As musicians, we are required to constantly overcome challenges. We face those related directly to our music, like working through a difficult new technique, as well as those related to being artists in the world, like trying to share our music with an often indifferent audience.
It is essential, then, for any lifelong musician to develop two skills: the ability to stick with the challenge in front of them until it is conquered; and the fortitude to continue doing that for the long haul.
In his book The Obstacle is the Way, Ryan Holiday differentiates between persistence and perseverance. He says:
“If persistence is attempting to solve some difficult problem with dogged determination and hammering until the break occurs, then plenty of people can be said to be persistent. But perseverance is something larger. It’s the long game. It's about what happens not just in round one but in round two and every round after–and then the fight after that and the fight after that, until the end.”
Persistence is sticking with a song you’re writing, even though it’s hard. There may be moments when you feel like it’s not coming together, but you keep working on it until you cross the finish line.
Perseverance is showing up to do it all over again with the next song, and the next, and the next after that.
Having perseverance is what sets apart a musical hobbyist from what I call a musical lifer: Someone who is committed to music for life.
For every difficult thing we face, we need to have the grit and determination to keep showing up with possible solutions until the job is done. Then we must have the will to do it all over again, with each and every challenge. Because there will always be another challenge.