Lessons from a Drummer

I just finished watching the movie Whiplash for the first time, and I have no words that could fully describe the aftermath of wonder and confusion in which I am sitting. The confusion doesn’t come from the movie in any way, but instead what the movie provoked inside my mind. The thoughts of amazement and desire, inspiration and shame. This dramatic rendition of what it is like to be in one of the world’s best jazz ensembles shows what many people may go through in an attempt to reach their biggest dreams. However, most people are never so committed as Andrew, the main character.

My entire life, I have always wanted to be the best at whatever I do, but I have never put my absolute best effort into anything. In the movie, Andrew moves into his practice room so that he can spend more time dedicated to becoming his absolute best. I have never even dedicated just one entire day to doing something so that I could get better at it. I barely spend fifteen minutes to an hour per day in an attempt to improve. Why am I not willing to dedicate my time to pursuing my deepest desires and biggest dreams? Why am I not willing to work past my fears and inadequacies to become even the smallest bit better?

I need to break the habit of being apathetic or doing just-enough. I need to stop living life as though the things I want will eventually be handed to me because they won’t be; I will need to fight myself and possibly the world to get what I want. I don’t know much of how to begin, so I’ll follow Andrew’s lead and start doing seven things which I observed him doing throughout the film.

1. Know your exact goal.
For me, this is usually a really difficult thing to accomplish. My goals tend to be along the lines of “Learn French,” “Learn to play ukulele,” and “Start a blog.” These are nowhere near precise enough. I’m changing them to “Become fluent in French, enough to read L’Éducation Sentimentale by Flaubert without using a French-English dictionary,” “Learn how to play scales, learn strum patterns, and learn picking patterns for ukulele well enough to write your own songs and create tabs,” and “Write one non-fiction piece, one fiction piece, and one book review for your blog every week.” I know I will likely mess up at times when working to achieve these goals, but I still have something specific that I am aiming for instead of a broad idea.

2. Dedicate your time.
Sometimes spending all my time on one goal-oriented task is easy, but that is only on rare occasions. Usually I loathe spending fifteen straight minutes on one task. However, when a goal to do your absolute best is set, it takes far more than just an hour a week. It takes hours every day. I have improved with this a little lately by spending at least 45 minutes practicing French every day, but I probably wouldn’t be spending so much time practicing if I weren’t going back to France for three months in just a week. I need to spend this much, if not more, time practicing French no matter the circumstances, especially when I know I will not be speaking it regularly for quite some time because the less I practice, the poorer my French will become.

3. Practice even after it starts to hurt.
It can become incredibly painful or frustrating to continually work on one specific task until it’s perfect, but the continual work will help your body and mind find better, easier, more efficient ways to accomplish your goal. I tend to give up pretty quickly when I become frustrated with the task I am working on or when the goal seems too difficult to be achieved. Sometimes pushing through the pain is done by giving yourself rewards at certain intervals or by asking for someone to help you. However you do it, perseverance is difficult, but it is definitely worth it in the end.

4. Let people inspire you.
The people around us may not be the people we admire or up look to in our field, but listening to the encouragement and advice of others can sometimes be the only thing that gives us the last bit of hope, strength, or belief to take us through the last steps of reaching our goals. These words can sometimes be directly related to the work we are doing, but sometimes they are completely unrelated and still incredibly inspiring. Allow the people around you to speak hope into your life, and believe what they tell you, especially when it is someone that you admire in the field in which you are working..

5. Don’t let people tear you down.
Sometimes the people around us, and even our mentors/heroes, will tell us that we aren’t good enough or that we aren’t capable of doing something. However, we cannot let that stop us from pursuing our dreams. It’s often difficult to believe in yourself, but there are times that you may be the only one who does. When that happens, do not let the people around you or the people you look up to stop you from reaching the goal. Keep pushing through and prove to them (and yourself) that you are more than good enough, that you are more than capable, and that you will succeed.

6. Take the final step and achieve your objective.
Often times taking the last step towards achieving a goal is the most difficult. Maybe it’s because you don’t want the journey to end, maybe it’s because you’re scared, or maybe it’s because it is the most advanced task you have to accomplish. Whatever the reason, we cannot let ourselves stop so close to achieving what we have spent countless hours and unimaginable energy and focus working towards. We must take that final step and welcome the reward of satisfying success.

7. Keeping working after the goal is accomplished.
Even after we have reached our goals, we need to continue to work on what we have accomplished and learned so that we can continue becoming the best we can be. This usually means setting a new goal to reach and going through the same gruelling process again. But life will never be as satisfying as when a goal is met, so we must strive to become better still.

For those of you who may be interested in watching the movie Whiplash, be warned that it may be a trigger for those who have experienced verbal, mental, emotional, or physical abuse. Even without experiencing any of these, it was difficult to watch at times. The physical abuse is fairly minimal; however, the verbal, mental, and emotional abuse is a theme seen throughout the entire film. If you can make it past these triggers, the movie may still be difficult to watch for some because there is a lot of language. The dialogue, soundtrack, and cinematography are all amazing in quality and strength. It is definitely a powerful film and is incredibly artistic, and I am very glad I took the time to watch it.

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A Boggus Life

I am an eclectic reader and editor who solves Rubik's cubes, writes, draws and paints, and longs to live in England and France.

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