Tom Foreman | BIO
Reporter's Note: I wrote a novel once which involved years of research, writing, rewriting, editing and rewriting again. But since it never sold, I guess what I really did was practice my typing. So it wasn’t a complete loss, and I hope these letters aren’t either.
Dear Mr. President,
So the big BP boss has been sent packing, eh? Not that it means much. I’m pretty sure the next guy in any corporate line of succession is usually a clone of the guy in front of him. There must be a secret factory somewhere that stamps them out like license plates. And it’s not as if the fellow who was booted is actually going to suffer any. At worst he’ll grow bored rolling around his carts full of money, or maybe he’ll get a sore back, but that’s about it. Oh well. On to other subjects.
For the past couple of days, I’ve been rattling on about quotes that I think of as I chart my way through the vagaries of life and today’s is one of which I am particularly fond.
Most people don’t need lessons. They need practice.
When I was sixteen, I had never played a note on a guitar or piano. At least not a note that anyone would care to hear. I loved music, but beyond kazoos and singing in the shower I was pretty much lost. Then my brother showed me how to tune a guitar and read a chord chart, and another friend showed me how to convert those chords to the piano keyboard. In all, my music lessons on these two instruments lasted about a half hour. And yet, I have played ever since; in bands, on stage, for friends. The secret was not in lessons, but in regular and relentless practice; sitting for many hours with an instrument in hand.
These days oddly enough, I could probably benefit from lessons, since I’ve exhausted a lot of the ideas that I can easily teach myself. But even if I signed up, I’d know the tunes I was after would ultimately be hiding in the practice room.
Being good at anything requires more than just talent and instinct. Want to be a good reporter? Practice. A good mom or dad? Practice. A good president? Practice. Sitting around pouting over the lessons you can’t afford, or the equipment you don’t have, or the right space you need in which to work is all part of the big game of excuses. Want to play an instrument, speak a language, write a book, or improve your job skills? Quit whining and start practicing now.
One of the reasons I’ve stuck with writing these letters (through almost 300,000 words…yowsah!) is that I know being a decent writer takes practice. Not once in a while. Not just when I want to. But all the time. Perhaps with another thousand letters or so I’ll get there. Ha!
Chuck Jones, the famous cartoonist and animator, once told me that when he was a teenager he enrolled in art school and the teacher began class by telling the students, “You each have ten thousand bad drawings in you. The sooner we get them out the better!” As a result, even into his 80’s, Chuck was still creating up to a dozen drawings every day, just to keep in practice. No wonder he was a master.
The more any one of us can capture that spirit, the more accomplished he or she will be. The more we, collectively, can grasp it, the more successful our nation will be. Excellence is not about sitting around hoping for recognition or good luck; it is about working longer and harder, studying more deeply…and practice, practice, practice.
More tomorrow. I need to wrap up now and get back to work on my novel.
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