The “Secret Recipe” For Success

Back when I was studying Jazz Guitar at the University of North Texas, I had an opportunity to take a private guitar lesson from Tim Miller. Although there were some incredible guitarists at UNT at that time, Tim blew everyone out of the water. As you can imagine, I couldn’t wait to sit down with him and find out what goes into his secret sauce. What was it that made him so much better at the guitar than all the rest of us?

When the day arrived, I sat down and asked Tim “what is the one thing you’d recommend that would help me to be a world class guitarist”? Without hesitating he said, “wear out as many CD’s, tapes, and records as you can trying to figure out how to play a song. You need to hit repeat or rewind over and over while playing along until you finally get it. That’s how the greats have always done it. You just rip off as many styles as you can until you can make them your own.”

Here I was with my pen and notebook in hand, ready to write down the Colonel’s secret recipe and he just said “wear out your albums”. I’ll have to admit I was pretty disappointed at first because I was expecting a “secret” tip that was going to revolutionize my playing, and this just sounded like a lot of work.

In retrospect that was the best advice he could have given me, and it works just as well in business as it does in music. Study the masters in depth, and model what it is that makes them great until you can fuse those things into your own style. Forget trying to find secret sauces, short cuts, or silver bullets. They don’t exist, and are a waste of time. Tim’s advice truly is the best way to become world class.

photo by Mr. Wilson