matter of days.
We have all cringed at the American Idol tryouts where someone is really, really bad. What I never get is that no one told them that they weren’t particularly good. Everyone says if you have a dream, you just go for it, and don’t let anyone bring you down. Well, on this high school day, someone spoke truth to me, and it stung, but it was something I needed to hear. I wasn’t going to be a drummer. In response, I could either go, work harder and get better, or move on to something else. I moved on to something else. Sometimes the truth hurts, but it’s something we need to hear. Now it’s just a funny story.
To this day, I love music…it breathes life into me. And it always amazes me when someone has spent the time and effort to become excellent at their instrument. Watching a woman already in the orchestra continue to practice on her violin behind stage. Talking to a friend who practices her flute 8 hours a day to continue to improve. These are images that inspire me.
Out in rural Uganda, I was the guest at a church event. The vicar and some parishioners brought out some instruments to play a few songs before things got going. The adungu come in a variety of sizes, but big ones are pretty rare. They brought out the big one on this day. The gentleman who played that day must have been the guy who had been practicing to the point of excellence. Maybe it was his instrument, maybe he was the best player, maybe no one else knew how to do play it. Regardless, this man played this instrument and gathered a crowd. It really was an honor to be there in that moment, to enjoy a unique experience and impromptu performance.
So two encouragements today. The first is an encouragement to work hard and become excellent at something. When we are able to share that gift with others it really is a blessing–both to those who enjoy it and for you getting to share it. I love sharing my photos, but it’s just taken me a while to do it. Second, is be willing to hear honest feedback about your gifts and talents may be. People aren’t just out to hurt you for the sake of it, and sometimes we can’t see our own blind spots very well. Being willing to ask for and take in constructive feedback from others is a truly admirable quality. The adungu player above probably did both. Others must have said you are good at this, and he worked hard to become excellent. I was blessed by him because he listened and excelled. Go and do likewise.