Having worked with lots of people throughout my lifetime, I’ve invariably run into folks – and even I’ve done it at times – who get in a funk and say things like, “I wish I could do _________” or “I wish this would be like ________.” Without saying it directly and being as diplomatic as possible, I usually reply to them to stop wishing someone would do something sometime to make things happen. The time is now and you’re that someone.
But it’s even more than just realizing that you’re the one who has to make things happen for yourself, you have to be willing. Several years ago, I attended a few self-help seminars and something that a seminar leader said always stuck with me – and I’ve mentioned it here a couple of times – was “There’s a fine line between dreams and reality, and that line is called ‘willingness.'” That had a profound effect on how I approached life afterwards, but in the years since, I’ve realized that realizing your dreams takes even more than just willingness. It takes discipline; lots of discipline.
Not meaning to be religious, but there’s a very famous quote from the Bible from the Gospel of Matthew: “So you had not the strength to stay awake with me for one hour? Stay awake, and pray not to be put to the test. The spirit is willing enough, but human nature is weak.” The shorter, more commonly known version is: The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. In any case, Jesus said that to the disciples who were supposed to keep vigil with him while he prayed but instead fell asleep. He was reprimanding them for not having the discipline to stay awake – even for just an hour – while he prayed. Put simply, with discipline, you make the hard choices. Clearly the disciples didn’t have enough of it at the time…
Or take for example the Navy SEALs and their training program known as Basic Underwater Demolition SEALs, or BUDS for short. Hundreds have tried out, and over 80% ring the bell to quit. The SEALs’ motto, “The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday” is a testament to the fact that it never gets easier, it only gets harder. People who quit weren’t losers. Some were top athletes, used to sustained physical and mental stress, but even they broke in the end. The training program is really that hard! The only way to get through that program is to have the mental fortitude to maintain discipline in the face of growing difficulty.
Even though I’ve never gone through something quite as physically and mentally extreme and rigorous as the Navy SEAL BUDS program, I’ve also learned over the years that discipline is what needs to take over when you don’t have the motivation to do something. It truly is the difference between success and failure. This concept applies to everything in life, be it your job, learning to play an instrument, or even a making a relationship work (and no, I don’t mean the chips, dips, chains and whips variety of discipline, either).
Circling back to the title of this article, what I’m suggesting here is that in order to achieve anything in life you have to:
- Realize that you are the only person who can achieve your goals.
- Be willing to achieve your goals.
- Have the discipline to do whatever it takes to achieve them.
And please don’t confuse this with “the ends justifies the means” mentality that seems to be so prevalent in American culture these days. Can you say, “Financial collapse of 2008?” There are no shortcuts to success, even though the short-term might indicate otherwise.
So what does all this have to do with guitar? Simply put, apply the three points above to any learning situation with your guitar. Want to play like SRV? Santana? EVH? You’re the one that has to make it happen, you have to be willing to make it happen, and you have to have the discipline to make it happen.
It’s also not just about lessons. I know a guy who has been taking lessons every week for over 10 years, and he’s still a bad musician. He knows lots of licks and tricks, but put him in a band, and he flails away simply because he doesn’t have the discipline to practice and therefore truly understand his instrument. It simply boggles the mind and frustrates the hell out of me that he doesn’t see this – or perhaps more to the truth, I’m frustrated that his lack of discipline affects the band.
So the next time you say, “I wish I could do ______________,” think about what was discussed here because the answer to is quite simple: You can – and will – but it’s all on you. No one can do it for you.