(Or Any Other Skill Development or Creative Endeavor)
Are one of these six powerful forces (or emotions) killing your progress on the guitar?
I’m not immune to these six forces, and I’ve never met anyone who is…
I know what it’s like to feel confused by the guitar.
To learn one thing from one expert and feel like I’m on track….
…But then another expert I look up to recommends the exact opposite thing.
They might even actively warn me against the advice I received from someone else that I trust.
What am I supposed to do with those competing opinions?
Why are there no clear, black-and-white answers?
Surely, after all of these years of humans playing the guitar and instructing others, there are hard-and-fast rules we can all agree on, right?
I thought I was holding my pick correctly this whole time…
…but it turns out the way the side of my thumb is dragging along the strings is cutting my speed in half, and causing arthritis (on top of the tendinitis I already have!)
With all of this competing noise, I start to doubt myself and want to give up.
I know what it’s like to be wracked with self-doubt about my guitar skills.
I second-guess everything.
In one moment, I feel so sure about what I’m doing, and even have confidence and hope about it.
…And the next, I feel like I was an idiot for being so naive.
The things I try don’t produce the results I expected.
Or I see some results, but can’t replicate it.
I do the exact same thing the next day and seem to move backwards instead of forward.
“Was the progress I made an illusion?”
“Should I give up on this dream entirely?”
Maybe I should face it: the window of opportunity to excel here is gone.
I need to admit defeat and move onto something else. After all, I’m not entitled to get what I want.
In moments like this… I feel stupid for even trying.
I know what it’s like to feel overwhelmed on the guitar.
To wonder: “What the heck am I supposed to focus on?”
My attention is scattered in every direction except the right one.
There are too many things on my plate, and far too little time.
There are more demands on my attention than I can remember. And the fact that I’m forgetting more and more of what those demands are only makes the sense of overwhelm worse.
There’s no way I’ll ever get caught up.
I’m treading water, barely getting meager gulps of air.
If this continues, I’ll be pulled under, and won’t even know what to blame as the cause of my drowning, because there’s too much to name.
I know what it’s like to feel hopelessly unmotivated.
I know what it feels like to wake up in the morning and to want to keep sleeping.
To know what a better version of myself would do, but refuse to do that thing (and almost even resent the idea in the first place).
It’s the feeling of being weighed down by gravity.
I have to get up to go to the bathroom, but even that is too much. I’ll take the risk of rupturing my bladder.
I can’t stand the thought of prying myself out of bed to face the day.
And the guitar?
Who the heck cares?
If I did all the practice in the world, I know I’d still get nowhere near where I want to be.
And even if I did, who would notice?
And even if someone noticed, what would be the point?
Would it pay the bills?
Would it prove to the world that I was worth something?
Would it finally lay to rest that ceaseless, nagging voice in the back of the brain that utterly insists that you are somehow incomplete, flawed, broken, or worse… worthless?
In those moments… somehow I doubt it.
I know what it’s like to feel frustrated with my guitar playing.
To play the same thing over and over again and notice that it still sounds like a mess.
I can press my fingers as hard as I can into the strings.
I can change my tone using the Axe-Fx all day long.
I can try, for the thousandth time, to mute the alarming amount of noise I’m making using the side of my picking hand.
There are still flat notes. There is still string buzz.
My dang pinky is still sticking out too high, like I’m holding a freakin’ teacup.
It can’t keep up with the others and makes my playing slow and out of sync.
I know what it’s like to focus all of my efforts on trying to dial in my timing, and I’m still rushing or dragging, like running a marathon blind-folded, desperate to keep up with the others in the race.
I’ve been practicing with a metronome for a decade and my timing is still so amateur that it seems even the metronome is going to walk out on me.
I know what it’s like to be bored out of my skull.
I’ve worked on the same exercises for ten years, and still can’t get them right.
The notes become a blurry mess. I’m staring down my fretboard, going through all of the motions, but I don’t feel a damn thing, and I’m beginning to lose the ability to hear what I’m playing because I’m being put to sleep.
I noodle for some uncountable amount of time, slack-jawed and mindless, playing the same unimaginative junk I’ve been playing since I was a teenager.
It’s disturbing how boring it is, and it’s all the more alarming that I keep doing it.
It’s no wonder a YouTube video of a far superior player is more appealing––and equally discouraging to watch.
It’s no wonder the notifications on my smartphone are so damn good at catching my attention.
I’ll take anything to pull me away from this unremitting, tediously monotonous boredom.
The point I’m making?
You’re not alone.
We’re in this together. Working with (or against) these six forces that deter or destroy our progress.
Some days will be harder than others.
Some days will require more grit, and there will be no grins for it in return for your efforts. You’ll just feel crummy about doing your practice, and won’t feel any better about it afterwards.
But the only way to get where you want to go is to put in the time with proper practice, regardless.
And when you do this, you’re in rare company.
In fact, in some ways, when you do this: you are alone.
You become an exception to the rule.
You become the trailblazer, forging ahead when everyone else is trailing behind or giving up.
You’re the one who is willing to practice even when you don’t want to, even when it doesn’t feel good, even when there seems to be no point in doing it.
And guess what?
You’re the one who will be disproportionally rewarded for doing so.
It’s easy to practice when you’re feeling good. When life is treating you right. When you’re motivated and hopeful and inspired.
Anyone can do that.
It’s the rarified few who sweat even when the world around them is pumping them full of so much doubt that they start to believe it.
Even when they doubt themselves, but they show up anyway.
It takes that kind of persistence and perseverance to be a Hendrix,
a Van Halen,
Whatever audacious vision you have for your life––be it extraordinary, ordinary, or anything in between––it’s yours if you’ve got the grit and guts to continue to go.
Continue to give it all of you’ve got, day after day, come hell or high water, come the full force of Confusion, Doubt, Overwhelm, Hopelessness, Frustration, or Boredom.
We’re in this together.
The only reason why I’ve ever gotten anywhere on the guitar is because of the Guitar Acceleration Methodology.
It’s my inoculation against the forces I just described.
It’s what keeps me going, regardless.
And it’s what ensures that my progress is inevitable, even on those days when I feel like the worst, most wretched thing to ever touch––nay, defile––the guitar.
I hope it serves you, as well.
One Reply to “The Six Forces That Can Kill Your Progress on the Guitar”
With self doubt, remembering where I came from is DEFINITELY a thought that gets neglected. Especially when I learned my first sweep picking pattern. That’s my strongest reference, because of the amount of deep focus that I was able to devote myself to, in a 3 hour time frame. Nonstop. And I still remember it to this day, a decade later. My flaw was not learning more shapes, etc…but in 3 hours, I was able to play that single sequence smooth, consistent, and clean. And a year later, I could play that shape anywhere on the fretboard, MUCH faster than I saw myself being able to. And thinking of all of this as I explained it, I now have a daily reminder to tell myself.
With being overwhelmed, I literally JUST yesterday, narrowed down my practice schedule organization, so that my soul, main focus goes into a single subject.
With motivation…personally, all of that has come into play for a while now, as you know about me. From my wreck, it made it obvious that there’s SOME kind of purpose for me still being here. When learning something on guitar took nothing for me to memorize a sequence, I allowed that to be defined as one of my purposes, and my purpose to stay motivated, is to have what it takes, the organization, and the skills and guidance to support myself with music.
For frustration, I’m currently, simply frustrated with myself for lack of timing control with rhythm. Specifically with my picking hand. That I’m now putting all primary focus into, because without rhythm timing control, I don’t “feel” the music as much as I should be able to. But nor will I ever ever accomplish my long term goals with guitar either.
For boredom…I don’t so much get bored with my practice. I have an understanding for sense of purpose for everything that I work to improve with.