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How many times have you been habitually late to a job or some organization that you had joined. How many times have you made excuses as to why you HAD to be late? Obviously this is different in various degrees for all people. If you are in an organization like “the military”, whatever country it may be, you are very likely to get punitive measures or documented in some way. Some organizations and clubs may be almost as strict as the military in some places. How many of you have been raised in an environment where “it’s okay to be late” half of the time, or on the other hand, “you’re gonna get your ass kicked” every time you are late!? Again I suspect that it’s different for lots of people. Let’s just imagine that we will talk about a profession like a visual artist, an interior designer, a professional musician, a real estate agent, a plumber, a wedding planner, a transportation service of some kind, a counselor or a coach of any number, maybe hundreds and hundreds, of different types. These professional people all have one thing in common. They are in the SERVICE of others. Nobody “made” these people become an artist, or musician, or event coordinator, or agent or coach of any kind, especially when leaning toward the “arts” side of the coin. Even a plumber can be an Artist of sorts when he takes his job Seriously, and takes real pride in his skill and “know how” when it comes to solving the problem at hand. In other words, we imagine that these people Chose to do these arts and professions because they really LOVE to do what they do at least 98 percent of the time, as opposed to working at the slaughter house or the poisonous waste dump. (Well, I imagine a few weird people in the world might even like THESE things) One of my old mentors for a while, from many years ago, was Herman Burkhart, a professional bassist (the concert double bass) who had worked for many years in New York City and probably all around that state. He was fine old guy, a great musician, and oftentimes what some people would call a “crusty old fart” (in his advanced years)and funny as hell. He very seldom minced words, shot from the hip, “called them like he saw them”, but was still quite funny, probably a lot like Mark Twain in his advanced years. I often, for a period, chauffeured him to various jobs that he and I and sometimes others would play while I was in the Memphis Symphony and other music jobs. He was losing his eyesight somewhat, and was getting more and more fearful of all the bad traffic (I don’t blame him) and wanted someone younger to help him get around when it came to professional performances of one type or another. He didn’t always like everything he had to do (musically and professionally) but he gave it his utmost all the time because he was a hardcore professional, dedicated and self-driven musician. I greatly admired him for that. He didn’t just like everybody coming from around the corner, but he liked me. He must have seen something in me that made him think, “that kid will grow up and become a man someday.” He didn’t so much say that as he simply showed it. Another time after a job/performance he saw that I rather quickly just packed up my instrument, got my stuff together and was just ready to move on down the line. He remarked, “That’s what I like about you, Bill. You just do your job well, and then you’re ready to clear out.” That meant quite a lot to me. He would often refer to some of the crazy drivers as “Turdheads” which was rather funny to me at that time. One day while I drove us to one of the “gigs”, I said that some of these people are just plain stupid when they get behind the wheel. He replied in a more moderating way, “Not always so stupid, but just rude. They don’t look out for the other guy, no common courtesy, just bad attitudes.” He also told me, “Bill, if you want to survive in this world, you should get to every appointment at least 30 minutes early. Even an hour is not out of the question if it’s a gig or appointment where you really have to travel some to get there. What if you have a breakdown, or flat tire, or some other thing like a string breaks at the last minute. What are you going to do?” He said, “I had to survive in the jungle up there (New York) all those years, and if you blow it around there, you’ve lost it. You won’t be working a lot longer. Somebody can always replace you.” It was first class advice. It’s been a long time and old Herman passed on many years ago, but I have never forgotten what he said and how he was. I suspect that when a lot of people have always used one kind of “accident” after another as to why they were late so much of the time, it really says something more about their Attitude than some Accident that happens again and again. When I was a much younger professional, I made my share of mistakes such as being late a handful of times, or forgetting something, but not habitually. Ah yes, youth is still wasted on the young, and that will never change. But by the time you’ve hit 40 or some such number, you should have learned a few lessons. You can’t afford to LOSE just out of sheer carelessness. Anything else can happen. The economy could sink like a stone – in fact it did 3 or 4 years ago. You could develop a real condition like gradual loss of eyesight, or chronic sickness, or any number of other things. The point is that when you go out to do something you like based on your life choices, you should go there basically with a smile on your face, an attitude of double checking all the facts and times, getting there plenty early, and using foresight for whatever might happen whether they be accidents, calamities, family fights, or any other kind of drama. If you are an independent professional, you are going to have to do this in order to survive. I have a good “thanks!” and a good memory of my old friend, Herman.
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