Dima Pavlenko

How Playing The Drums Taught Me To Develop Sturdy Habits And More Sales

Neil Peart, John Bonham, Stewart Copeland and Phil Collins made a living rattling the rims and banging the top heads (all drummer-speak). These were by far some of my favorite drummers. All had one thing in common. They were really good at their craft.

I was a drummer from very early on. 3rd grade to be exact. My first set was a Sears special. Cheap and replaceable. My friends and I decided to start a rock band. Well, mainly air band. We chose to emulate KISS for some reason. They were big at the time and it was cool to look like the characters in the group. I knew drumming was for me even at such a young age.

My first real set was a Tama kit which I received on Christmas morning. I was in the 4th grade. My parents didn’t know what they were getting into. I played all morning. Focusing only on the glitter of the set and the sound it made. This was it for me. I was going to be a rockstar.

Very soon after, my parents realized this was not a passing fad. I was serious about the drums. But it was still in the cool phase for me. So, my parents scheduled private drum lessons for me. They hired an experienced teacher who was adept at all aspects of the drum set. He was the real thing.

My first lesson was disappointing. Why? Because he had me go right to the basics. But I wanted to jam! The basics of drumming are called the rudiments. There are generally anywhere between 26–40 rudiments. But there are many more. From flams to paradiddles to flamadiddles. (hard not to laugh at these names). I was handed a book and asked to practice the first few rudiments. It was tedious and no fun. But in his evil genius way, he was deconstructing drumming for me into its most basic form.

After decades of playing the drums, here are some of the lessons I learned when developing habits.

It Helps If You Love What You Do

I was passionate about drumming. Everything about it. In sales, I would never expect people to be as passionate about their careers as I was about drumming. But there are certain aspects that get people fired up about their sales careers. In sales, it’s possible to be passionate about helping people, helping them achieve an impact in their lives that would not have been possible otherwise and serving others. Learning skills is always possible when you’ve got a foundation and love for what you do. AND having that love and passion will get through the boredom and tediousness.

Celebrate the End Result but Love the Process

The process sucks sometimes. I hated the rudiments. I wanted to go right to jamming and creating rock and roll. But in order to get to someone who could play like Neal Peart (ha ha), I needed to practice the right things and in the right order. I learned to appreciate the process and be completely focused on it. Dreaming and fantasizing about becoming the best drummer in the world was not serving me anymore. Don’t get me wrong. I still had those goals but did not make it the end all, be all. You have to appreciate the process, love the process, immerse yourself in it. It’s hard to get to our desired result when we’re not even giving the process a chance.

High Performance Takes Time

As Gary Vaynerchuk says, patience is one of the most underrated things going. When I first started drumming, it was hard to stay focused because I was the epitome of impatience. Of course, I was young and immature. But in my mind, I was already there. A successful rock star drummer. Patience has to be learned. It’s not something we are born with. Our culture is all about immediate gratification. The media and advertisers figured this out a long time ago. Our nature is being reinforced by our culture.

I remember when my mother put me in time out for 30 minutes. You want to talk about exercising your patience muscle! Train your brain. Take the time to focus on the right things and know that you are becoming better at what you do every day. Inch by inch.

Get a Player/Coach

I didn’t realize the importance of a good teacher at age 10. How could I? I trusted that my parents would make the best decisions for me. Having a teacher was great. But having a teacher who actually played was invaluable. Did you ever have a teacher in college who taught business but never actually ran a business or even worked in business? It’s one thing to be able to communicate book material. It’s another to show someone how to successfully do something. I needed to see and hear a great paradiddle. My drum teacher was able to do that. But he also kept me honest and accountable. He asked me the same question every week — “Did you practice the lesson?” He always knew the answer? Sometimes I didn’t practice because I thought I could breeze through the lesson without being noticed. NOT! In sales and in other performance professions, having the right coach can help you make massive gains in your performance.

Once You Learn the Basics, Don’t Stop There

To become really good at something, you have to start at the beginning. Learn the fundamentals. Once you master those, keep learning. In drumming, there was a lot more to learn. Reading music was a tough one for me at first. It’s one thing to read music for the snare drum. But it was something entirely different when I had to read for the complete drum set — snare, high hat, tom-toms, base drum, crash cymbals, etc. Learning should be a lifelong endeavor. Look at sales. There is always a new technology or new skill that must be learned. If you don’t, you’ll get left behind.

Reach Peak Flow State

Creating the right habits and skills over a long period of time will get you to a flow state otherwise not previously achievable. I practiced the drums all the time. But I practiced the right things. And when you master critical skills, you move from a conscious state to a more sub-conscious state (or automatic stage). That means, when put in a position to use certain skills, you automatically leverage them when needed without conscious thought. That assumes you are free from distraction. This is where the magic happens. Where the fun really kicks in. You make it look easy to those around you. I used to watch Michael Jordan leap through the air and score an obscene amount of points in a game. He made it look easy. But it was because of all those years practicing the right things over and over.


Andy Carlton helps salespeople and sales teams become top performers. He has the accolades to prove it: over $55M in contracts, part of one of the fastest growing companies in the country as cited by INC Magazine, for 4 consecutive years, launched a marketing SaaS platform that was awarded Cisco Innovation Award, and sold to some of the most prominent CEO’s for the first ecommerce marketplace in commercial internet history. Andy’s mission is clear: to remove the mistakes of the overworked and stressed-out sales culture and replace it with one based on intention, wellness and healthy motivation. This has led to top performers who love what they do and get the highest results without brutal sales training tactics nor 12-hour daily grinds.

Stay tuned for my Sales Summit in July. Follow me on LinkedIn.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store