The feel-good story of the year is of 32-year-old Bracken Kearns, recently called up from the minors. Pretty old for an NHL rookie, right? But his is a story of persistence and never quitting on his dream. Here’s a guy who played 593 games in the minors; that’s right 593 games. As defenseman Dan Boyle put it, “You hear of guys playing a couple of hundred games – but 600, that’s a lot of years down there…”
Since he got called up last week, Kearns has scored 3 goals, and has been a factor in other scoring chances. He works hard and has a great sense on the ice. He’s a coach’s dream – at least from where I stand. I’m hoping he won’t be going down again. And he probably won’t if he keeps up the great play.
So what’s the point of mentioning a hockey player on a guitar-related blog? It’s the persistence that struck me and prompted me to share this here. As Kearns spoke of never losing his dream, “Maybe when I was younger – 18 or 19 when guys were getting drafted. But not since I’ve turned pro. I just think I’ve slowly gotten better each and every year.” I see a lot of his journey in my own journey as a guitar player and performer. I don’t have a musical pedigree or any degree for that matter. But I always believed; I always stuck to my dream of performing, and I kept working at it over the years to the point where if I had the time, I could be gigging full-time.
But my own journey aside, this story of Bracken Kearns’ persistence is a lesson from which we all can learn. We live in a society of instant communication, instant fame, instant everything, for that matter. We have shows such as “American Idol” and “X Factor” where people compete for a few weeks and get international recognition overnight. To me, these shows perpetuate a trend of the impatient got-to-get-it-now attitude brought on by the instantaneous-ness of our society. I see it all around me in my career as a software architect. I work with a lot of Gen-Y kids who expect to make six-figure salaries within just a couple of years of getting their degrees. What they don’t realize is that in order to get the six-figure salary, they actually have to have accomplished things – real things that have made an impact.
One could argue that this is simply the folly of youth, but I’ve been in this industry for over 25 years. It’s a lot different now than it was 20 years ago. But not to be a curmudgeon, I’ve mentored several young engineers who are willing to put in the work and learn my own personal mantra: A career is something you build, not something you’re given. And a huge part of building a career is being persistent, and sticking with problems until you’ve exhausted all possibilities. To me, that’s the earmark of a successful person.
And the same goes for music and guitar. I’ve seen so many folks over the years pick up a guitar for a few months then give it up. Getting even reasonably good at playing guitar – or any musical instrument for that matter – requires persistence. You have to practice, you have to push yourself to learn. It’s not easy. The wankers out there will tell you it’s easy. Don’t believe them. And though you might be discouraged at times, keep on working at it. One day you’ll have a breakthrough. Then another. Then another. Who knows? It could lead to a career in music if that’s where you want to go with it. Just remember: Earning something is far more satisfying than something just handed over to you.