I mentioned a while back that I had started reading a book called Guitar Zero. I’ll admit to getting sidetracked (producing and directing a play has more than a little to do with it 😉 ), but I have picked it up again. Here’s a passage I recently found to be very inspiring:

Music, as we have seen, is more like a lifelong journey than a few weeks’ project, more chess than checkers. Although many of the rudiments of music fit naturally with the human mind, mastering the detail is an ongoing project. As I soon discovered, every new chord and every new scale took significant amounts of practice; I also started talking to musicians and discovered that they too see mastering music as an ongoing pursuit. Virtually every musician I met professes to still be learning; not one claimed to have fully mastered his or her craft. Pat Metheny, for instance, is one of the most accomplished musicians I had the pleasure of meeting; he is widely acknowledged to be one of the world’s leading jazz guitarists, yet even after four decades, he has no doubt that he is continuing to develop his craft. For all his accomplishments (eighteen Grammys as of this writing), he still keeps studying; every time Metheny plays, for instance, he keeps a diary— typically six to eight pages long— analyzing what worked, and what didn’t, in order to make subsequent shows (and recordings) even better.

Learning a craft is about acquiring good habits. There are few habits more important than that of reflecting on one’s creative work. The temptation to follow paths of least resistance and take short cuts, and to rely on a bag of tricks, is very great and ever-present. I’ve been around long enough to see brilliantly talented people become complacent and soft, and also to see novices acquire a degree of mastery. A man once observed that we are what we repeatedly do; excellence, then, is a habit not an act. Let the habit of always trying to get better be a part of what you are.