There was a Grammys tribute to Prince on TV last week, and it reminded me of how much I admired him. Most people were into him for his popular songs and purple persona. I loved him for his guitar chops.
In his most popular videos and concert footage, he was often seen playing one of his strangely shaped guitars and for playing a fiery solo here and there. But, let me tell you, as a lifetime guitar fan and amateur player myself, Prince could flat out rip.
I remember in my high-school funk phase (yup, had a funk band called Die Zeit) and later in my college grungy blues phase discovering just how good he was. His Hendrix covers were legendary, for example.
I’m especially fond of his 2004 performance of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” during the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame concert for George Harrison. He shared the stage with other amazing musicians – Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne from ELO and Steve Winwood – but when it came time for Prince to wind up the song he blew them all away with a searing 3-minute fret-melting solo. After the last note, he tossed his Tele-style H.S. Anderson Mad Cat into the air, as if he’d used it up, and to this day no one remembers seeing it come down.
My larger point here is that Prince’s fame and “brand” was larger than life, but he was no over-produced Rhianna or Auto-Tuned Instagram influencer. He played many instruments well and worked diligently his whole life on his guitar playing. Underneath that flamboyant personal, he had musical depth that was patiently and intentionally built. Lead guitar playing is incredibly competitive and he knew how good he had to be.
What about you? What skills and talents have you patiently built in your life? Do you play a sport or instrument? Do you cook or have an art interest? Do crafts or other hobbies? Are you a lifelong angler?
Just think of what any of those activities can do for you in a different context? Are you bringing any of those skills out as you stay safe at home. I know that I am exploring new recipes in the kitchen, new songs on the guitar, and writing more. Hopefully, I will draw on these extra practice cycles in the future. Who knows? Maybe they will bring me to some new level of mastery down the road.
I bring this all up because few successes in life – personal or professional – are accidental or without underlying substance or expertise. You become what you plan to become. To that end, I’m a big proponent of not only creating a personal growth plan but regularly updating it and improving it, beginning with a simple mission statement.
Any of us can do it. Just write down what you’re already great at – and we’re all great at many things, even if we don’t think we are. Then add things you’d like to be good at. Then create concrete steps and a timeline of how you’re going to get there.
The key is to start. And to not be afraid. Mistakes in making your plan and in living your life are OK. In fact, they’re essential to growth. Somewhere in the middle of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” George Harrison sings “With every mistake, we must surely be learning.”
He’s right. The world is turning, but we’re still learning. Even during these days of coronavirus.
Onward and upward.