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The art of committing oneself to any field one pursues, be it art, science, entrepreneurship, or career, has some of the best parallels in sport. Sport is one field where rising to the top and staying there requires one to continually stay disciplined every day. If you do something every day, it gets easier and harder. Easier because you get better at the thing.

Buzz Williams, the current basketball coach of Texas, who has one of the best win percentages in NCAA history, would often say this to his team: “Practice proves who’s an Every Day Guy. And if you’re not an Every Day Guy, it doesn’t mean we love you less, it just means you’re going to have to sit over there on the side. You must be Every Day … There’s no, ‘We’ll do it tomorrow.’ No. We’re doing it today…You gotta do it every day. And if you can’t do it every day, then you’re going to struggle because it is every day.”

In this article, we write about Harry Belafonte, who dropped out of high school at 17, enlisted in the Navy, served during World War II, and was honorably discharged in 1945. With help from the GI Bill and the little bit of money he was making as a janitor, Belafonte took acting classes at a drama school in New York City. Aside from a few school productions, for years Belafonte struggled to land roles.

He was often rejected during auditions, as the casting directors did not have any roles for him. He was told, “Nothing we’re doing has any Negro roles.” In 1948, Belafonte auditioned for a stage production of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, another predominantly white cast. After meeting Belafonte, the director made up an unnamed character to ‘fit him in’—call it luck, chance, destiny, or because he just showed up. This made-up entity would simply sing songs to give the stagehands more time during set changes. Interestingly, Belafonte accepted this role. Though it was not the ideal role for him or the role he wanted, Belafonte showed up every day. He stayed till the end and ensured he made his presence felt in every way possible.

One night, in the crowd, there were a few jazz musicians from The Royal Roost, a jazz club not far from the theater. The jazzmen were not there to watch the play; if anything, they were there to listen to music. They were blown away by Belafonte’s singing. Afterward, they suggested that he start singing at the Roost. “I’m not a singer,” Belafonte told them. “What you saw me do was acting. It just happened to involve singing.” Still, they introduced Belafonte to the Roost’s manager, who agreed to let Belafonte come back another night to sing during the intervals between one act packing up their instruments and the next setting up theirs.

On that night, after the first act finished, Belafonte stepped to the microphone and got the nervous shakes, dry mouth, and sweaty palms. “I almost bolted,” he writes. “And then something very odd happened, something I remember as vividly today as when it happened more than sixty years ago.” Behind Belafonte, four musicians—saxophonist Charlie Parker, bassist Tommy Potter, drummer Max Roach, and pianist Al Haig—had picked up their instruments and began playing. Belafonte turned around, “and Al gave me a little nod and a smile…I couldn’t believe it. Four of the world’s greatest jazz musicians had just volunteered to be the backup band for a twenty-one-year-old singer no one had ever heard of, making his debut in a nightclub intermission.”

This legendary quartet, Belafonte would later say, “launched me into a world from which I never looked back.” He received an ovation after that first intermission set and became an Every Day Guy at the Roost—after a twenty-one-week run there, Belafonte signed with a record label and went on to become one of the most successful and influential recording artists of the 20th century, releasing hit albums like Calypso (the first album by a single artist to sell over 1 million copies), winning three Grammys, and using his platform to publicly contribute to the civil rights movement and his financial resources to do so in a more quiet, behind-the-scenes way.