When I was a young kid I pretty much knew one thing. I wanted to travel the world and play music. I wanted to play on huge stages with hundreds of Fresnel lights focused on the stage, full on concert sound reinforcement systems and, most importantly, I wanted to perform in front of thousands of screaming fans. I knew that to do that I would have to travel. And traveling to me meant flying in airplanes. Not that I enjoyed flying all that much, but I did love the idea that you could go to the airport, go through security, board the plane and in a few hours you would be a completely different part of the country or maybe even an altogether different country.
Now, in my mind if I wanted something to happen I had to visualize what it felt like to actually do it. This is also guaranteed to give the unenlightened people around you plenty of ammunition to derail your efforts. No matter how many times I said, “Yeah, but, you have to change your thinking first before you see the proof that it’s working” most of my 17 year old friends thought, “Man, that’s just Tommy. He believes all that bullshit.” I think I bought a hundred paperback copies of the classic 1937 Napoleon Hill self-improvement book, “Think And Grow Rich” just to hand out to the non-believers. “Look guys, it’s all in the book!” I knew at an early age that you are responsible for what you do and say. You are absolutely not responsible for whether someone else thinks you are wacky or not. It all made perfect sense to me. Plus, I had nothing to lose.
I know now that you have to change your thinking first, then the path will reveal itself. Back then I was pretty unsure of how to actually put those ideas into practice. Believing in the not-yet-seen was one of the most difficult concepts for me to wrap my long blond haired head around. Acting as if. Fake it until you make it. So, in my 17 year-old underdeveloped and over-excited brain I thought; I’ll go to Miami International Airport [I lived in Miami at the time] and walk around the airport visualizing that I was on tour and this was just another airport in just another city on the tour. Of course, this was 1974 and you could have long hair, torn jeans and an earring, walk continuously around the airline terminal of an International Airport, without luggage, and no one would give you a second look. We would even buy music magazines to carry around with us to enhance the adventure. I would usually recruit a friend to go off on these exercises with me. Usually it would be a band mate. I would explain my reasoning and plead my case that this was one of the techniques used by very successful people to train their brains to keep their thoughts directed on the goal. I would walk around the airport concentrating on what it would feel like to be on a phenomenally successful world tour. I could usually enlist someone as long as I drove and paid for parking.
So, there we were sashaying through the airport. I was convinced this was important. It seemed to me like it was just as easy to believe that you can choose your own reality. And if you are going to choose how you perceive your own reality why would you choose anything other than the Rock Star you know you are.
I have to admit that I had forgotten all about those trips to the Miami airport until I had an epiphany. It was July 3rd 2008. We were had just landed in Heathrow airport after playing the night before at the Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy in Paris, France. We arrived aboard the Iron Maiden Private jet [dubbed Ed Force One after Maiden’s mascot Eddie] and touched down at Heathrow in the middle of the day. The next step was to leave the airplane and get in the queue for Customs and Immigration. We had been through Heathrow Immigration so many times we were on a first name basis with most of the inspectors, “Alright, Mate? You back again? I see your still wearing that naff leather coat.”
There are usually two lines, one for UK/EU citizens and one for everyone else. We had been on tour non-stop at this point for about four months. The Paris show was the 44th gig in that run. So, needless to say we had been through this exact process many times before. Myself and the other “foreigners” queued up in the appropriate place. I was standing next to Sam Dunn from Banger Films. Sam and his crew were on board to document this historic tour. They were awesome people and also Canadian [hence the reason Sam was in my queue.] We all had assigned seating on Ed Force One and Sam was right across the isle from me, so we had spent a lot of time discussing music, family, how the English guys can always find an Irish pub anywhere in the world and other important matters. Sam and I are waiting our turn to be interviewed by the Heathrow Immigration officer and we are discussing how we are going to spend our day off in London. Sam explains he will be working. Of course, he has editing or budgeting or something else of equal importance to the documentary filmmaking operation. Just as I am a couple of people away form my turn it dawns on me – “Wait…. I am here!!” Sam looks at me says something like,
“Well, yes you are.” “No, I mean I made it. This was what I was envisioning!” I exclaimed.
Nothing like being smashed into by a freight-lorry full of “fuck-yes!!” I went on to explain to Sam that I used to walk around my local airport in Miami to try to recreate the feeling I was having right then. I could not believe it. I had been so busy actually doing what I had envisioned that I did not realize that I had absolutely made it happen. I was completely astounded. I didn’t even wait around for Sam to acknowledge what I was talking about.
Why didn’t I recognize it before? I had been in that very same travel situation hundreds of times before and it had never occurred to me. I immediately thought to myself, “Why did it work? Did it work? Was it just coincidence?” It did make sense to me that my thoughts and beliefs shaped my reality and if I wanted to change my reality I had to alter my thoughts and beliefs. I knew I needed to do something different than everyone around me was doing. I had to find the patterns and strategies that those who were getting the results I wanted to get were using. I knew that I had to put the time in to do the work of being the best musician I could be, but I knew that wasn’t all it took. Some of the best musicians I knew were not getting anywhere near the amount of success they should be achieving just by having outstanding musical skills.
Understanding the patterns of excellence, The Strategies Of Superiority, and implementing them until you reach unconscious competence with them is one of the ways you can learn to “run your brain”. The world you have created is a result of your thinking. If you want to change that world you have to change your thinking.
Photo by John McMurtrie w/ Randy Gregg in the background