By: Tom Hess
If you believe you can, you will. If you believe you can't, you won't.
No matter what your musical skill level is right now, there are going to be many significant challenges ahead of you. Your attitudes, and the ways you deal with musical challenges, will be single greatest factor in determining how much you will achieve as a musician. If you believe that you can, and will, overcome your greatest challenges, you will find a way, or you will seek help from a teacher, trainer, coach or mentor that will help you through it. If you don't believe you can achieve, your done, it's over, because you won't.
A true story of self-fulfilling prophecy
OK, a short history lesson here might go a long way, so here it is. In early 16th century Mexico, existed a great empire called the "Aztecs". In fact, it was the most powerful civilization in North America up to the year 1519. It was in that year when the Spanish conquest began. Cortez brought with him about 400 men, and with these soldiers, they defeated virtually the entire Aztec empire. How did Cortez's men defeat this great empire with only 400 men? Was it with superior weapons or superior military tactics? No! The Aztec emperor (and many of his people) believed in a myth that some day in the future a "god" would return to Mexico to destroy them. When the Spaniards arrived with their strange skin color, beards, clothes and weapons, the Aztecs "knew" they couldn't win. They believed they could not overcome the power of Cortez's tiny army because they thought Cortez was the "god" who was returning to destroy them. The Aztec empire was destroyed forever by a false belief (that Cortez was their "god" and that it was impossible and useless to try to defeat him)! There are many other military defeats throughout world history caused by other types of false beliefs. Had the defeated armies and/pr rulers had different beliefs, the history of the world could have turned out to be quite different.
As you see above, the negative results of false beliefs, and not believing in oneself, can be devastating for entire civilizations, so imagine how badly your negative beliefs can hurt your ability to effectively learn your instrument!
Lets find out where your attitude is likely to be
1. Play something on your instrument that you cannot play perfectly yet. 2. Listen critically to your playing. 3. Identify problems and try to define for yourself what they are. 4. What are your mental thought patterns? What is the voice inside your mind telling you?
Lets say what you played above was a scale at high speed. You noticed that not all the notes were played cleanly. Now lets look at two types of thought patterns and attitudes you might have about that:
1. You say to yourself, "These notes are not even, clean and clear….I can't get it!… This sounds terrible!….I guess I have to try harder….it still doesn't sound good…I just CAN'T do it!….Maybe I just don't have what it takes……?"
2. Or you say to yourself, "These notes are not even, clean and clear….I'm going to record myself playing these scales, so I can listen while I am focused only on "listening" and not on "playing"….Where do the worst spots seem to be happening?…..Where are the better notes located?……Hmmm, I notice the problem seems to be occurring when I change from string to string or every time I use my ring finger…..Perhaps, the string changing problem is caused from inefficient right hand motion and maybe the ring finger is causing problems because it's not working independently from the other fingers…..I'll ask my teacher about this and he will probably offer specific exercises I can do to strengthen these weak areas. Then I'll be able to play these scales correctly!…."
Obviously the differences between these two opposite attitudes are huge. More importantly is the difference in "results" one will get from choosing to approach the same problem with opposite thought patterns and attitudes. The first attitude offers only self-doubt, pessimism, a negative self-image and hopelessness. The second offers confidence, self-reliance, hope, optimism, security and the desire to get through the difficulty of mastering this technique. Even though working with a great teacher is the very best way to improve your skills, only your thought patterns, positive attitude, and the way you deal with challenges, will make significant improvement actually happen. It's that simple!
Why most people fail to ever become musicians.
More than half of people in the United States who begin to play an instrument will quit in less than one year from the time they begin to play. Another significant percentage of people will play occasionally, but will not make much forward progress on their instrument. Why? Well there are many possible factors, but the biggest two reasons are:
1. They took the first attitude mentioned above. 2. They didn't learn from a great teacher on a long-term basis.
Inaction: The worst possible thing.
Inaction (taking "no" action), when action is necessary, is the worst possible thing, I can think of, for all areas in life. For most people, inaction comes easily and naturally. It's so easy to do "nothing". It's so easy to "not" take guitar lessons. It's so easy to "not" find a better teacher, coach and mentor. Hey, I'm not perfect either, there were plenty of times in my past when I too took the path of least resistance and did nothing when I really needed to. Those decisions to do nothing (or to do little) led me to…..
Regrets A few years ago, I got tired of living with regrets and made some interesting observations about them. Regret is a poison, a toxic waste that marinates in your soul. What drives our regrets? Most of our regrets in life occurred, not from what we have done (or said or thought), but from we didn't do. Our failures are not the main cause of regret and unhappiness, it is passing up our opportunities to grow, improve and make things better that hurts us most. Think about it.
What will you do?
I teach a private and correspondence music careers class where I teach, train and coach my students to become professional musicians, music teachers, etc. The very first (and probably most valuable) thing I do as my student's mentor is ask them this question: "What are you committed to do, RIGHT NOW TODAY, to reach your goals?" Even if you are only able to make a small baby step forward, tell me WHAT WILL YOU DO RIGHT NOW?!?! This very moment is the first moment of your future. You create your future by what you do in the present!
So, what will YOU do right now? What thoughts will you allow to fill your mind? Who will you call or email? How will you spend the rest of your day? What action will take right now? What will you do in this "present" moment, which will contribute to your future?