The more I practice the less I suck

The above phrase was uttered by Joe Walsh, the legendary guitarist with The Eagles and as a solo artist. Walsh was a guest on Daryl Hall’s show “Live at Daryl’s House,” where Hall has a studio in his mountain house and the crew and guest jam together, then cook and eat a meal. It is worth the watch (see a link below).

After jamming on Funk 49, Rocky Mountain Way, and Life’s Been Good along with a few of Hall’s songs, the group sat down for a meal which they prepared with a guest chef. As they spoke of how they got started in the music business, Walsh regaled them with his story.

In essence, Walsh spoke of an early band where “we all sucked.” This brought lots of nods and smiles. Then, he said The Beatles came out and they learned to cover The Beatles’ songs. He said if you knew the songs, you could get gigs and they began to play more. But, they also had to practice more beforehand. Eventually, they got closer to Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours of practice, which ironically referenced The Beatles in his book “Outliers.” Gladwell noted The Beatles were sent to Hamburg to learn to play better in front of an audience with seven shows a night, six days a week.

And, he then uttered the above line. The more I practiced, the less I sucked. This succinct lesson applies to far more than playing music or singing. It could be related to golf, tennis, free throws, research, business analysis, teaching, presentations, general medicine, surgery, investing, etc. It could be as basic as driving a car or learning to cook or bake.

If we put in the time, we will suck less. Doing something once, does not make you proficient. It means you did it once. It takes practice to get better at something. Thanks Joe for your music and advice. You no longer suck.



17 thoughts on “The more I practice the less I suck

  1. So very many people think that its TALENT. Nope. Its work. It practice. People get better by doing. They aren’t born with some innate ability to draw or play music.

    And THAT is so very encouraging. Because that means nearly anyone who can work at practicing something can master it. It really is possible.

    • Thanks for your comment. Gladwell spoke to world class musicians and athletes and they did note talent does take it to an extra level, but it should be noted they work their hind ends off. Very few out work Tiger Woods, e.g., except maybe Vijay Singh, who lived on the driving range and became the Number 1 player before a Tiger. The musicians noted that hard work can make you very proficient and in demand but there are some who go beyond because of talent. Jimi Hendrix worked hard, but he played a right handed guitar upside down as he was left handed. He had something special.

      So, relative talent does matter, but hard work makes it better. Gladwell’s book cites four things for outliers – they are smart (or talented) enough, they work hard, they are given opportunity and the recognize and seize opportunity. Thanks for your thoughts.

      • Talent possibly makes Jimi Hendrix better than others who have worked as hard. But anyone with 2 hands can master the guitar. We have a cultural belief that Jimi Hendrix was born that way. But Hendrix played for hours and hours to master it. He then took it beyond. Perhaps that is talent. I’m still not entirely convinced of that. But in any case I can master the guitar if I choose. I have only to dedicate the time. I may never play at the level of Hendrix, but I will certainly play it well.

        We also have a tendency to think you must be wonderful or you shouldn’t do an artistic thing like music. If someone didn’t tell you as a kid you have a talent for it, then you don’t have the ticket to play or master it. But that’s also not true.

        Talent has become this way to box people out of paths for their lives. Whether as careers or as pure enjoyment.

        Heck, even being good is not necessary to enjoy doing a thing. And many people think it is.

      • Good comment. You should read Gladwell’s book Outliers, as some of the points you make are brought up there. You may enjoy the story on the mixed success of the genius project. A key is identifying early on an opportunity and seizing it. Bill Gates had the opportunity to program at U of Washington from 1 to 3 am. But, the key is he got of bed to go do that. So, by age 21 he was one of the best programmers in the world. Passion plays a huge role. As for the talent thing, it does play a role, as well. As a youth, I was fast and could have been trained to run faster, but could never be taught world class speed or quickness as a basketball player. I could become a better golfer, but would fall short woefully short of world class.

        With all of that said, practice makes you better. Golf is a good example, as it is a game of managing your mistakes. The more you practice, the range of possible flight paths narrows to a manageable level. Good conversation and comments. Thanks for opining. Keith

      • Blink is probably my favorite. I think because it really helped me recognize some of my own choices & thoughts as being well thoughtless – just subconscious being dumb. And yet others being thoughtless and being right. It helped me sift through when to trust my gut.

        Another great author about human behavior is Dan Airely. Airely has the advantage of being the guy who does a lot of the studies. Have you read him?

  2. Note to Readers: I was attending the funeral of the father of a long-time good friend yesterday. At lunch, I had a chance to raise this topic with some more of our friends, all athletes. One had worked his way up to the 10th best decathlete in the US, one was a baseball catcher who played college ball, one was an excellent baseball pitcher whose shoulder was dislocated and me, a pretty good high school basketball player and fair baseball player. All totally agreed hard work was essential and would improve skills. The decathlete and college baseball player noted it was important to have good coaching to teach you how to and what you needed to practice. Yet, they all agreed talent does matter, which is a differentiator. And, the decathlete, who had read. ” Outliers,” discussed opportunity, someone to identify your passion or potential and help you.

    I am reminded of the story about Bart Connor, the American gymnast. When he was about seven, this fairly quiet boy walked into a gym where gymnasts were tumbling, flipping, jumping , etc. He said his whole face lit up with excitement. This was noticed by his parents and they helped him pursue his passion. May all children be so fortunate, even us adults as it is never too late to pursue a passion.

    I must confess the conversation with old friends around a subject like this was fascinating and enthralling.

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