This post was sent to me by my friend Frank, a very talented guitar player. For those of you who don’t know Buddy Rich, he was a phenomenal drummer. He also had a phenomenal ego. There are many stories from musicians who performed with him that revolved around his temper tantrums.
This funny example of humility does remind me of how people deal with their sense of self-importance. In my experience, the more bravado a person shows, the more insecure the person is. Usually, though not in the case of Buddy Rich, people who try to come across as “being the best” are not very good.
I actually met Buddy Rich when I was thirteen. My parents got me tickets to see him perform live. My dad waited backstage with me, so I can get his autograph. When he finally came out, my dad got his attention. “Hi, Mr. Rich, this is my daughter. She’s taking drum lessons and she’s a big fan of yours.”
Buddy Rich barely looked at me. As he was signing my piece of paper, I said, very proudly, “My drum teacher, Dante Versacci, said to tell you hello.” He looked at me briefly and said before walking away, “Really? I didn’t know he was still alive.”
I thought, “What an amazing musician and yet, not a great person.”
My brother Stan and I opened our own Jazz and Blues Club, called “One Night Stans.” We had some of the best musicians perform on our stage. We had absolute legends like Ira Sullivan and Billy Cobham as well as very talented local bands. What I noticed, as we hung out late at night, was how these players viewed their show. I would be completely blown away by their virtuosity and yet, they would be quite humble about it. They would talk about how they were still working on a piece and how they can make it better. They saw each show as a chance to continue to learn and grow. They were never satisfied and I realized that’s what made them great. They were constantly pushing themselves to move to a higher level.
I also witnessed first hand some incredibly obnoxious and arrogant musicians come in and perform. Not surprising, they would be quite mediocre. I would see this type of behavior in other areas of business as well.
The most intelligent and talented people I know have a hard time believing that they are brilliant at their job. They constantly work to improve their skill set. They are always asking for constructive criticism. They seek out advice and try to learn from those they admire.
The opposite is prevalent in people that reach a level of competence but don’t believe they need to go any further. These people are difficult to work with because they act like they are beyond reproach. They tend to be loud and intimidating. I believe they act this way so nobody questions their lack of knowledge and expertise.
Humility is realizing that there’s always more to learn. It’s keeping ourselves open to endless possibilities. It’s not comparing ourselves to others but attaining goals that we alone are trying to achieve.
There’s also a sense of grace when someone who has reached the top of his field wants to help and acknowledge others. We all take a chance when meeting our heroes. After all, they are human too. I've been fortunate that I have met many people that I admired and walked away feeling inspired by them. I did enjoy the opportunity to hear Buddy Rich perform live. After meeting him, I can appreciate this post on a whole other level. Thank you, Frank, for sharing a wonderful laugh with me.