In terms of learning to play the trumpet, I improved greatly while practicing. In fact, that is the thing that separated me from those who just casually played to appease the director. I spent a lot of time thinking through playing trumpet during freshman year of high school but not enough to call it more than a requirement.
But something changed during the summer after my freshman year. Maybe it was my first taste of band camp or the fact that I didn’t really want to play organized sports, but I fell in love with the trumpet and from there, I couldn’t put it down. I would practice all the time. My band director would give me a ton of CDs to listen to of great jazz musicians and even invited me to come play music in a community band in Myrtle Beach with him and some other old geezers, as I so lovingly called them then.
I just could not stop from playing trumpet during sophomore year. In fact, at the end of the year, I was named Most Improved by my fellow bandmates. And I saw it as the greatest honor given to me.
I wasn’t the LeBron of trumpet players because I am not bragging that I was the best, because at that time, there were others better than me at my high school and a plethora of others outside of my high school who could destroy me on the sweet sounds of the horn. But when I got that honor by those around me, I finally believed that I could be the best. That thought had finally taken ahold of me and captured me.
So that summer, that was my overall focus. I practiced every thing I could to build a solid foundation. Scales, appregios, songbooks, jazz standards, transcribing CDs. Whatever I could get my grubby hands on. And all the work paid off because I won all the solos that fall for marching band and I even was not allowed to be a drum major because I was needed on the field to play (at least that is what they told me but it could have been because I was a little unfocused and not great at being a good influence and intentional leader).
But it was because of that one night where I was named most improved that I grabbed ahold of my dreams. That I stopped letting my talk get in the way of my walk. This is just a small taste of success and it is something that I am yearning to strive more and more towards each day.
Over the past few weeks, I have failed. I stopped working out. Ceased to eat right. And stopped writing. I got into a little bit of a funk because I lost sight of the goal. I lost sight of where I want to be because I focused on the fact that I’m not there now. I’m not even close.
But I won’t let this stop me any more. I’m moving forward. I’m reaching for my goals. And I am shifting my focus from trying to be the best and focusing on the prize I truly feel is worthy of my never-shifting gaze, that of being most improved. Most improved means that you are the most different from who you were the year before. You’re taking steps to make the person you are today better than yesterday.
And at the end of the day, I would consider that the highest compliment.