Tuesday, April 5, 2016

"Memo From 'The Best Laid Plans' Department"

I had it all assembled in my head.  I was, as an Obama campaign supporter used to proclaim,

“Fired up and ready to go!”

I had decided what I was going to do.  As a follow-up to yesterday’s post, I would delineate the qualities necessary to “make it” in show business – or any business for that matter, although some of them require a license, supervised experience (for aspiring blacksmiths and wheelwrights) or a certifying diploma as mandatory prerequisites, whereas show business, and apparently the job of president of the United States do not.

Going deeper, buttressed by the “continuum concept” introduced yesterday, I would then argue – persuasively I believe – that, although prospective candidates needed to embody the qualities on my accumulated list, they need not rank at the topmost end of the continuum in every category. 

An only  moderate “Talent Number” could be offset by an impressive ranking in “Persistence.”  These people may have little to offer but they don’t quit.  As the saying goes – a saying I made up – if you make enough waves, people will ultimately believe you have a boat.

You could score unimpressively on “Push” but balancingly loftily on “Connections.”  A noteworthy example in that regard would be… oh, wait!   Me. 

(Producer Lorne Michaels gave me my Hollywood “break”.  Otherwise, I might well be a (now retired) Third Grade teacher In Toronto whose friends refused to watch half-hour comedies with until I stopped saying, “I could do that.”)

And then there’s “Luck”.  Let’s see now, who… oh yeah, me again.  Compensating my questionable ranking as a “Risk Taker.”

My groundbreaking hypothesis would be that, if you scored highly “in the aggregate” – all the “necessities” averaged together – you had a better than even shot at show business success.

Topping off the festivities, I would boldly announce which characteristic necessary to “make it” was the most important, this exciting revelation serving as the cherry on top of the blogatorial sundae.

Does that not sound wonderful?  It did to me.  And I was all ready to dive in. 

And then I put on the brakes. 

Why?  Because at virtually the last minute, it suddenly occurred to me that I was wrong.

My initial plan was to proclaim that, although all the delineated characteristics were important requirement show biz success above all others was…


Grit got you through the hard times.  Grit helped you endure the inevitable tests and obstacles along the way.  (Extended unemployment.  Your first assignment.  Running your own show.  Surviving insecure talent and vacuous executives.  My tummy hurts just mentioning them.)

You could embody all the characteristics.  But minus energizing engine of grit you would ultimately succumb, winding up – and no destination is more heartbreaking –

“Out of the business.”

What I discovered, however, as I was about to say, “Grit’s Number One” was that it wasn’t.  There is something ahead of it, a characteristic I belatedly recognized not from examining show business, but from my experience playing the piano.

Evaluating the “necessities” for handling the challenges of playing the piano, there are some characteristics that do not, obviously, apply.  You do not need “Luck” or “Connections” to play the piano.  All you need is a piano.

But the most important characteristic, which I shall save for the end, is to build suspense, in both cases, the same.  As far as the rest are concerned, once again, it’s the aggregate that matters, not scoring high in a single category.

Okay.  “Playing the piano.”  Being brutally honest…

Musical “Ear” – Above average.

Sense of Rhythm – Borderline.  At best.    

Digital Dexterity – Terrible.  My fingers are like claws.  Primarily…

Relaxation Ability – Because of that.

Facility For Reading Music – N/A.  The notes are too little.  I will grade myself an “Incomplete” in that regard.  (For a test that will never be revisited.)     

“Appreciation Of Music” – Solid.

Final tally?  Let’s just say that by rights, I should have quit playing the piano years ago.  Yet, I have been taking weekly lessons for almost a decade.


Because of the determining characteristic even more important than grit.

I just love playing the piano. 

(More specifically, I love is accompanying myself on the piano as I sing.)

That’s the test.  If you love it – whatever “it” is – although nothing is guaranteed, you can survive anything.  You may not even realize it’s a problem.  Not me, of course.  For me, everything is a problem.

I get a new song.  I immediately think, “I can’t do this.”  

Then I get down to work, and I do it. 

It’s a simple answer, but why can’t “simple” be right?  When it comes to “Moment of Truth”-recognizable “Crunch Time”, what matters more than anything is…

Not innate ability.

Not determination.

Not flexibility.

Not preparation and practice.

Not connections.

Not luck.

Not persistence

And not grit.

You have to love it.

Boy, am I happy I didn’t jump in.

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