When I was a teenager I went on a summer backpacking trip in Colorado. We took five days of hiking to get to the top of the mountain and when we were almost to the top the trail crossed a highway and parking lot. Taking the long, slow, difficult path to the top had the payoff of a view like nothing I had ever experienced driving through the mountains and stopping at the scenic overlooks with my family. It was the journey that made the destination singular.
When I got interested in meditation years later I talked to a friend about different stages of enlightenment and he said he'd already visited all stages with psychedelics years ago. He definitely wasn't enlightened but I don't doubt he experience some epiphany and bliss temporarily. I guess you can either meditate for 20 years to train your mind towards enlightenment or you can take some psychedelics and get there in 5 minutes. The main difference is, when you meditate for 20 years, once you reach enlightenment you have the discipline and mental fortitude to stay there. When you take psychedelic drugs you're just simulating enlightenment and bound to crash back down to earth.
Music is very similar to these psychedelic drugs and hiking examples. If you take short cuts you can still get some measure of success if you're in the right place at the right time but it's not sustainable and it's not a complete high. Patience is an important virtue to keep in mind with anything you pursue in life and the best things take time. Love at first sight is a beautiful thing, but seeing love after 50 years is sublime.
Recently, I had the pleasure to play a fantastic bar in a town of about 500 people in eastern Nebraska. The food was fantastic, the place was packed, and the people loved the music and were very welcoming. Towards the end of my set a country gentlemen with a large beer in his hand came up and patted me on the back to let me know that he was incredibly inspired and loved the music. He looked me straight in the eye and with honesty oozing from his eyes said, "you were the absolute BEST...amateur I've ever seen!"
This compliment was a great reminder that I'm still on the path to the top of the mountain but that I'm making good progress. The last few years, I've taken a lot of time going the slow way up one step at a time and trying to keep faith I'll get above the trees eventually with smart disciplined work, patience, good questions, and a heart that stays true.
The "best amateur" compliment is also a good reminder that everything is relative and always will be. That means, no matter how old you are, or how good you are at what you are passionate about, it's never too late to get on the trail and start making your way up. You don't have to go to the top of Mt. Everest to hit a few breathtaking scenic overlooks on your hike.