As I sit here writing this, DJ Tone Terra is mixing live over the radio. It’s a funny thing, being a DJ—there’s a lot more skill involved than just fading songs in and out on the turntables. There are BPMs to match, keys to consider, listener requests to work in. I’ve played around on Virtual DJ a couple of times only to come up with a couple of good combinations of songs. And I celebrate my audio genius for a moment and then quickly write down which songs they were and where exactly I need to start one so it fades in nicely with the other. I couldn’t imagine doing it on the fly—those song combinations took a long time to come up with. But Tone has been doing this for a long time—of course I couldn’t be like him right away.
Nor would I want to. I love mixes, and Tone’s are the best I’ve heard. Taking time to work on my own is fun, but ultimately nothing more than a diversion. I could be taking those hours and putting them towards something that I’m already good at. Something like writing. That’s one of two main lessons I’ve been learning the past year. That I should apply myself to the things that I’m good at and to cut out the rest.
It was a concept I was first introduced to in high school by my friend Derek. He told me I needed to cut away some of the clutter—I was playing multiple instruments, writing songs, doing video work, wanting to jump into another few things, and while at first his statement didn’t sit well with me (after all, why couldn’t I do everything I wanted?) over time I understood the wisdom behind it. I could certainly be a jack of all trades and have some pretty neat party tricks up my sleeve if I continued in my current ways, or I could give myself the chance to thrive by choosing a couple of things and going after them. Writing was one. Video was another. And I’ve been able to score jobs and internships due to those skills. What’s even better is that those skills have increased while holding those positions.
The other thing that I’ve learned is that while I need focus on a few pursuits, it’s okay to enjoy others by way of outsourcing them. In this musical case, that means listening to the 5 O’Clock Gridlock instead of trying to make my own mixes. It’s a basic business lesson, to outsource what you’re not good at to keep being the best at what you are good at. Audiobooks are a good example of this: Perhaps you’re not the best reader, or you don’t just have time to get a book in. Why not listen to it? You’re outsourcing the work but still enjoying the benefits. Perhaps the satisfaction of doing something yourself is lost, but if you’re pursuing excellence in another area that feeling will come. And I’d argue it will be even stronger because you’ll have some great, big, tangible results to celebrate rather than a little win.
Not that I’m belittling hobbies. Tinkering can help reset your mind, and those little wins (like mixing two songs perfectly) are important, sure—after all, no war is won without winning some battles. But if all you do is hit singles without knocking out some homeruns too, you might find yourself without something to be really, extremely proud of when you’re older.
So I’ll keep plinking around on the turntables, but only for a little bit. Perhaps I’ll channel the frustration and jubilation into a scene later that evening.