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Lessons From The Road . . .
Stephen King, Director of Information Technology, IRBY Construction
I have not quit playing. I play more now than ever. Last year, i covered almost 10,000 miles from Sturgis, SD to Daytona, FL.
A lot of what I learned in music applies to being a technology director / architect / code slinger / engineer and life in general.
- The roadies are more important than the groupies - I am at a point in my music career where “the roadies ARE more important than the groupies!” That 3 hours on stage can take 10-12 hours. There is a lot of work that goes into a 3 hour show. We love when folks help us lift and tote that gear out to the trailer. That’s the way our “Day Jobs” are too. Our leadership is not looking for groupies. They need roadies!! They need people that will help with the heavy lifting. They want the people that solve problems.
- Work not Talent - It’s not talent that makes musicians successful. It’s work – it’s practicing till your fingers bleed, doing it wrong till you learn to do it right, and then doing it right so much you can’t do it wrong. Musicians don’t practice on stage. They spend hours out of the spotlight to be ready for a moment in the spotlight. If you are waiting on a free training, you need to adjust your thought process.
- You don’t get the gig THEN learn to play - Musicians don’t land a gig and then learn to play. They learn to play then land the gig. For engineers, it works the same way. You don’t get a Java job and then learn Java. You set up a machine at home, write a “Hello world” app, grow it to a bigger app, add more features till you learn to think and code Java. Then, you get a Java job.
- It’s who I am not what I do - A musician is who I am. And, I’m an engineer. I play guitar all the time. I travel with a guitar. There is a guitar in every room of the house. I always have a guitar in hand. I “engineer” all the time too. I take things apart, built stuff, create new stuff, and . . . I break stuff. My wife has gotten used to my “engineering” everything after 30+ years. Coming to work is a natural release of my “engineer.” I have to build things.
- I don’t want to be the best player on stage – I play with great players. I have been blessed to play alongside many Blues Hall of Fame players. There is something about not being the best that makes you try harder. For me, it’s not about showing off. It’s about showing my heroes my respect and playing my best for them. When I’m at work, I do not want to be the smartest guy in the room. I have to surround myself with people smarter and more experience than myself. If you ever feel like you are the smartest person in the room, change rooms!!
- It’s all about the band – When you are in a band, the only thing that matters is the band. You sink or swim as a band. If one person fails, the whole band fails. I practice harder for my band mates than i do for myself. I’ll prepare twice as hard for a gig with my band than I will for a gig with just me and my guitar. I will not let my band down. Same at work. I will work longer and harder for my team. Because, I will not let them down.
- Criticism is coming - I’m a blues picker. I’m not a virtuoso. Some folks say I’m not even that good. I still have bad nights on stage. But, i play anyway. I have been able to play with my heroes. They didn’t put down my playing. They offered advice and coaching. I know I’m not the smartest person at my company or on my team. I am criticized here too. There will be folks that criticize this article. The people that are my mentors help me grow. They see my mistakes and help me adjust my actions. Let me break this to you, you will be criticized too. Speak up any way. Step out. Take a risk. Find a mentor to help you grow.
- When it’s time solo, step up – There comes a time on stage when you are in the spotlight. I spent many years as a side man playing rhythm guitar. I remember the day the leader pointed at me and hollered, “two turns!” I had two 12-bar blues cycles to fill. I had practiced. I was prepared. I was ready. Only heaven knows what I played that day. It had to have been horrid. But, I stepped to the front of the stage and laid it out there. There are days in business when you have to step up. It’s about you delivering your part. Be willing to fail. Yes, it hurts to fail.
Sometimes you have to do something wrong till you learn to do it right. Then do it right so much, you couldn’t do it wrong if you tried.