Feed the beast and make your passion a priority

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The final Malmsteen lesson

In this last article in this series, I would like to bring your attention to the obvious. From my perspective Malmsteen has one final lesson to teach us mortals and it revolves around the concept of passion. Most of us start out in life with a lot of hope, enthusiasm and passion. But as the years go by we find ourselves with an increasing amount of responsibilities and “stuff” that clutters up our lives. Every new choice and achievement brings with it more stuff to handle or take care of. In the end, being passionate and curious becomes the last thing we focus on. We’re so busy making a living that we forget completely to design our life the way we want it.

Give it first priority

But there is another way. We can give passion a first priority in our life and then have everything else revolve around that. Instead of being frustrated and stressed about not having enough time for what we really want to do, we can put what’s really most important in the place it deserves. It’s not always easy to do, but it’s always possible.

Have you lost control?

The reason why I’m bringing this up is because I hear so many people say that they don’t have an hour a day for practice. Their time is consumed by studying, a job, or family responsibilities. But is it really true that Intelligent and capable adults can’t have one hour a day for themselves? One hour out of 16 available hours in a day! Think about it for a moment. What’s really going on here? You know for sure that your life is out of control when you can’t seem to find an hour a day for yourself. The more I think about it the more absurd it seems to be. But trust me, I’ve been there my self so I’m not pointing fingers.

Resistance from other people

The fact is we are in control and we can create that time to practice every day, but we have to make that choice. And when we do, everything else seems to fit in after all. You might experience quite a lot of resistance from people who want your time and attention, but when you start being very clear about your priorities, other people will follow gradually. When you’ve moved through this period of change you’ll wonder why you didn’t make this choice years ago.

Being true to what matters

The times has changed many times since the long haired heavy rock eighties. But Yngwie has not. He plays the same music, wears almost the same clothes and does the same things he did back then. Though he has been accused of everything from being arrogant to full of himself you cannot accuse him of being anything but true to what he loves to do. I can’t look into his brain and tell what’s going on in there, but from what I can see by his actions and his statements, he decided a long time ago that music was his first priority.

What’s a priority?

But what does that mean? It means that what ever job you have, though you might enjoy it very much, you have it so that you can finance your musical activities and your life. And it also means that if your job gets in the way of playing music, it doesn’t serve its purpose anymore. It means that every choice you make is made considering it’s positive or negative consequences with regards to you guitar playing. Whether it’s buying a new house, applying for a new job, getting a new car. What ever it is, you ask yourself “Is this going to help or hurt my passion for playing guitar?” - It might also mean that you’re constantly looking for ways to support yourself by playing music, selling music, teaching music, writing about music, working for other musicians or doing something that relates to your passion.

Do you need to take charge?

What new decision could you make right now that could bring more passion into your life immediately? What creative ideas could you come up with that could increase the amount of time you spend with your favorite instrument? Do you need to take charge of your time and claim that extra hour a day? Or maybe you can find two hours?

The foundation for everything else

What does it do to the quality of your life when you choose to play guitar a lot? What happens inside of you? When we build our lives around passion instead of having passion be the last thing we make time for, we create that base level of happiness and satisfaction that we can then bring to all other areas of our life. Everything in your life benefits from this choice. Though people might say they don’t want you to spend that much time on yourself, they really don’t know what they are missing out on if you don’t.

Feed the beast

If you are unable to find a secure place for what ignites your inner passion, you have no chance of developing the skills you want. I’ve had a lot of people come to me saying that they just realized how much they really wanted to become a great guitar players. I’ve seen the passion and excitement in their eyes, but I’ve also seen it die again when they didn’t feed that passion well enough. Passion is like an animal that needs food. And it’s food is time. If you don’t give your passion enough time, it dies on you. For some people it becomes an inner rotting corpse that ruins their lives from within. It becomes the inner longing for something more, for something greater than merely making a living.

Hidden Neo Classical Run

The reason why I call this lick "hidden" is that I have heard Yngwie use it a lot of times, but I've never seen it transcribed anywhere. Yngwie uses alternate picking for this because it's very hard to play with economy picking. A very useful lick that I'm sure you can find many applications for.

Stay out or win it back

If you’re relatively young and don’t have many commitments and responsibilities yet, then I hope this article will inspire you to make some intelligent choices and to stay out of the trap so many of us fall into. If you feel you’re already in that trap, decide to make some small but important changes today. Win back some land. You don’t have to go all the way instantly to make a difference. Make a short list of simple actions you can take to make more room for what’s important to you. But do it now, this minute. Don’t put it off. If you do, chances are you’ll get caught up in some other thing and forget about it.

How to create more time

Go to your employer and ask him or her what you need to do to work less while earning the same. Don’t ask for a raise, ask for more time. Look at your budget, and see if you can cut down on some expenses. The less expenses you have the less money you have to bring in every month and the more time you can create for your self. Ask your girlfriend, boyfriend or spouse what you would have to do for him or her in return for an hour for yourself every day. Could you take a full day off every or every other month to practice?

Take the first action

It’s not important whether or not your actions bring you all the way or not, just act. Take the first step. Then when everyone has grown accustomed to the changes, take another step, and then another. Gradually you will win back what was lost and build a life founded on passion instead of necessity and strain.

Be creative

Most people dismiss this idea right away. “If I could find more time I would have already” they say and forget that we often don’t see the opportunities we have right in front of us. We are so focused on “what needs to be done” that we don’t see all that’s possible for us. Try this simple game to loosen up your mind a bit: Imagine yourself one year from now, having found all the time you need to practice and become the guitar player you want to become. Imagine that you are where you want to be ideally. Then figure out how things became that way. How did you do it? What changes did you make? Write the story starting from the end all the way back to the present moment. In other words, ask yourself this: “If I have achieved this one year from now, how would I have achieved it?”

Open the gift every day

I’m not saying that we should all quit our jobs, grow our hair and start playing guitar full time no matter what. The point is to remain in close contact with the exciting, passionate part of ourselves, and to nurture it by scheduling time for it. Everything in this universe serves a purpose, even when we can’t figure out what it is. The drive you have towards becoming a better guitar player also serves a purpose. Honor it, take it seriously, it’s a gift.