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Friday, May 08, 2009

Does Greatness Just Happen?

From some of my recent posts, you may know that I think that Rush is awesome!

Rush is a three man rock trio from Canada (and the have nothing to do with Rush Limbaugh). Geddy Lee is the lead singer, bass player, and also plays the keyboards. Sometimes he plays the keyboard with foot pedals while singing and playing the bass. He is considered one of the best bass players in the world, and won "Best Rock Bass" six times by Guitar Magazine.

Neal Peart, the drummer, is quite simply, a god. He is considered by many to be the best rock drummer on the planet (or, as some snooty drummer types like to say, the best "percussionist" on the planet. I don't really know the difference, but I'm not a snooty drummer type). He has won more drumming awards than I can count. He is simply amazing. If you don't know or don't believe then watch this:

The guitarist, Alex Liefson, may not be considered to be the number one guitarist in the world, but he's no slouch either. He won the "Best Rock Guitar" award from Guitar magazine twice, and was nominated another four times. If you ever see Rush live, you will be in awe of Liefson's guitaring.

Now that I've waxed poetic about Rush, you may be wondering what all this has to do with you.

This all got me thinking. How did three of the best musicians in the world come together to form an amazing band? Does greatness just happen, or is there something more going on? More importantly, what we can we learn about how greatness happens that we can apply to our lives?

I think there are three possibilities for how this came about:

1 - Serendipity

Maybe it was just chance. An amazing bass player and amazing guitarist happened to be friends, started a band, and after the original drummer left (yes, Neil Peart was not on their first album) they happened to stumble across the greatest rock drummer of all time.

A lot of people like to believe it's just chance. That way they can blame their lack of success on just not being lucky, or their excuse for not working hard because they're just waiting for their "big break." But that seems like a crazy idea.

2 - Sheer Volume of Numbers

Serendipity might not seem like that crazy an idea when you look at the number of rock bands that have formed and gone nowhere. Bands with very talented musicians form all the time, don't hit it big, and then life happens and then band goes away and becomes nothing more than a topic of conversation at family reunions. Of those thousands of band formations, it seems more unlikely that one wouldn't have some combination of top talent.

3 - The Grew Into their Greatness

Maybe it's not chance at all. Maybe this band of talented musicians formed, just like any other, and then Rush worked their tails off to be the best.

In "Outliers," Malcom Gladwell talks about the 10,000 hour rule. Based on research he analyzed, what separates people who are ok from people who are great from people who are at the top of the field is simply the number of hours they spend developing their craft. While some people disagree with Gladwell's theory or the exact number of hours, no one can dispute the benefits of hard work. If anyone spends 10,000 hours working on anything, they are going to be damn good. Maybe greatness doesn't happen; maybe it's grown.

How do you think greatness happens?

I think the answer is a combination of all three. There is definitely a volume thing going on. Whatever you want to be great at, there are lots of people trying to be great at it too. How are you going to set yourself apart from the pack? Chance certainly plays a role, but chance just creates opportunities; you still need to take advantage of it. And without hard work and development, you can never be truly great.

I don't know what the exact combination for Rush was, but I'm pretty sure all three elements were there. They were on band of thousands trying to make it.

Take a look at what you're trying to achieve. Are you taking advantage of the opportunities you are creating by putting in the effort and hours to achieve it? Or are you just sitting by, waiting for someone to hand you a "big break" that will probably never come?


mensch said...

I dont know what the answer is to how this happened, but thank the prog gods that it did. thank the prog gods is to thank Rush. Can you thank gods for creating themselves?

Discuss amongst yourselves...

Avish said...

Now *that* is a brilliant comment. And I agree 100%