Tell Me Why

I just finished a book entitled "The Talent Code".

It’s not much different from "Outliers".  It references the same 10,000 hours for greatness.  But there’s a bit of science, illustrating that it’s all about the formation of myelin on your nerves via "deep practice".  The more myelin, the more skill.  Deep practice is about breaking the skill to be learned into chunks, and gaining mastery via repetition, overcoming mistakes.  But the most interesting part of the book concerned "ignition".  Otherwise known as MOTIVATION!

What inspires someone to follow a certain path?  What makes them dig in their heels and say I CAN DO THAT!  Most times it’s a great performance by someone who’s already invested those 10,000 hours.  The author, Daniel Coyle, references Andruw Jones, the baseball great from Curacao.  And Se Ri Pak, the golfer from South Korea.  Half a decade after their breakthrough performances, a plethora of talent emerged from their countries of origin. It wasn’t about a huge investment of dollars, first class practice facilities, but DESIRE!

I couldn’t stop thinking about the Beatles reading "The Talent Code".  As great as they were, they INSPIRED us to pick up the guitar, to play music. Everyone in my school suddenly started taking guitar lessons.  Not all stuck with it, but enough people in America did to have a golden age of music. Ditto in the U.K.

What we got in the nineties was a bunch of kids who wanted to be TV pop stars.  Melisma like Mariah Carey and dance in high-priced videos.  It had little to do with music, and everything to do with lifestyle.  Ditto with rap.  Everybody started rhyming.  They wanted to be like those guys in the clips, with the BABES!

Which is why I’m so excited by Taylor Swift.  She doesn’t come from an impoverished background.  You don’t have to have trashy parents to make it. You don’t have to drop out of school.  You don’t have to change who you are.  Who you are is ENOUGH!  Your goal is to learn how to play well enough to tell your story.  And your story is key.

A great concert has you playing the act’s material AFTER the show.  You’re not disappointed, you don’t want to break away, you want to immerse yourself in the music, you’re ready to see the act again the following weekend!

I can’t say "Fearless" is easily digestible.  It takes little to get "Fifteen" and "White Horse".  But, if you spin the album a few times, it starts to reveal itself. Absent clunkers, different cuts start to appeal.  To the point where you gain new favorites, not the ones dictated by radio, but tracks you pick personally!  We lost the plot a few decades back, when radio started spoon-feeding music.  Saying this was the new track when the album had come out A YEAR BEFORE!  The excitement of immersing yourself in a record was lost.  Suddenly the act was in business with radio, not the fan.  And suddenly, most listening became casual.  It wasn’t about artistry, but money.  But to explore by yourself, getting closer to the act, that’s always been the holy grail.  We need more product, not less.  Released on a regular basis, to encourage this fan bonding.

I took a chance, I took a shot
And you might think I’m bulletproof, but I’m not

VULNERABILITY!  This is the opposite of rappers kicking ho’s to the curb.  I too can take lessons from Taylor Swift, I too can learn to be fearless.  Life is about taking chances.  But the older we get, the more losses we experience, the more bad results have added up, we shy away from playing.  Still, when you take a chance and lose, IT HURTS!

You might think I’m bulletproof, but I’m not.  You’d be stunned at the negative feedback I get.  Just search on Twitter.  There’s that guy who wondered how many dicks I could fit in my mouth.  Not sure I understand his point, but the imagery is gross.  And that’s just the point.  They want to tear you down, put you in a hole, make you feel inadequate.  But the goal is to pick yourself up, make a stand.  And that’s exactly what Taylor Swift does in "Tell Me Why".

I take a step back, and let you go
I told you I’m not bulletproof
Now you know

That’s how you deal with the criticism.  Rather than entertain it, play on that person’s turf, by their rules, you remove yourself.  Then their fun is over.  If they can’t make you feel small, there’s no point.

But despite the despairing lyrics, the music is positively JOYOUS!

There’s the sawing fiddle, the requisite banjo, but this is pure pop.  Catchy verses, sing-songy changes, even a BRIDGE!  "Tell Me Why" is positively INFECTIOUS!

The mark of a great track is the need to spin it again.  And again.  And AGAIN!  You just can’t get enough of it.  You’re snapping your fingers, you’re dancing around the room, you feel so alive, you feel powerful, like you can fight off all demons!

This is the power of music.

Some of us are just listeners.  We’re voluminous.  Enough to make Taylor Swift the biggest recording act today.  Because she’s playing by the basic rules, she’s not trying to be hip, she’s singing SONGS, that you too can sing, that reflect reality.  This formula never fails.  You can trace it back to the beginning of time.  We’ve gotten too far from the garden.  You’ve got the right to mumble incomprehensible lyrics to dense, moody backgrounds, but don’t expect most people to pay attention.  But, if you want popularity, you’d best play "Fearless" a few dozen times, to GET IT!

I’m sure Nashville is now full of little girls being shopped to the powers-that-be.  I’m sure the big labels have their new Taylor Swifts in the pipeline.  But you can’t grow talent that fast.  The greats are half a decade out.  Taylor Swift has been writing and playing for YEARS!  Like so many of the girls who’ve seen her and dragged their parents to Guitar Center and are practicing in their bedrooms right now.

They’re not just playing chords and then IM’ing their friends. The greats are learning scales, how to pick notes, how to make it SOUND RIGHT!  This deep practice is the foundation.  They’ll write a bunch of shitty songs, play at the school talent show, and A FEW WILL END UP BEING GREAT!

Talent isn’t born.  You make a choice, based on inspiration, and work REALLY hard.  Recently our stars have had little musical talent.  Their inspiration was to get rich.  But that’s GONNA CHANGE!

"Tell Me Why"

"The Talent Code"

The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How.

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