What is Success?
Earlier in the year, I had the opportunity to work with a class at the University of Northern Georgia, Gainesville Campus. My friend, Dr. Adam Frey, is the low brass instructor there. It was fun to watch him teach, alternately playing trombone, euphonium and tuba in the lessons, and then showing his conducting chops in the low brass ensemble rehearsal. I was reminded of all the skill sets we truly need to work in this field.
During the class, I asked the students how they would define success - whatever their career path might be. Their plans were diverse - everything from music performance and teaching, to working in unrelated fields like sports management, gymnastics, and videography. Instead of the usual answers a performer might give about the need to practice hours and hours, (which is necessary, but not the only road to success), they suggested some really good ideas for success in any field. No matter what you want to do with your life, we discussed these basic skills you'll need to acquire to be successful:
Commitment: Dedication to the training plan. Simply doing something every day to move your career forward, be it practicing, going to concerts, performing, or networking.
Discipline: Understanding the purpose of the training session, staying focused on completing it, and modifying it if the goals of said session are not being met.
Organizational skills: Sorry, but this is really important. You need to be able to keep track of everything in your life – schedule, responsibilities, assignments and even the simple act of responding to email and texts in a timely fashion. If this is a challenge for you, read David Allen’s “Getting Things Done”. You won’t be the same after reading it.
Behavior and Attitude: It’s about the people, stupid. Nobody really cares if you are the best at what you do if you aren’t easy (or even fun!) to work with. Bring your best behavior and attitude to any opportunity that you are offered. Make sure to obey the codes of conduct for your field.
Punctuality: Yes, if you are repeatedly late with your projects, or your arrival times, people will stop calling you, no matter how talented you are. It’s that simple.
This list seems so basic, but look at your life, and compare yourself to this list. Do you hit all of these targets? What can you do to improve in the areas that challenge you?
What I can promise you is this – if you can master all of these skills, not just some of them, you will be a success in your field of choice!
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Lawrence Isaacson is a conductor and educator based in Boston. Biography >>