Three Feet From Gold...
A few days before my twentieth birthday, an odd chain of events guided me to what remains to this day, one of the most influencial books I've ever read: Napoleon Hill's "Think And Grow Rich."
Regarded as an absolute classic, it proved itself - providing direction whose impact could never be overstated.
And near 16 years later, it's interesting to reflect how certain nuggets of wisdom found then re-present themselves through the life experience since - observing different ways certain themes, philosophies, and stories ring all-the-more true, in context of a broaded wealth of direct experience to measure them against.
One story in particular whose message I've come to a fascinating discovery of lately, is that of the "Three Feet From Gold" tale...
One of the most common causes of failure is the habit of quitting when one is overtaken by temporary defeat. Every person is guilty of this mistake at one time or another.
An uncle of R. U. Darby was caught by the gold fever in the gold-rush days, and went west to DIG AND GROW RICH. He had never heard that more gold has been mined from the brains of men than has ever been taken from the earth. He staked a claim and went to work with pick and shovel. The going was hard, but his lust for gold was definite.
After weeks of labor, he was rewarded by the discovery of the shining ore. He needed machinery to bring the ore to the surface. Quietly, he covered up the mine, retraced his footsteps to his home in Williamsburg, Maryland, told his relatives and a few neighbors of the “strike.” They got together money for the needed machinery, had it shipped. The uncle and Darby went back to work the mine.
The first car of ore was mined, and shipped to a smelter. The returns proved they had one of the richest mines in Colorado! A few more cars of that ore would clear the debts. Then would come the big killing in profits.
Down went the drills! Up went the hopes of Darby and Uncle! Then something happened! The vein of gold ore disappeared! They had come to the end of the rainbow, and the pot of gold was no longer there! They drilled on, desperately trying to pick up the vein again— all to no avail.
Finally, they decided to QUIT.
They sold the machinery to a junk man for a few hundred dollars, and took the train back home. Some “junk” men are dumb, but not this one! He called in a mining engineer to look at the mine and do a little calculating. The engineer advised that the project had failed, because the owners were not familiar with “fault lines.” His calculations showed that the vein would be found just three feet from where the Darbys had stopped drilling! That is exactly where it was found!
The “Junk” man took millions of dollars in ore from the mine, because he knew enough to seek expert counsel before giving up.
Most of the money which went into the machinery was procured through the efforts of R. U. Darby, who was then a very young man. The money came from his relatives and neighbors, because of their faith in him. He paid back every dollar of it, although he was years in doing so.
Long afterward, Mr. Darby recouped his loss many times over, when he made the discovery that desire can be transmuted into gold. The discovery came after he went into the business of selling life insurance.
Remembering that he lost a huge fortune, because he stopped three feet from gold, Darby profited by the experience in his chosen work, by the simple method of saying to himself, “I stopped three feet from gold, but I will never stop because men say ‘no’ when I ask them to buy insurance.”
Darby is one of a small group of fewer than fifty men who sell more than a million dollars in life insurance annually. He owes his stickability to the lesson he learned from his quitability in the gold mining business.
Before success comes in any man’s life, he is sure to meet with much temporary defeat, and, perhaps, some failure. When defeat overtakes a man, the easiest and most logical thing to do is to quit. That is exactly what the majority of men do. More than five hundred of the most successful men this country has ever known told the author their greatest success came just one step beyond the point at which defeat had overtaken them. Failure is a trickster with a keen sense of irony and cunning. It takes great delight in tripping one when success is almost within reach.
~Napoleon Hill, from "Think & Grow Rich"
The playing field I've found the truth in this to present itself as of lately:
While I've produced on-and-off for 17 years (more off than on), the process has rarely been smooth and easy. The majority the of time, it's been one of non-stop challenges, blocks, and obstacles. The moments of flow have been fucking glorious, though rare.
And even as I've picked up again these past months with an increased focus that has resulted in grasping more and more of the basic building blocks to improve my workflow, it's still very commonplace to lack the idealized inspiration that fuels extended studio sessions into the wee hours of the morning. The early phases of any project typically aren't the most exciting. And it's more often than not tempting to close up an idea and start over before giving it enough time to properly blossom.
Predictably, sitting down to make music doesn't begin with a huge rush of inspiration. And navigating the first steps - whether it be finding a good synth sound to work with, piecing together a decent drum pattern as the core, or playing around with melodies until something pops - can feel like fumbling about, producing more uncertainty than confidence. Typically, the inclination to just abandon what's been accomplished so far is greater than the willingness to persist and keep adding to and sculpting that base until it becomes something resembling a well-enough established concept to really begin working with.
And sometimes, it might be better just to start fresh - working through a number of different ideas until catching that one wave with enough power behind it to ride until the end.
Yet, there's been a number of cases lately where I've discovered: *these are those "three feet to gold" moments.
Sometimes a basic, unprocessed drum loop might not be all that great. But with a bit of parallel compression and saturation, it comes to life and gets enough of a punch to kick that inspiration into gear.
Throwing on a simple melody on top... it still might not sound like anything special. Though with a little of the right reverb and perhaps just one additional percussive element - it transforms.
Repeatedly, I've been finding how persisting just another three feet, something average can be morphed into something captivating.
And carrying on just a few more steps, it becomes clear:
The goldmine was there the whole time. It just needed some primary surveying to find the right starting point, and a certain minimum of time and energy to probe deeper to uncover the fundamental elements with which to fuse into the workable formula for extracting the gold.
So, now the question becomes:
What goldmine are you sitting on?
What process must you undergo to persist that three feet, in the extraction of your treasure...?