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Some Reasons For Not Reaching Your Goals
By Mike Philippov
As I mentioned in my article, natural talent is not the primary deciding factor in whether or not one can become a good or great musician. Yet this does not change the fact that there are many guitar players (and other musicians or even people in general) who are frustrated with their inability to improve and/or reach their goals. While there are certain things specific to musical training that make a world of difference in your musical ability, in this article I will present certain non-music related things that can hold many people back in their quest to attain musical mastery.
Not knowing WHAT you want
Why do you play guitar? What do you hope to achieve? Do you want to play in a band? Do you want to write songs and be a composer? Do you want to have great technique so you can play fast? Define for yourself what your unique and individual goals ARE. It is amazing how many people don't have a clue as to what they actually want to accomplish on the guitar, yet they dutifully play their instrument for hours every day and then wonder why they are not getting any better. It is quite simple really, if you don't know where you are going, how do you expect to get there?
Procrastination (delaying to take action)
This is the worst possible thing you can do. Procrastination is addicting because it is so EASY (and brings short term gratification). It is easy not to practice, it is easy not to think about your goals and how you will achieve them, it is easy to do nothing. Yet, doing nothing will bring no results! The worst possible thing you can do is fail to do ANYTHING! Doing SOMETHING is always better than doing nothing. However, if you know what your goals ARE (see above) it becomes easier to get motivated to get down to work because you can now look forward to reaching your goals with excitement. Your work/practice now has direction and with that progress will eventually come. Also, if you truly love playing the guitar, you will not have to force yourself to practice. Sure, discipline is required, but you discipline yourself because you are looking forward to the result (increased playing ability or whatever your goal is) not because practicing is some unpleasant chore you have to do. Think of practicing as something you need to do in order to get what you want. The higher the quality and quantity of your practice, the more results you will see. Of course all of us have fallen prey to procrastination at some point, but you can always change by taking action RIGHT NOW!
Okay I can already hear people complaining: "Don't talk to me about time management, I work and go to school, or I have a family to support etc..." Obviously, a lot of people lead very busy lives and many cannot dedicate multiple hours a day to practicing their instrument. However, it is also a surprising discovery how much of our time is constantly WASTED doing things that do nothing but steal your time while giving you nothing valuable in return. For example, did you know that an average person spends over 3 hours a day watching Television (the word "average" implies that some people watch even more than that)? If you add that up, it equals to over A MONTH EVERY YEAR! And people wonder where time has gone! Even if you don't watch TV, I can guarantee that if you search hard enough, you will find blocks of 10-15 minutes throughout the day when you can practice. Always ask yourself: "What am I doing right now? What am I spending my precious time on?" Spend your time wisely. You can't rewind your life back, so you have to make the most out of every moment and invest your time into things that will benefit you. Of course it is much easier said than done, but simply making an attempt will put you miles ahead of most people. If making music is important to you, you will not find time, you will MAKE IT! 15 minutes of practice time a day is better than nothing! (see the point about procrastination). EVERYBODY has at least 15 minutes to practice. If you think you don't (which you do) then ask yourself: "Is music and guitar really that important to me, or would I rather be doing something else?" If music is not a priority in your life that is fine of course. Not everyone has to be a musician, so if it is not as big of a goal in your life that is okay. The important thing is being honest with yourself on what you REALLY want to do and then making sure that you make time to do it!
Lack of Focus
I already touched on that briefly when I talked about knowing what your goals are. However, it is also important to know HOW you will reach them. Having well defined goals is great but if you don't know how to get to where you want to be, you will end up wasting your time. Working with a great teacher will definitely help you on your path. However, it is also equally important that YOU begin thinking about strategies for reaching your goals because nobody is more concerned about you reaching your goals than YOU!
This is a big one. No matter what kind of goals you set for yourself and no matter how you manage your time, motivation is the fuel that propels your efforts. How bad do you want to play guitar? If you want to become a virtuoso, your answer should be "Really, really bad!". And you had BETTER invest a significant amount of practice and study to develop as a player and be prepared to spend a considerable amount of money on great teachers and musical education. Great virtuosos such as Yngwie Malmsteen, Rusty Cooley, and Vinnie Moore have been quoted many times as saying that they practiced many hours a day to develop their high level of ability. However, they did that not because they had some extraordinary amount of discipline that most people do not have, they did it because they were driven by their obsessive desire to get THAT good. If your goals are more modest (which is perfectly fine) then it is not necessary to dedicate your whole life to playing, but it is still important to practice enough so that your goals may be attained. The strength of your motivation and desire for becoming a great musician will be the ultimate deciding factor in how good you will become. If you love the guitar enough, you will go the distance in making practice time and seeking out great quality of music instruction.
Lack of Perseverance
Lots of people have been fooled into believing in the idea of "instant gratification". We want something and we want it NOW! Unfortunately, this attitude does not work in music. It takes TIME for your body to learn the incredibly complex movements required to play an instrument, and it takes TIME for you to learn music theory and develop as a musician. Greatness in any field has to be EARNED through many years of practice and study. Of course the QUALITY of your practice is crucial. If you don't know how to practice (which should be the first thing every beginner learns) it does not matter how much time you spend playing your instrument, because very little or no progress will come. Quality is always more important than sheer quantity. If you travel in the opposite direction of your destination, it does not matter how long you travel, because you'll still end up further away from your destination than when you started!
This one is for more advanced players who have been playing for awhile and receive regular compliments on their playing. It is easy to become complacent and satisfied with your level of current ability when the average person is impressed by it. Keep your goals in mind always, and remember that you do not play guitar JUST to receive compliments about your playing, you do it because you want to reach your goals. My awesome guitar teacher and friend Tom Hess once told me: "Imagine that you are taking advanced math in college and then you have some 5th grader tell you: "oh man you're so smart!" How would you feel? Chances are you'd just smile and say "thank you" but deep inside you know that that person's evaluation of your ability may or may not be accurate, because they are not really in position to judge what it takes to do what you do. On the other hand if you receive that same compliment from your college professor, then you know that it means something! With guitar/music it is almost exactly the same. So the point is, don't let the compliments go to your head, keep focused on your long term goals always.
Also it is crucial that you keep what Jamie Andreas calls "The Beginner's Mind" That means that no matter how advanced you THINK you are, you should ALWAYS be searching for more knowledge, because learning never stops. You should never start to think that you "know it all". It is important to remain just as "hungry" for knowledge as you were when you were starting out as a musician (remember those days?). Here is a perfect example. Randy Rhoads, the original guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne is hailed by many as one of the greatest musicians that electric guitar has ever known. Yet while touring with Ozzy, he would frequently be found searching for classical guitar teachers in every town that the band played. At that time, he was already considered a guitar hero by many, yet Randy's desire for self-improvement led him to seek further knowledge in music. This is an excellent example of "Beginner's Mind" Randy Rhoads always considered himself the student of the guitar even after he had achieved world wide fame as a musician and guitarist.
To summarize, I just listed several things that actually deal more with one's personality and attitude toward life but that can nevertheless make a dramatic difference in your life as a musician. I would encourage you to think about the above points and attempt to make a positive change that will not only help your guitar playing but also make you a better person as well.
Mike Philippov is a professional virtuoso guitarist, music composer and instructor. He is also a co-author of several instructional products, numerous articles and other free instructional resources available on MikePhilippov.com.
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About Mike Philippov
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Mike Philippov is a professional virtuoso guitarist, music composer and instructor. He is currently working on an instrumental CD that will feature music in the virtuoso neo-classical and progressive rock styles. Mike also teaches guitar, both privately as well as through guitar clinics. Mike is also a co-author of several instructional products including: a Backing Tracks CD “Improve Your Improv” as well as instructional courses: “The Ultimate Sweep Picker’s Guide”, and “Serious Improvement for the Developing Guitarist.”
Currently Mike is busy working on several projects including composing and recording a solo CD featuring music in the neo-classical and progressive rock styles as well as more instructional products that are in the works at this time. Visit www.mikephilippov.com to check out Mike’s playing and sign up for a free newsletter which is sent out periodically and contains helpful tips and advice for guitar players.
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©2006 Mike Philippov All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission.
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