#128: What Does Luck Have to Do with Becoming a Professional Drummer?

Do you need to be lucky in order to become a professional drummer?

Let me tell you about a few different celebrities (at least they were to me when I was 8). They all made a career for themselves doing amazing things… But what part did luck have in it? And what part foes luck play in our pursuit to become a pro drummer?

Hey there and welcome back to Drummer Daily, I’m happy you’ve joined me again. I am so sorry, I might have missed you or you might have missed me. I definitely missed you, but you might have missed me as well over the last couple of days. I don’t have a good excuse for why I didn’t post a podcast, it just didn’t happen. But now I am back in the swing of things, and I’m actually, as I’m recording this I’m taking some drums back to my studio, so I’m kind of walking around. I feel like about half the time that I do this podcast I’m out of breath when I’m recording it, it’s because there’s a lot of stairs in my house, it’s up and down all the time to get these drums either packed up or set back up or whatever.

So anyway, I’m so happy you’re here, and I apologize for not podcasting over these last couple of days, but I’m back now. So today I wanted to tell you about three different people that I was kind of aware of when I was a child. And I become aware of them at different times, and they’re going to kind of probably seem a little unrelated, at least at first, until I kind of explain what they have in common. The three people, I’ll just tell you them in order, I won’t spoil it for you, I’m going to tell you them as I go through this. The first person that I’m going to talk about is a plumber. So you know, when I was a kid, if the sink, the pipes were leaking or something happened somewhere and we couldn’t’ fix it ourselves, you call a plumber, and the plumber would show up.

As a little kid it’s cool, you see a guy coming to your house, he’s got all these really cool tools and can fix the stuff that maybe you don’t … You don’t look around your pipes at your house much, so you kind of get this peek into a different world, and this guy comes in and does all this stuff you don’t understand but it seems really cool as a kid. The plumber leaves, and I asked my parents, “I want to do that when I grow up, so how do I do that? How could I be a plumber?” And they would say something like, “Well, graduate high school and then go to a trade school for a couple of years,” or however that works, and then I think the path is you get an apprenticeship with another plumber and you kind of learn the ropes, and then you work for yourself, become a plumber, or start your own plumbing business, or however you want to do it, but you learn the ropes for awhile and then you do it.

So there’s a pretty clear path to becoming a plumber, if that’s what I wanted to do. And then a little bit later when I got a little older I started watching TV and started seeing basketball players. Of course, just like everyone else, Michael Jordan was the epitome of that, he is the top guy in basketball, and so I’d look at that and he seemed so cool, and I was like, “I want to do that.” I think it was around the time of the Dream Team, Team USA, so you had Michael Jordan and Patrick Ewing, and I’m trying to think of who else was on all around the same time. David Robinson and John Stockton, Carl Malone, all those guys.

Anyway, I’d see these guys on TV and go to my parents and I’d say, “Hey, I want to be a basketball player, how can I be a basketball player?” And they’d say, “Well, it’s really hard but what you should probably do is start basketball now, as a kid,” which I did do that, no joke I did play basketball for one year. I think I was maybe seven years old or so. Played for one year, the YMCA League or something, and I scored, throughout the whole season I scored a total of zero points, the whole season. So it wasn’t in the cards for me.

But they said, “You start playing basketball now, you keep working at it, then eventually when you get older if you’re good enough, you can try out and hopefully make your high school team. And then if you’re really good there you might get offered a college scholarship, and if you do that then maybe you’ll get noticed, and you’re good enough there you get drafted by the NBA, you get noticed by an NBA team you get drafted, and eventually if you work hard enough there and you’re good enough, then you might get a chance to play, and actually start a game or play in a game, and then you’ll be an NBA player. You’ve just got to prove yourself, and you can do it.”

They also said, “Maybe you’re not … ” They never would discourage me with, “You might need to be a little taller to really do that,” in which case I’d say, “Well what about Mugsey Bogues?” I think he was five foot three, and they’re like, “Good point.” So height doesn’t matter. It might have seemed hard, and after hearing all that may have thought, “Well you know what, I understand now, but that doesn’t like something I want to do, or maybe it does, but either way I knew the path and I made the choice.”

But then later on, a little older, or maybe around the same time I happened to see a Michael Jackson concert special on TV, and I saw Michael Jackson, and I was like … Well, I saw the drummer, and I was already playing drums at the time, and I was, “Man, that guy has got the coolest gig in the world, playing for sold out stadiums and all that stuff. I want to be that guy.” So I said, “Mom and dad, how can I become like Ricky Lawson,” that’s the guy’s name, Ricky Lawson, the drummer for Michael Jackson. “How can I become like Ricky Lawson?” And the problem is is that most people in everyday life don’t know much about professional musicians. There’s not many stories on TV about professional musicians.

You’re not watching Monday Night Concert on ESPN or whatever you’re watching, Monday Night Football. You know about athletes, you get all these stories about athletes, but you’re not really getting much information about musicians. And so they might have said, “Well, try to be the best drummer you can and get really lucky.” Or they might have just said, “I don’t know, I don’t know what that’s like, but you could look into it and you could find out on your own.”

And so that’s what I did, and so I’d start reading magazines like drum magazines, and nowadays I would maybe look at YouTube or do something like that. What I discovered about professional musicians and professional drummers is that most of them, in their situation where they were at the moment when they were getting interviewed, they actually have no idea. They have no idea how they became a professional drummer. Because they all said, “I got really lucky.” I just want to say this, if you are someone who is in that situation, if you became a professional drummer and you’re just living the good life, so to speak, musically speaking, you probably don’t take much time to be very introspective, and kind of really look back and really examine how it is you became a professional drummer.

And these guys don’t. When they got interviewed they would just say, “Well, I worked really hard and developed on my chops, and then I got really lucky.” I didn’t accept that. When that was the story I was getting, I thought, “Well, I know that I naturally am probably not the best drummer in the world, and I don’t believe in leaving my dream up to luck. I’m not going to hope that I get lucky in order to make this thing happen.” And my question really was, if it’s not up to luck to become a plumber, or even a professional basketball player, why is it any different for drummers? And the answer is, it is not any different than becoming a professional athlete or becoming a plumber, or anything else.

There is a clear path. Most people just don’t recognize it when they’re in the middle of it. And in a situation even like with me, the first time I got a professional gig, I thought I had gotten really lucky. It wasn’t until much later that I realized that I was doing a certain set of things that literally every other professional drummer, and every professional musician that I would come to know later, I was doing the same things all of those people had done as well, I just didn’t know that I was doing them. So in a way I was lucky, but I was lucky that I was doing the right things. I didn’t get lucky in order to get the gig, I got lucky that I had no idea what I was doing and I still did the right things.

But that doesn’t’ mean that you have to be lucky in order to do those things. In fact, I believe, and I actually am living proof of this, that you can do those same things on purpose and actually get a gig as a professional drummer, actually become a professional drummer, you just have to do those things. And I just want to say that no one who’s really successful … A lot of people who are really successful, they don’t necessarily know why they got there. They can’t connect all the dots. And I’m definitely not going to say that even I can connect all of the dots behind what happened, but I can say that in getting to know a lot of professional musicians as friends, I’m able to identify traits and qualities, and things that they do regularly that actually contribute to them being successful in the music business.

By having that outside perspective on who they are and what they do as musicians, and what they focus on, and what things they do focus on in their playing, for example, I’m able to identify those same traits in myself and realize, “You know what, we all kind of followed the same path.” So what is that path, what does that look like? Well, it involves a few different things, and there’s a lot of detail behind it. I’m going to tell you the four basic ideas, I’ve talked about this before, but I don’t want this to be the end of the conversation, because I can tell you right now that if you don’t even know the specifics behind each of these, it’s not really going to work for you.

We have to focus equally on our playing, the sound of our drums, our with other people including other musicians, and producers, and people who hire, and our money and how we handle our business. I call this the Pro Musician’s Quadrant, but that’s a little bit nerdy sounding. But really the reality is there are four big core components to being a professional drummer, and doing the right sets of things in each of those areas is what will virtually guarantee you becoming a professional drummer, if that’s what you want to do. Now I’m not ready to announce the date yet, but I’m finishing up the last little bit of visuals for it, but I’m going to do a life master class. For free, by the way, coming up soon.

When the time comes I definitely will invite you to come join me on that, and I’m going to walk through way more detail around this idea, this path and how to do it, and basically also show you why you have no excuse not to do this. If you want to be a professional drummer, why you have no excuse for not doing what I’m going to outline for you here. So if you don’t want to make excuses anymore about not being a pro drummer, not making things happen, then join me in this master class that’s coming up soon. I can’t wait to share it for you. I’m not trying to be a tease about this. There’s so much detail, I actually went through it all yesterday, and it actually took me a very long time, as far as … I went through my presentation and talked through all my points, and I’ve rehearsed it all, and it was almost two hours of content, of really rich content around becoming a pro drummer and how to make that happen.

So I definitely won’t take two hours from the podcast to explain it all, but I just want you to be encouraged and think about this, that there really is a distinct path towards becoming a pro drummer, and it’s something that you can follow. If you choose to engage with this a little bit more, you’ll have no excuse for not doing this and actually making this dream come true. It really is possible, and I believe you can do it. All right, thanks for me joining me on this podcast, bye for now.

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