If It Sounds Good - It Is Good!
— Duke Ellington

I used to Do, and still Do.

Look familiar?

Look familiar?

Confused by that title? It’s a retort to the long running joke that "Those who can't, teach." 

I disagree with that axiom wholeheartedly. Yes, there are a few that tried and failed (and even fewer that never tried) and then found their way into academia, but in my expeience those that have (and still do), teach. They devote their time (and sometimes their lives) to taking the skills and habits and lessons that they have learned from years and years of doing and screwing up so that those that follow will (hopefully) not make the same mistakes.

As an Edumacator (yep, I went there) my job is to give students the decades of experience I have acquired and used (sometimes even for profit!) to help them organize and construct their careers. I have to give them step-by-step tutorials on how to do specific things in my little corner of the Industry but my main goal is to expose them to as much about the audio world as I can within the allotted time I have with them. I want them to leave my class with not only a usable skillset, but the passion to continue learning.

I recently read an article on how the best educational system out there today is YouTube. For the most part I agree with the statement. But in our current job market, telling a prospective employer or client that you 'watched a bunch of videos and have now have the knowledge to put them into practice' just doesn't work. Unless you have a proven track record (i.e. years of experience and reproducable results) then this just doesn't instill confidence in someone paying for your services. Don’t get me wrong though - you can learn an amazing amount of things from The Tube of Yous, and it’s one of my main main sources for ‘Continuing Education’. One day this paradigm will certainly change - maybe YT will offer some kind of 'Certificate' program (professionally accepted proof that you have indeed learned something) or some other Disruptor will create a system that does something in the same vein but with much less friction. But for the near future I suspect traditional learning institutions are going to remain that benchmark.

Yeah, those traditional Colleges and Universities are incredibly expensive - people and technology and infrastructure don't come cheap (which is why the Free College thing will be slow to implement). But they can be used to your advantage if you know what you want to do, and at least have an inkling as your long-term goal is. Unfortunately, this is difficult for most students to understand, especially as they first start out on the Higher Ed path. No worries - you can still use the System to your advantage.

I followed a bunch of friends to college because it was 'the thing to do'. I floundered, and failed, and wasted a lot of time and money on it because I had no plan - I just wanted to remain with my group of friends. But about 2 years in, I got my hands on a a big reel-to-reel tape recorder (I had never used one before) and it all came together. I had dabbled in music since I was about 8, but that moment I got to play with tape, cut it up into pieces, splice it back together, and play it back at different speeds I immediately understood how every record I listened to was made, and how I could use it too. Instinctual? Maybe. Spark of knowledge? Most certainly.

Within minutes of playing with that thing I knew what I wanted to do with my life. I left the University, went home, joined a band, and was lucky enough to get my foot in the local recording studio. If I haven't said it enough - thanks Mark.  That studio owner is still a dear friend (and still an inspiration) to this day. I wish all of you that kind of Mentorship.

So did I really waste money and time? Yes, and no. If I hadn’t slogged it out trying to figure out what the hell I was going to do when I graduated I would never have stumbled onto the thing that changed my trajectory. It took me almost two years to find it, and it obviously cost me a lot of money, but in the long run it was worth it. In essence, I Paid My Dues.

Have you figured out what I’m getting to yet? Let me give you one more hint (and one of my favorite axioms): Success is buried in the garden of failure.

From learning to walk or ride a bicycle to making and creating art, we figure stuff out by trying, messing up, accessing what we did wrong, and trying it again by doing it differently if we failed, or similar if we had some success. You keep on trying, keep screwing up, keep moving forward until you make it happen. Welcome to Life 101.

‘But, but…’

Yeah, I hear you - I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do when I got to play with that tape recorder. And you’re right. What you’re missing however, is that I didn’t give up. I continued on with my classes and my meanderings, taking in as much knowledge as I could get before that magical moment occurred. Had I not stuck with what I had already started I would have missed that opportunity.

Still not sinking in, is it? To quote Lefsetz: ‘Those who are not busy being born are busy dying.” 

When you’re young, you have to go to school. It’s the law in most places. But once you graduate High School (or whatever they call it on your part of the planet) you are free to do whatever you want. You can go get a job, you can continue schooling, you can sit on your couch and play video games all day. You can start a business, you can start a band, you can sit under a tree and stare at the grass. No one is going to force you to learn anything more.

But if you stop learning, those magic moments will pass right by you unnoticed.

You don’t have to go to College or a University, but if you do just remember why you’re there. It might be because you followed your friends, or your mom or dad ‘pressured’ you into it. It might be because you think you want to do something specific, or you just want to get away from your hometown or whatever. Regardless, just stick it out. Try some new things. Meet some new people. Most of all, take in all the learning you can from those who have dedicated themselves to the task. Because I promise you a magic moment or one thousand if you do.

One last thing - there’s nothing wrong with not going to a University either. Some just want to get out there and do. Go for it, but always remember that you’ll still have to continue learning.

May 2017 Dynamics Check (and a few other things...)

The State of Digital Audio Workstations (2017)