So one of the challenges and frustrations that I’ve been encountering from a lot of players lately is the feeling and the sense that they’ve been playing for a certain period of time and they should be a better player than they currently are.
And given the amount of time and practice they put in, they should belong somewhere other than exactly where they belong right now.
This is a completely understandable thing. It’s a really frustrating thing to be playing the guitar year after year, barely see any progress and sometimes feel like you’ve regressed.
You can look at the player that you used to be like, “man, what happened to that? Where did I go? How did I end up here?” You know, what a pickle; what a bind.
I can definitely relate with that. My wrists, because of the tendinitis, they kind of just give up sometimes and I’ll go prolonged periods of time… this last summer I couldn’t play for about three months. That was a bummer.
And I definitely lost some progress. I hopped back on the guitar and I was like, man, put in a lot of work to get where I was and I have to put that work back in.
So I know what it feels like to even look back and say, “I used to be better than I am today.”
I definitely know what it feels like to feel like I should be a better player than I am.
There’s this song that I’ve been working on, my brother orchestrated it. He’s the one that I usually collaborate with and I’ve been working on that thing for I think four years now. And I’ve rewritten the intro and the verse, the first verse, something like a dozen times.
It’s probably been more than that, but it was a dozen solid takes that were actually contenders for what the final product would be and just over and over again, I just gave up.
I threw up my hands and said, said, this is not what it could be. This is not what it should be.
Given my current capability, given where I should be with how long I’ve been playing the guitar, given the following that I have and the people that are interested in my music, the fans that I have given to the people that I’ve instructed, the thousands of students that I’ve worked with…
It’s just like, I shouldn’t be better than this. Something better has to come out of me. And it’s frustrating. It’s really frustrating. I get my own way whenever I think about it.
But what I’ve come to realize is the more varied your experiences. The more likely it is that what you bring to the table will be interesting.
So it’s less about looking at, am I a good guitar player? Am I where I belong as a guitar player?
And more about looking at, what do I bring to the table that I could add to my guitar playing?
What other skills do I have––from the mundane to the magnificent––you know, you might’ve been a bus boy at Outback Steakhouse like I was.
You might have some experience and background in Sales or Customer Service or these things that seem completely unrelated to the guitar. How can you apply that to the guitar itself?
Because ultimately we only have so much time where we can play the guitar. And if we don’t harness and leverage the other experiences of our lives to inform our guitar playing and our writing and our skill acquisition and our practice, and the way that we learn… Then we’re missing out on more than half of our life.
And the guitar can be deeply edified by this.
And I’ve learned that in particular over the last couple of years, there’s all this stuff about how to learn and the accelerated acquisition of skill and creativity and learning to express yourself fully on the instrument. All these different things that I’ve learned throughout the years applied to other areas of my life.
I decided, you know, this could easily be applied to the guitar. Let’s do it. Let’s put it all in into this. Instead of keeping them isolated as if music is a separate thing than business, as if academia is a separate thing than music, you can use all of it, draw from it to create something different, to interweave your own unique contribution to the tapestry of human experience.
And it’s a nice inoculation against the persistent sense that I am somewhere other than where I should be. I feel suddenly at ease. At home. And it doesn’t last forever.
There’s always going to be frustrations and challenges and bumps in the road, that caused me to feel less than I am currently being, but it’s a powerful thing to consider.
In the wise words of Tara Broch, she said, “what would it be like to say ‘yes’ to the life that’s here?”
Let that sink in just for a second. What would it be like to say “yes” to the life that’s here? What if you’re exactly where you belong? You just haven’t taken the time to harness all of your varied experiences, apply them to the guitar.
Synthesize it to create something singular and unique that could only come through you.
That’s what’s possible. That’s in the cards, and you don’t necessarily have to be the player that you imagine yourself to be in order to do this. Sometimes the player that you imagined yourself to be needs to be revised in light of your life’s experience and what you can actually bring to the table.
I find a lot of peace in that. It’s a lot more fulfilling. My practice sessions and my creativity sessions are much more productive. I’ve come to fall in love with the instrument again.
I find joy in playing the guitar instead of just being frustrated thinking that I shouldn’t be something that I’m not, and maybe it’ll be useful to you as well.
I hope it serves you well. Talk soon.