Cherish Your Passion

When I was in music university, I was dead set on improving. My endeavor was risky; there weren't many successful musicians. If I wanted to make it, I had to be the best bass player in the city.

So I locked myself into the practice room and spent days in there. All that counted were the hours that I practiced. Two hours? Bad day. Four hours? Okay. Six hours? Now we're talking.

When people asked whether I wanted to play with them, I declined. My time was better spent improving my skills instead of using them.

Yes, I got good. Yes, I had one of the best careers in my cohort. But did I have fun? Nope.

I was so focused on practicing that I didn't even enjoy what I was doing. Fun was deferred to some point in the future. But that point wouldn't be during university.

The madness is especially apparent if you realize I was doing something other people do for fun. People dream of becoming a musician and of earning money with their passion. I treated it as hard work.

The irony is that this obsession actually kept me from reaching my goals.

After leaving university, I moved to Hamburg and Berlin to meet other musicians. I wanted to break into the music scene to make a name for myself and get asked for shows with famous artists.

This kind of worked, but other musicians moved faster than me. They played worse than I did, yet somehow, they got all the gigs. To increase my odds, I practiced more.

But the problem was this: Musicians and artists don't want the best bass player. They want a good enough bass player that is creative and that is fun to hang out with.

I was neither. I seldom joined social activities because I rather practiced. I was perfectionistic: People would feel bad playing next to me because I judged them and myself when mistakes happened. I couldn't offer creativity, only craft: Creativity comes from exploring, and exploration comes from having fun with music.

I won't let this happen again. Having a passion for a topic - my current passions are programming and entrepreneurship - is something to cherish. With that passion, life is joyful. The passion will take me to interesting places if I don't try to force it.

To keep that passion, I shall:

  • leave room for exploration and for diving into topics even if they don't have immediate benefits
  • allow me to do something else if I don't want to program
  • never count hours of work; only results

And you should, too.

P.S.: To be fair, I did have fun making music years after I moved to Berlin. But only after I let go of my obsession to become better. Once I stopped practicing, I could take playing music for what it is: A fun activity.

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© Julian Domke, 2023 • jules@juleswritescode.com