JUMPING DARKNESS PARADE WITH EYAL LEVI: YOU ARE NOT A GENIUS
I hate the Olympics. Every four years all the sports nobody cares about somehow become interesting. Soooo boring! I will say though that I enjoy watching Michael Phelps working. I like that he smokes weed, eats 12,000 calories a day, and just decimates his opposition. Sure he trains hard, but they all train hard. Phelps is a freak of nature and that’s why I find him entertaining. The man apparently has twice the lung capacity of a normal human being. He’s taller than the runner up swimmer. His knees, ankles, and elbows are all double jointed. If that’s not enough, his feet are size 14. The man is designed to win in the water. Read more about it here .
GENIUSES ARE BORN NOT MADE
And to think otherwise is to set you up for some bitter disappointments.
Who do you think said the following quote?
“When I was about twelve, I used to think I must be a genius, but nobody’s noticed. Either I’m a genius or I’m mad, which is it? ‘No,’ I said, ‘I can’t be mad because nobody’s put me away; therefore I’m a genius. Genius is a form of madness and we’re all that way. But I used to be coy about it, like me guitar playing. But if there’s such a thing as genius — I am one. And if there isn’t, I don’t care.’”
Pretty cocky statement right? Well, considering it came from John Lennon, I’d say it’s more truth than posturing. Like his songs or not, they’ve not only been hits, but they’ve won and won hard. Your average hit songwriter has a long way to go before even coming close to reaching the heights Lennon achieved. Lennon knew he was on the level to do something great, and his life reflected it. He still spent his formative years working his ass off. In his case, the massive career investment was wise because the potential for a return was there. But in most cases, the return potential just isn’t there. And no amount of work can change that. Freaks are called freaks for a reason.
You’re Not A Genius So Why Train Like One?
I’m not saying you shouldn’t put your mind to something and do your best. What I’m saying is that it’s not helpful to try and be something you’re not. People like Phelps and Lennon are extreme outliers. They are genetically predisposed to do whatever they do better than anyone else. And yes, they work hard at it, but that’s not the only reason they’re better than you. You could work twice as hard and not be half as good. They have work plus science on their side. And again, this is not meant to discourage, but more to encourage people to get smart about their goals.
Most people who do something with their lives are NOT geniuses. Most are smart people that had some goals and worked hard to achieve those goals. Most will not be on the all time greats list, but that’s okay. As long as you keep your ego in check and stay focused, you can get pretty far. Otherwise you may need to…
WAKE THE FUCK UP
A few weeks back I was renting out my studio to some friends of mine. There was a live video being shot of a band trying to record an acoustic song. Did Imention it was live? To say it was a slopfest would be an understatement. And at one point I heard the words, “’Alice in Chains’ Unplugged was raw, so this can be, too!”
Double – Take
How could they even begin to compare themselves to one of the greatest acts of our generation? Yet they did. And the results did not compare. OF COURSE THEY DIDN’T COMPARE!
Instead of taking small measurable steps to optimize the quality of their output, they basically threw their arms in the air and said, “If it’s okay for the best to wing it, it’s okay for us.”
Well guess what…. YOU’RE NOT THE BEST!
GENIUSES DON’T HAVE TO THINK ABOUT WHAT THEY’RE DOING. YOU DO.
I know some musicians claim ignorance of how they do what they do. They pick things up quickly. They don’t have to practice like the rest of us. Ideas just come to them. It’s NATURAL. They don’t’ force what they do. And it can be depressing if you try and emulate them. If you’re like most everyone else, you WILL have to force it, you WILL have to work your ass off, and you WON’T be as good as your idols. But you can come close! Just don’t let their ease of uptake scare you. If you find their brilliance blinding you just remember this little kernel of wisdom from The Shining:
TRAIN IN A WAY THAT’S RIGHT FOR YOU
You have to know what you’re going for. In my experience with geniuses, they don’t know what they’re doing. They just do it. You don’t have that luxury.
Know what you want to do and what you are doing to get there. Don’t count on things materializing for you. Again, since you don’t have the lung capacity of a dolphin or the super sized spider fingers like Steve Vai, you really need to take stock of, and rely upon, what you do have.
And what you do have is your mind, and your mind can plan. That’s what this is all about in the end – if you fail to identify the skills and talents you do posses, you will be blindsided by those who we consider gifted. So figure out what it is you can and want to do. Forget what others have done because how they got there has nothing to do with you. Think closely about it and then take that first step. That step is huge. Like REALLY HUGE. Because…
GENIUSES OFTEN FAIL!!!
Who here has heard of the 80/20 rule? Or its less formal cousin, the ninety percent perspiration/ten percent inspiration rule? What they say is that basically you need to work your ass off most of the time, and you will get all your big results in a short amount of that time. But that doesn’t change how hard you have to keep working.
One disadvantage the naturally gifted have is that their work ethic can sometimes really suffer. Just because they’re brilliant some of the time doesn’t mean they’re brilliant all of the time. And that can be very destructive when you don’t commit to just doing the work. They are so used to not having to try for their results that they can easily fall prey to laziness and lack of results via lack of attempts. This will lead them to fail.
During my tenure at The Berklee College Of Music, I moved into a dorm with these two kids that blew my mind. They were so much more talented than me. Skilled, too. Their knowledge of harmony, ear training, and all school subjects was superior to mine. But also, they could fucking PLAY. And they were creative. Total packages. These guys on a daily basis humbled me. They could’ve gotten into the biggest bands in the world. Done anything they wanted. Except for one fatal flaw… they had no goals. They did too many drugs. And they were too depressed. All their musical greatness just seemed to happen on a whim or with minimal work. They NEVER put themselves out there to actually create a body of work that would represent them. They were more interested in skimming by at school and doing drugs the rest of the time. These are guys who could have easily passed me in life. Now, ten or more years later, one has completely quit music and is a librarian. He has PTSD related to music. Don’t ask me how that works, but that’s what I was told. The other had a psychotic episode, was committed for telling people he was Jesus while naked on Robitussin in the Boston winter. BTW, did I mention that somehow his speaking voice had raised about two octaves? Anyways – that’s the last I had heard from them.
Or so I thought…
Five years later….
Daath had just been signed ……
I guess they had a demo they recorded and they wanted me to hear it. I should have lied and said I did, but no, I actually listened. And I got so bummed. I’ll admit that I even teared up a little. It sounded exactly like the shitty demos we were making in school. Nothing had changed. All that talent, all that genius, and still NOTHING. Five years of no development. Because of drugs and ego. And believe me, this story is not unique. Making something of yourself takes commitment beyond commitment. Read my old blog on that here.
SLOW AND STEADY WINS THE RACE
I’ve followed the 90/10 rule for most of my career. I have no top charting hits. No giant paydays. No private jets. No band that will live on in infamy. Nothing like that. I have, however, been on three labels, toured the world a few times over, and have a very successful studio. I own a house and live an amazing life via music. This is important to note, because I don’t consider myself a genius or particularly gifted. I’ve just made lots of choices. Many bad ones and a few very good ones. Some of my mistakes were to try and emulate what those with Jedi powers were doing. This caused me nothing but grief and slowed my eventual success. Letting go of those thoughts was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but in the end, it has paid enormous dividends. When I got real about what I could do at a high level, and how I would get people to pay me for that, my life took a 180 for the better. I recommend you do the same.