Andy was not athletically gifted. At full speed, he was still always a step slower than his teammates. His arm was not particularly strong and he lacked the quickness and coordination to regularly put the bat on the ball.
Yet, Andy had qualities that made him a coach’s delight...
When he picked up balls during batting practice, he picked them up with a good four-seam grip and picked up more, by an order of magnitude, than his teammates. When his group moved between stations, he sprinted to the next spot. He always asked if the coaches could stick around after practice to throw him some extra batting practice. He rigged up a batting tee at home and took a hundred or so cuts every night.
The more talented kids on the team tended to cruise. Their performance remained steady throughout the season. They could rely on their talents to take them through the season.
Andy, though, started slow. He made errors when playing field. Even though his teammates berated him (fourteen-year-old boys can be brutal in treating their own) he would quickly shake it off. In contrast, when one of his teammates made an error or struck out, Andy was the first person to pat the kid on the back and offer words of encouragement. Andy’s actions were not lost on his teammates. Soon, they, too, had adopted a positive attitude.
Over ten games, Andy batted over .300, respectable in Pony league baseball, and was voted by his teammates as the most improved player on the team.
Andy had heart.
He understood, intuitively, that it does not take talent to hustle.
He improved because he came to practice prepared, worked hard, and listened to the coaches.
Andy’s story is, of course, an allegory.
You may not be the most talented piper in your band. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t show up to practice prepared.
It doesn’t take talent to practice. It doesn’t take talent to set aside an hour each day and focus on improving your technique and your tunes.
It takes determination; it takes hustle.
It doesn’t take talent to memorize your band tunes. You can break tunes down and memorize one phrase at a time before moving to the next. You can set a slow tempo with a metronome and focus on getting “all the notes and embellishments correct, and on the beat.” If you do these two things, you will show up at band practice prepared to contribute and improve your band’s repertoire.
It doesn’t take talent to focus at band practice. Focus on playing with your band mates and follow the tempo that the Pipe Major is maintaining. It doesn’t take talent to pay attention and keep the chatter to the minimum (you can socialize after practice).
Some of your band mates may be competing as solo pipers. When they really “stick” a performance, they will notice if you are the first to come up and congratulate them on a good performance. In contrast, if you are the first to console them in the event of a subpar performance, they will notice as well. They will realize that, if things don’t go well, you need to learn and move on. Similarly, if you are competing as a solo piper, your positive attitude is like bread cast upon the water. You will appreciate it if there is someone there to pat you on the back when things go well or console you when things go south.
A positive attitude is highly contagious and can help to build a strong sense of teamwork in your band.
It doesn’t take talent to hustle. If you practice regularly, work to improve, work to memorize your tunes, and bring a positive attitude to the band, you will be making big contribution and helping it to improve.