Many people express their admiration for my ability to stay focused and motivated. My weight loss is going great. My new jazz guitar career is beginning to show promise. I was able to go from a total beginner to an entry level pro guitarist in five years. I built a music engraving business from nothing. While I'm experiencing success in my projects, what people don't see is the even greater number of projects that I've tried and failed.
There's no logical reason why I fail at some projects and succeed at others. Several years ago I began writing a book about music notation, but I fizzled out. The book project wasn't any more challenging than developing guitar skills, so why did I succeed at becoming a good guitarist when I failed at writing the book? Motivation.
I believe true motivation comes from "want to" rather than "have to."
Let's take weight loss as an example. I've tried to lose weight before. Sometimes I succeeded. More often I failed. Of course I should lose weight for my health and well being, but that's not much of a motivator for me. It's not enough that I should lose weight for my own good. This time it's different because I truly want to lose weight. I want to lose weight for my health, because I have so many interesting projects going on that I want to stay alive as long as possible to see them through. I want to lose weight for my career, because many people will hire me based on looks just as much as musicianship. I want to lose weight for sheer vanity, so I can be more attractive to the ladies! Health, career, and vanity – these are much more compelling reasons than "it's for your own good."
My fledgling career as a jazz guitarist and singer is another good example. If I'd wanted to play it safe, I could have remained a full time music engraver. It was good money. It was steady. It was safe. It was boring. When I started learning guitar, though, I felt like I was on fire. I knew immediately that I wanted to resurrect a career as a performer. From day one, I was totally focused on learning to play the guitar, and when I discovered the endless wonder and puzzle of jazz guitar, my path was set. I remain focused on being the best guitarist I can be. Every day I practice scales and patterns that others might consider boring, but I actually enjoy and want to play my daily exercises, because I know that they're making me a better player.
Whatever path you choose, I hope it's something that excites you and motivates you. There are plenty of things in life that you have to do, but what makes it worthwhile is when you find something you want to do.
- Tom Godfrey
- Atlanta, GA, United States
- When I suffered a lip injury that ended my career as a classical trombonist, I thought my life as a musician was finished, but I fell in love with music all over again when Santa gave me a guitar for Christmas in 2003. Even as I was struggling with my first chords, I was planning a new performance career. As a trombonist, I performed with the Heritage of America Band at Langley Air Force Base, the Ohio Light Opera, and in pick-up bands for touring acts that included Rosemary Clooney, George Burns, and the Manhattan Transfer. Reborn as a jazz guitarist, I sing and play my own solo arrangements of jazz classics, am half of the Godfrey and Guy duo, and hold the guitar chair in the Sentimental Journey Orchestra. I have been a freelance music copyist since 1995, served as Director of Music at Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation from 2011 to 2017, and currently serve as Contemporary Band Director at the same congregation.