Lessons from Louis

So Louis CK is one of the great comedians of our time, and probably other times, too. I just ran across this recent interview with him, that you should definitely check out.

Some things that stood out to me…

This guy is wise. He’s put in his time, he’s learned a lot, and now he’s finally doing well.

Young musicians believe they should be able to throw a band together and be famous, and anything that’s in their way is unfair and evil. What are you, in your 20s, you picked up a guitar? Give it a minute.

He’s not so much in it for the money. I mean, I’m sure he knows exactly how he’ll spend it. But he’s fine with selling specials on his own website. Times have changed. TV doesn’t really matter so much if you have a bunch of fans who know about your website. So he doesn’t need to sell out, to cash in.

At first HBO was like, “We can’t do that.” And I said, “Well, let’s not do it then.”

And he worked with David Lynch?? Okay, now I’m going to have to find that episode immediately.

Then he becomes a zen master about dealing with press.

I don’t think you should ever say anything that you’re going to have to apologize for later. If the heat gets hot, just let them get mad. How did somebody make you apologize? Did they literally hit you on your body? Let them be upset.

Of course that’s easy for him to say. The rest of us say things we regret later. But on the other hand he’s saying to just be yourself. Say what you believe. If  people don’t like your authenticity, then maybe it’s too much work for you to be what you’re not anyway.

That’s the thing about these famous people. They’re super human. Really, they were born that way, and then they put in a bunch of time and hard work to seal the deal. For the rest of us, we’re just happy to make a living. Even Louis is happy to do that–except then he was destined for much more.

Trying over and over

I have this annoying ability to do the same thing over and over. I really enjoy the process, and that makes it hard to accomplish anything. I see other people enjoy the accomplishments. But somehow I fear accomplishment–because then the process is over! So, something I do now is consider Finishing as part of the process. It’s kind of a trick, where I complete things quickly and move on to the next thing–over and over. It’s a meta-process, of repeated completion.

Anyway, so I don’t get that way with the things I don’t care about. Just with the things I’m passionate about. I’ve seen the same thing over the years with my students. If they are passionate, then they will practice on their own. So I have to figure out how to inspire them. And I have to figure out what they are already passionate about, and then teach from that frame of reference.

I used to play trumpet from 4th grade up through high school. I was in jazz band, I was first chair, I played in a ska band on the side. I thought I was passionate. But then one day I sat down behind some drums, and discovered the truth. I didn’t own drums, but I would figure out when I could go bang on my friend’s drums whenever possible. I became obsessed, and learned pretty quickly. So… I had been passionate about music all along, but never as passionate with the trumpet. Drums are my thing. I taught myself drums so that I was just as good in a few years as I was with 8 years of trumpet.

Sometimes I wonder… what if a teacher had recognized that earlier? What if they had introduced percussion to me earlier, just to see what would happen? Do passions come and go? Are you born with some? (On the other hand, I would be nowhere as good of a musician, had I not first had the perspective of playing a melody instrument.)

I had to fight external factors to learn drums, and it was an expensive proposition while also paying for college. I didn’t have to fight to play the trumpet. Was that a factor?

Anyway, at some point I think we have to take stock of what we’re doing and stop doing the things we’re not passionate about. There are a bazillion artists out there, and they are all really good. And the passionate ones are practicing, and are getting better every day. Many of them were practicing before they even knew it would pay off for them someday.