Charlie “Yardbird” Parker transformed himself from decent professional saxophone player into one of the most influential jazz musicians of the last 100 years. The change happened during a 10-month period, when Parker essentially dropped out of the scene and worked deeply on his craft.
By fully immersing himself in an environment that pushed his mastery, he reemerged on a path to becoming a legend.
During this period of transformation, Parker practiced relentlessly in an old woodshed in an open field. “Chopping wood” is now synonymous with doing the hard work of disciplined training. Today, jazz cats around the world refer to “hitting the woodshed” as a metaphor for study, practice and personal growth.
Artists often retreat to their studio, while famous authors may seek inspiration in nature. In each case, the creator removes herself from the daily grind in order to advance her craft and expand her art.
Regardless of your industry or profession, committing time to reinvention, creativity, and transformation can return big dividends. Most of us spend our days heads down in transactional work; checking off to-do items but rarely taking time to explore the possibilities. Scheduling regular time in your own version of the woodshed allows you to discover new patterns and drive meaningful gains. You don’t have to check out for months on end. A regular cadence of just a couple hours a week can be the difference between average and extraordinary. The more time you invest, the more your art will advance.
Nearly every type of work provides the opportunity to create art. A dental assistant can do the basics, or help transform smiles and ongoing hygiene through the art of patient engagement. A life insurance agent can push paper, or use their art to help clients craft a rewarding financial future. You needn’t paint, play an instrument, or perform interpretive dance to be an artist. Your art is in front of you, right in the context of your current role.
So the question becomes, how do we develop and expand our art? How do we make the biggest contribution and seize our full potential? Like the artists before us, dedicate time to building your chops and give yourself the freedom to creatively explore. Whether your place of inspiration is an art museum, library, studio, lab, or woodshed, the more time you invest in the zone of exploration and growth, the more progress you’ll enjoy.
Your woodshed is your place for discovery. A place to demystify complexities. Explore possibilities. Hone your craft. Look inward and outward. Break apart traditions and rebuild something fresh.
There’s just no substitute for hitting the ‘shed. The good news – you’ll find a small time investment will deliver profound rewards in return. Now is your time to chop wood. Your art awaits.