As a matter of fact, I shamelessly ripped off the title and substituted “guitar player” for “blogger”.
It was just too perfect.
The post in question is written by Michael Hyatt, a top blogger in the field of leadership. His latest post hit my inbox just one day after a conversation with an adult student who was having a tough time.
As I was reading his article, I kept substituting the mental battles we face as guitar players for Michael’s blogging experience. In my head, I was agreeing, “Yes, yes…and YES again!”
And this article was born.
The Right Mindset
My student is in the midst of a war that all guitarists wage. It’s the battle with the three-headed monster of negativity.
Negativity will do nothing but sabotage your efforts. Do we all get frustrated? Sure. We all want to learn faster and we all want the learning curve to go ever upward. But it doesn’t work that way.
Instead we ride a plateau for a while and then get a little bump up. Then we do it again. It’s called being human.
But because we’re human, we have those little voices in our heads telling us all the things we can’t do or shouldn’t do and why it’ll never work. In his brilliant book, The War of Art, author Steven Pressfield calls this negative chatter “resistance”. Nothing great can be accomplished unless we battle that noise every day and every step of the way.
[Tweet “Your guitar success is largely dependent on your ability to tune out negative chatter”]
So with the help of Pressfield and Michael Hyatt, I’m going to detail the three-headed monster of negativity and give some tips on how to do battle like a guitar player. An awesome guitar player.
“I Don’t Have Time for This”
Time is at a serious premium for adult students. But to play guitar well, you obviously have to carve out some time to work on your craft.
So when a student tells me that she just can’t seem to find time for her guitar practice, I help her determine the minimum commitment that she can make on a regular basis.
Nobody will claim that they can’t find at least 10-15 minutes per day for guitar practice. But most students are unaware that that can often be enough, at least to get started. It doesn’t have to require loads of time. It just takes a small concentrated effort consistently applied.
Now that you’ve carved out the time, it’s important that you know how to use it wisely. Ask yourself, “How efficient is my guitar practice?”
Efficiency is all about getting the most done with the least time or effort. This requires that you understand your musical priorities and make sure to hit those things first. Michael Hyatt calls this “clarity about the essentials”. My post on taking your playing to the next level will give you some ideas about the essential guitar skills and knowledge.
The bottom line: If you’re like most people, you play guitar for a hobby. Therefore you should put in the time that you can and be happy with it. There is no need to give up and bail out just because life gets busy.
“I Don’t Know How To Do This”
Never lose sight of the fact that none of us know what to do in the beginning stages of our guitar journey. But the discovery is the most powerful part of the learning process.
It amazes me that students will still say “I don’t know how” when:
- We have been over the material more than once.
- They have a folder of paperwork from previous lessons on their music stand.
- They have the Internet at their fingertips.
- Their teacher is but a text, call or email away.
With all of this at their disposal, they will still say, “I don’t know how.”
I realize that many of you will say this screams “laziness”, and to a large extent, it does. If you really want something – and you have resources to aid you – then just get after it already.
But it also screams “I don’t pay attention.”
And if you know anything about being awesome on guitar, you know that the greatest thing you can bring to the party is your ability to pay strict attention. It is critical for solving problems.
Finally, “I don’t know how” may be symptomatic of paralysis by analysis. When the options seem overwhelming or when the student is afraid to make the wrong choice, she will make no choice at all.
It’s true that there is a lot of stuff to contend with if we want to be a good guitarist. But it doesn’t have to be overwhelming; just tackle your guitar practice incrementally, one riff, one chord, one strum at a time.
“I Don’t Have What It Takes”
This is a tough one, because it speaks to our perceptions of our own talent, intelligence, and ability to learn. Understanding that you are not uniquely challenged in this – that every player, no matter how advanced, has questioned their talent – should help a bit. Unfortunately, it’s quite normal.
Practicing the guitar is such a solitary endeavor that it can often feel like we’re the only ones who forget the B7 chord or screw up the fingering on a major scale. But quitting before the whistle blows, as Michael Hyatt puts it, is a sure-fire way to cheat yourself.
You’ll never know how well you could have done if you bail out when the going gets tough. And we all know what happens when the going gets tough, right?***
Allow me to share one of my favorite quotes, by Calvin Coolidge, 30th President of the United States:
“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”
You heard the man – dig in and dare to be awesome.
Even though Michael Hyatt’s blog is about leadership, he actually references learning to play the guitar in this post! I took it as a sign from above. 😉 So be sure to check out his blog. It’s unfailingly positive and offers some great insights on leadership and life. And apparently guitar.
***I’m going to assume that there is at least one person reading this who doesn’t know what I’m referring to. It’s “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Word.
QUESTION: Are you battling one of these negative thoughts? How have you learned to manage it? Leave me a comment below!