One of the harsh lessons I had to learn as a young undergraduate was the importance of being on time. I'm sure many have heard this adage, but it's worth repeating:
"To be early is to be on time, to be on time is to be late, and to be late is unexcusable."
In even simpler terms, this means that you should be at all commitments, whether it be class, a lesson, an ensemble, a date, or appointment, as early as you can be, within reason. If you have a trombone lesson at 11:00 AM, and you have nothing in the hour before the lesson, it might be a good idea to be outside your professor's door a couple of minutes before the hour. Your teacher likely needs the passing period between lessons to take care of other matters, but I guarantee that they will appreciate seeing you waiting patiently outside their door.
I'm sure you're probably thinking that the old man is just in a bad mood, and that this rant will pass soon enough. But I assure you that it won't pass soon. It won't pass at all!
Being early for committments speaks to your reliability. It speaks to your enthusiasm for the subject matter. If you show up at 11:03 for an 11:00 lesson, and saunter in like nothing is wrong, then I cannot help but approach your lesson differently than if you are running down the hall, Tommy Boy style, trying to make it as soon as you can. Do you remember Tommy Boy?
Chris Farley's character was always a beat behind the rest of the world around him. He was funny and endearing, but when the time came for him to try and save the family's company, very few had faith that Tommy Boy had what it took to get the job done. Sure, he was fun at parties, and could make nearly anyone laugh, but at the end of the day...do you want to be your school or ensemble's Tommy Boy, or do you want to be known as someone who gets the job done every time they are asked?
I would guess that most of you, hopefully, would choose the latter.
You see, college is a training ground for the real world. It isn't the real world...in many cases, it is quite insulated. You have opportunities to make mistake after mistake after mistake, and your professors, for the most part, will give you ample opportunities to get it right. But can you imagine how high your stock will rise if you don't NEED to use every opportunity to get it right? If you have 3 absenses in a class before points are deducted, try using LESS than 3 absenses in a semester. In this way, you earn a better opportunity...for benefit of the doubt.
See the guy to the right, in the letter jacket with the trombone? That is me, just a couple of months before leaving for college. That guy thought he was the real deal on the trombone, and as far as high school players go, he might have been right. The reality is that when he got to college, he mistakenly believed the following things:
I'm not sure where I learned those things. They certainly didn't come from my parents or teachers. In fact, any mentor I had leading up to college would have given me a piece of their mind and possibly a boot in the behind for thinking that way. Later, when I inevitably faced the consequences of a sloppy approach to my committments, I realized that the better a player is, the more important it is to lead by example. I realized that I had continually alienated myself from some incredible mentors who had given me so many opportunities to get it right. Without realizing it at the time, I made my mentors question every person who had given me a whole-hearted recommendation, and very likely missed out on some great opportunities as a result.
The good news is that it's not too late to change! It's never too late to change, if the change is heart-felt and earnest. One of my great teachers, Don Lucas, gave me the following quote that has stuck with me all these years:
"When you are going through hell, keep on going. Never never never give up." – Winston Churchill
Give it your best shot! And, as always, if I can be of any help, please feel free to comment below if you would like to discuss this topic further.