There are five big barriers to learning guitar as an adult, and none of them is insurmountable.
But like so many sneaky little enemies, you have to know about them in order to beat them.
Thing #1: Bad Goals
Losers have goals. Winners have systems.” – Scott Adams
Bad Goal: Learn to play the guitar.
Good Goal: Spend 5 minutes each day for 100 days working on something challenging.
If your goal is to “learn to play the guitar,” then you’ve already lost. “Learn to play the guitar” is so incredibly vague, you can’t possibly know if you’re succeeding or not.
And even if you got more specific with it (“be able to play Wagon Wheel at an open mic”), you’re still not doing yourself any favors. Here’s why:
With a result-focused goal, even if you succeed, you will have spent most of your time as a failure.
With a process-based goal, you get the chance to win every single day. And winning feels awesome.
Choose a goal that you can accomplish every day.
Thing #2: Inconsistency
80 percent of success is showing up.” -Woody Allen
Once you’ve adjusted your goal so that it’s process-based, you need to focus on showing up every single day.
The best way I’ve found to do this is to keep track of your wins. This is the Jerry Seinfeld Don’t Break The Chain method. Here are three options for tracking your successes:
- get a year-on-one-page calendar & a big red marker. Hang the calendar on your wall, and put a big red X on every day that you practice.
- the Streaks app
One other thing here: keep the barrier to success low.
It’s so much more motivating to go 25 minutes over your 5-minute-a-day goal than it is to fall 30 minutes shy of your one-hour-a-day goal.
Thing #3: Finding Time
Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.” ― H. Jackson Brown Jr.
I understand: you have a job and a family, and these two things are in collusion to soak up any available free time you might have.
But if you don’t have time, it’s because you don’t have priorities.
No one is suggesting that you blow off your career & family obligations. But I would like to point out that these things didn’t prevent you from finding time to watch Breaking Bad in its entirety.
The trick here is to have a regularly scheduled time to practice. Maybe it’s 5 minutes in the morning while everyone else is still asleep.
You already know that–in order to learn guitar–you have to show up frequently, probably every day.
You also know that random chunks of free time never show up frequently, let alone every day.
Thing #4: Mistaking Playing For Practicing
When those random chunks of free time do show up, you’re going to want to spend them playing.
I imagine at least part of the reason you picked up guitar in the first place is to have fun and relieve stress in more rewarding ways than cocktails & television.
Which is all the more reason to schedule time for practicing. That is, doing the uncomfortable work of pushing outwards on the edges of your abilities.
The great paradox is that nothing will make PLAYING guitar more fun than putting in time PRACTICING the un-fun stuff.
Do the difficult getting-better stuff in your practice time, then fill in with some enjoyable playing time whenever you can sneak it in.
Thing #5: Unwillingness To Fail
I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” -Michael Jordan
I can’t tell you how many people I’ve taught who were so accustomed to success in their career lives that they just couldn’t get past the mental hurdle of putting in time on something they were still awful at.
School and work reward us for having the right answer, but success in most other endeavors is about showing up every single day and failing forward.
Don’t underestimate how difficult it can be to show up often and do battle with the very limits of your abilities.
It’s hard, but damn is it worth it.
If you haven’t read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Read it and you will be fully prepared for the battle ahead.
We’re all counting on you.