Focus on the Execution

“You cannot fail if you focus on the execution and not the result.” – Orel Hershiser

Three years ago, I decided to learn to play the guitar.  I had just been to an AC/DC concert (second row center).  When you see Angus Young playing from that close, you can’t help but be inspired.  A few weeks after the concert, my brother-in-law, Mike, and his family visited us.  Mike plays the guitar, so I dragged him to a Guitar Center to help me pick out an instrument.  When we arrived, instead of helping me, Mike walked straight to the acoustic section, picked up a beautiful 6-string Taylor, and strummed the opening notes to Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead Or Alive.”  He was good, and I said, “I want to play that.”

Mike said, “You will.  You just have to practice.”

When we arrived home with my new Fender, I told Mike that I had a plan for learning to play.  Given my long commute to and from work, I said that practicing during the week would be difficult, but that I could dedicate some quality time on the weekend.

Mike said, “That’s not going to work.”

I said, “Why not?”

He said, “You have to practice every day.  You may only be able to practice a few hours per week, but 20 minutes per day is much better than two hours straight on Saturday or Sunday.  If you want to learn to play, you have to be committed.”

I had a sinking feeling that my guitar playing days were already numbered.  I couldn’t wait to crank out “Thunderstruck” on a Gibson SG, but I was focused on the result, not the execution.  AC/DC warned me that “it’s a long way to the top, if you wanna rock ‘n’ roll,” but I wasn’t committed.  My guitar now sits in the corner of my closet and only gets played when Mike visits.

During the first few months after my hip resurfacing, I was dedicated to my recovery.  I was diligent about physical therapy, and I regained strength and flexibility quickly.  My friend, who had a hip resurfacing, warned me that I would feel dramatic improvements in the first few months, but that I should not take them for granted.  He said I shouldn’t expect a full recovery until a year after my surgery.

I feel good, so I have been thinking about skiing, climbing Mt. Diablo on my bike, and even studying karate again.  But lately, I have not been diligent with my exercises, and my visions of grandeur will prove elusive if I don’t focus on getting stronger.

The guitar in my closet now reminds me to focus on daily exercise, and not on the activities I plan to do.  I need to practice before I can play.  It’s time for the hard work.  It’s time to “stand up and be counted.”

PS – I think the reason for AC/DC’s success, is that they enjoy practice more than performance.  In a 2008 Rolling Stone article, “AC/DC and the Gospel of Rock & Roll,” Angus Young said, “For me, this is probably the best time, playing and rehearsing.  I can sit and enjoy the build up with everyone else.”  Angus Young literally sits when he practices.  He is a 5’2’’ tornado on stage, but he sits during rehearsals and recordings because he wants “the music to be right first.”  When Angus and Malcolm Young started AC/DC in 1973 they probably didn’t think they would sell more than 200 million albums, worldwide.  They just wanted to play rock & roll.  They focused on the execution, but I bet they are happy with the result.

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