After teaching guitar to many people over the last couple of decades, I’ve come to the conclusion that excuse-making is one of the most common reasons why guitarists don’t reach their musical goals. And I’ve got to admit that I’m far from perfect. I’ve been guilty of making excuses many, many times myself. Maybe you have as well?
The problem with making excuses is that we are simply telling lies to ourselves to make us feel better about not doing specific actions. We act like victims of circumstance rather than being creative and trying to overcome the obstacles that we face. This is problematic, because if your goal is to become a really good guitar player then you’re going to encounter a lot of obstacles. If you habitually make excuses then you won’t overcome those obstacles, which will make getting good on guitar impossible.
Because excuses are so destructive to making significant progress on the guitar, I thought it would be helpful to share a few ideas that I use to overcome my excuse-making whenever it rears its ugly head. I’ve found them to be really useful, and I hope they help you as well!
In The History Of The World
I notice a lot of the time when I make excuses that I tend to think that the obstacles I face are insurmountable and unique to me. Thinking like this often stops me from brainstorming possible solutions. Because of this, I like to use this strategy to make myself realize that I’m being ridiculous. Once I realize that I’m being idiotic, I can focus on putting some serious thought into how to overcome the obstacles. Let’s look at an example now to see how it works…
Let’s imagine for a moment that you haven’t been practising regularly because you believe that you don’t have time. You have a demanding job and constantly use it as an excuse for why you can’t practice. While this excuse might seem plausible, it doesn’t help you at all to become a better guitarist.
Here are some questions that you could ask yourself…
- Is it possible that in the history of the world that someone has managed to make time for practice even though they had a demanding job?
- Is it possible that in the history of the world that someone has changed jobs to give them a better work-life balance?
- Is it possible that in the history of the world that someone has gotten up 30-minutes earlier to do some practice guitar before work?
Clearly, the answer to the above questions is yes. Plenty of people have had demanding careers, families, and other obligations but still make time for guitar practice. Plenty of people have changed jobs or careers to give them more time to pursue their dreams. Once you realise this fact you can then focus on what you need to do to make time for guitar practice.
Listing At Least 20 Possible Solutions
As I said earlier, one of the major problems with an excuse is that it stops you from thinking of possible solutions. So the idea of this strategy is to brainstorm both short-term and long-term solutions. If we used the example from before, here are some possible solutions…
- Get up earlier. Go to bed later.
- Move closer to work so that the commuting time is less.
- Cut down to part-time work.
- Build an online business to create passive income so that you don’t need to work so much.
- Take your guitar to work and practice in your car during lunch break.
- Change jobs.
- Sell your house and buy a smaller one with much smaller mortgage payments.
- Hire a cleaner so you don’t have to waste time cleaning each week.
- Do online food shopping so that you don’t have to waste time shopping each week.
- Stop watching T.V. or spending time online.
- Stop using Facebook and Instagram.
- Rob a bank. Profit. Quit job.
OK, I’ll stop there. I’m sure you get the idea. The goal of this strategy is to work out as many ways as possible to overcome the obstacle you are facing. I only spent a couple of minutes thinking of possible solutions. If you were to take a few hours or days to brainstorm, I’m sure you could create a much longer list!
I need to stress that short-term solutions to a particular obstacle won’t always be possible. But if you truly want to get good at guitar, then taking a significant amount of time to figure out some long-term solutions will be time well spent. These long-term solutions might mean making some fairly significant changes to your life. For example, one of the people I’ve taught sold his business to pursue his music career full-time.
What About Things I Can’t Change?
Obviously, some things you can’t change like the size of your hands or your age. Those are set in stone. Because of this, guitarists often use things like this as an excuse for why they shouldn’t even try. For these type of excuses the “In The History Of The World” strategy works well. For Example…
- Is it possible that in the history of the world that someone has managed to learn guitar even though they had small hands?
- Is it possible that in the history of the world that someone has managed to learn guitar even though they were [INSERT YOUR AGE HERE]?
Find Role Models
As well as using the two strategies I’ve mentioned, I think it’s very helpful to find examples of people who have overcome the same or similar obstacles that you currently face. For example, if someone was to continually use the excuse of having a family as a reason for not pursuing their musical dreams, then they might want to read about jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery. (He had a very large family to support, and early in his career had to work in a radio parts factory during the day while trying to build his music career at night. Yikes!).
If you look hard enough and talk to enough people, you’ll find examples of guitarists who have overcome massive obstacles to become good players. And by reading about or talking to these players you’ll build your own belief that it’s possible for you also.
A Few Last Words
If you have a habit of making excuses, I really encourage you to be open-minded and try using what we’ve looked at in this article. Excuses kill dreams. And if you dream of becoming a good guitarist, then overcoming your excuses is a vital thing to do.
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