8 things that keep us from getting better, Part 1

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Mistake number one:
Biting of more than you can chew

Because we humans are impatient by nature, we tend to bite of more than we can chew. This is quite normal, but it is not an effective strategy. We suddenly decide to loose weight and since it has to happen now rather than later, we go for a 20 mile run. Then one of two things happen: Etiher we actually run the 20 miles, but because or body isn't ready for that kind of work, we have to lay down for a week or two afterwards. Or, we give up half way and conclude that we just don't have the self discipline we need. Either way we don't get the result we wanted.

The same thing happens when we practice. We get excited about practicing, then we take on too big of a challenge and when we don't see any measurable progress after 3 hours of work, we give up. This is also where we begin to tell ourselves that we probably don't have the talent, the fingers, the time, the need or the money for that kind of practice! Trying to bite of more than you can chew can be a supper destructive habit.

"Character is forged in the smallest of struggles. Then, when the big challenges come, we’re ready"

Waiter Rant

Mistake number two:
Taking on challenges that are too small and uninspiring

But doing the complete opposite is also a disaster! In an atempt to "start of with something easy" we chose exercises that are super boring and uninspiring. The word alone can make me fall asleep very quickly: "Exercise". What charaterises and exercise is that it isn't real music. It's an "exercise" in playing music. I've met so many people who played for a year or two and what they where the most skilled at was, exercises... I recommend something completely different:

Take on something impossible! Go for it! But it's got to be ultra inspiring and exciting. It's got to be something that you would really, really, really like to play. Something that awakes your passion and pushes you to stay up late and practice. The secret is to take that mountain of indescribable coolness and magic, and chop it up into small peices that you can handle one by one. When you learn each challenge it will give you a burst of pleasure and pride that motivates you to take on the next little thing. Then you'll put the two together and start building the that's-totally-impossible-to-play-lick brick by brick.

Mistake number three:
Thinking that fast players have some kind of special talent

Trust me on this one: touching other through music might require som inborn talent, but technical skills does not! This is the magical secret behind any skill "Do it a lot of times" there's of course more to it than that, but that's the basics of mastering anything. And it doesn't take an Einstein to do something "a lot of times". Try this little exercise if you doubt what I'm saying: Brush your teeth with your left hand... it makes you feel like an imbecile! And you look like one too! - Oh, so your right hand must have a lot of special talent since it's able to perform those movements so efortlesly right? I guess not...

When I started getting serious about playing guitar back in the eighties I was convinced that Paul Gilbert was an alien. How else could he play with such machine gun like precision?! I'm still impressed by his accuracy but I've come a lot closer to his skill level since. And as you approach the skill level of your favorite player, the magic wears of a little. The magic you youself posses doesn't seem so magical anymore.

This lick can be a little difiicult to get your mind around at first, but once you have it down, you can play it forever. It becomes quite effortless. Stay on the G and B string in the beginning, then move on to the E string when it feels comfortable.

While it's good to have leaders and someone we can look up to, it can be a destructive element if we tell ourselves that, that person has inborn abilities that we don't have. This will sabotage your progress more than anything else. Because every time you hit a big challenge your brain will have that loop whole that says: I'm probably not that talented anyway. - And as you believe so is it done unto you.

"Whether you believe you can't or not, in either case, you are probably right"

Henry Ford

Mistake number four:
Overestimating how long time it takes to develop the skills

If you practice smart and consistently, and you follow the principles described in these articles, you can learn the most incredible things in weeks. Provided that you chunk things into bite sized pieces. When I first started out I didn't know the bridge from the nut, but I would take a couple of 6 or 8 note licks and practice them consistenly for 4 weeks in a row. I would practice other things as well, but I would start out with these two licks. I would play them whenever I had as chance to do it, even if it was only for two minutes. By focusing on these very small entities and being extremely consistent and persistent I managed to gain the skill level of my idol in weeks. Limited to those two little licks of course, but that was so motivating: Within four weeks I was able to say "I can play as fast as Paul gilbert guys" and it was true!

Anyway, 95 % of what I can do to day I learned in two years. It does not take half a life time to become a master shredder but if you believe it will, you'll be right! Or rather, you won't ever develop the skills because who feels motivated to practice if you think you'll recieve your reward for practicing in twenty years?!