Patience and Persistence

Peter Darling writes about Jerry Garcia's guitar playing and practice. Like many other geniuses, Garcia's work ethic recevied very little media attention. Patience, practice, and persistence are boring (and difficult).

Link: Business Development: Jerry Garcia Would Approve.

Seth Godin had an interesting post today about patience. To take his thinking one step further, I think that when you're deciding whether or not to hang in there when you're not getting anywhere (or think you're not) it all comes down to one critical moment of truth. Actually, thousands of critical moments of truth. That's where the whole problem lives.

Which brings me, of course, to Jerry Garcia.

I have been a huge Grateful Dead fan for about the last thirty years. In a way, it's why I eventually moved to the Bay Area. And as anyone who knows the Dead knows, the really transcendent player in the band was Garcia. When I was sixteen, I first heard one of his solos, and I was stunned. Lightning-fast, beautiful, and overflowing with harmonic ideas and melodies that were completely improvised and that just kept coming and coming and coming. As far as I'm concerned, the only person who can come close to him is Duane Allman.

And all the hippie schtick aside, all the drugs aside, the constant wearing of the black t-shirt aside, the thing that made Garcia Garcia was actually two things. First, an incredible natural talent. And second, he practiced ALL THE TIME.

 Here's a passage from a book by Rock Scully, who managed the band for almost twenty years:

Garcia's a perfect maniac about practicing. That's his primary addiction. He's got to be playing all the time. On the road, in his hotel room, he's constantly going through his chord books, shopping for new ones when he's in New York, haunting the old music stores, scouring Brill Building music shops in an endless quest for finger exercises and chord charts … Garcia raids technical manuals that the Fender guitar company put out. Leo Fender understood better than anybody how to get the most out of your solid-body guitar. All the variations you can run on a theme, exercise books. Jerry practices all the time. Just chords upon chords upon chords, all the possible configurations for fingering and diagrams for picking.

The result is that he can play basically anything he wants beautifully, fast and creatively. Consequently, some of the Dead's best-known songs, the ones you really fall in love with if you're into the Dead, are really hard to play. One of my favorites is "Eyes of the World" — take a look at this version from 1991.

This isn't even his best, but it's still amazing. To get some sense of how amazing it is, here's a guy who's an online guitar teacher talking about how hard the song is to play. As he says, being able to play this song is why Jerry is Jerry. It's not the funny hair, or the weirdness, or the drugs. It's dedicating your life to being so good at what you do that you can just rip through a song that professional guitar players have a very hard time with. Not a lot of people know this about him, but it's true.

The kind of patience Godin writes about, and Garcia is an example of, is not some mystical quality. It's the day in and day out habit of making the right decisions thousands and thousands of times. It's little victories that, over a long time, keep adding up. Every time, if you're Garcia, you pick up your guitar and a chord book in your hotel room, and work on your fingering for an hour instead of going out and getting wrecked, is another right decision, another small step towards excellence, and success. Patience is really just making the decision not to quit over and over and over again.

Let’s stop waiting, whining, worrying, and wishing

Some inspiring words from Seth Godin.

Link: Seth’s Blog: Only two years left

While Detroit’s car companies have been whining about gas prices and bad publicity for SUVs (SUVs are among their most profitable products), Honda has been busy building cars that look like SUVs but get twice the gas mileage. The Honda Pilot was so popular, it had a waiting list.

While Africa’s economic plight gets a fair amount of worry, a little startup called Kickstart is actually doing something about it.

While you’ve been wishing for the inspiration to start something great, thousands of entrepreneurs have used the prevailing sense of uncertainty to start truly remarkable companies.

The thing is, we still live in a world that’s filled with opportunity. In fact, we have more than an opportunity — we have an obligation. An obligation to spend our time doing great things. To find ideas that matter and to share them. To push ourselves and the people around us to demonstrate gratitude, insight, and inspiration. To take risks and to make the world better by being amazing.

So stop thinking about how crazy the times are, and start thinking about what the crazy times demand. There has never been a worse time for business as usual. Business as usual is sure to fail, sure to disappoint, sure to numb our dreams. That’s why there has never been a better time for the new. Your competitors are too afraid to spend money on new productivity tools. Your bankers have no idea where they can safely invest. Your potential employees are desperately looking for something exciting, something they feel passionate about, something they can genuinely engage in and engage with.

You get to make a choice. You can remake that choice every day, in fact. It’s never too late to choose optimism, to choose action, to choose excellence. The best thing is that it only takes a moment — just one second — to decide.

Green Marketing via Seth

Marketing whiz Seth Godin describes how to leverage the competitive spirit of American drivers to improve gas mileage. (I think he’s a closet Green-Neck.)

Link: Seth’s Blog: [More] or (Less)

…require all new cars to have, right next to the speedometer, a mileage meter. And put the same number on an LCD display on the rear bumper. Once there’s an arms race to see who can have the highest number, we’re on the right track.