"I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do"
Robert A. Heinlein


In a previous article, entitled “Unlock Your Creative Potential I aimed to encourage people to try new methods of art and expression. I used the example of learning to play the guitar. At the time it was an innocent example, but like many innocent examples there was something behind it. I myself have always wanted to learn an instrument. I love music, but have never had a medium.

I haven’t published much in the way of inspirational content over the past couple of months, because, well, I haven’t really been feeling too inspiration. However, during this personal down time I bought myself a guitar for £90 (a real bargain but by no means a professional model), and plugged in a few hours learning.

I began to unlock my own creative potential.

I’ll let you in on a secret. While I do try to write directly from experience wherever possible, I often find myself writing self improvement style work and simultaneously realizing that I would do well to follow my own advice. Writing is hardcore hypocrisy at times.

On this occasion I did take my own advice, and found, within not much time at all, that all these years I had just been telling myself that guitar wasn’t possible for me. I found that:

  • Most of our inability to do something, comes from the fact that we have never tried it.
  • Most of our inability to get good at something, comes from the fact that we never stick at it for long enough.
  • Most people who are really good at something have worked really hard, or have put many repetitious hours of practice in.
  • Everyone who is good at something used to be useless.
  • Most of the reasons that we never try are to do with our own barriers, which we make up ourselves, or which are thrust upon us by those who doubt.

Barriers To Learning

The mind can be full of useless chitter chatter that ultimately prevents us from picking up an instrument or a paintbrush, or from putting pen to paper, or from learning another language. I have come to know this chitter chatter as my barriers to learning. These barriers can come from your own mind, or from someone else. They go something like this:

“You are not a musical person”
“You will never catch up with/be as good as ( insert friend/relative/celeb’s name)”
“You don’t have time”
“You are only doing it for (attention/to fit in/insert degrading reason here)”

or quite simply “You can’t do it

The Truth Of The Matter

I’m just going to get straight to the nitty gritty, because I have a habit of talking too much around the point… all of those barriers are in your head. They are not real. They don’t exist. Everything just takes practice, that’s all.

Barriers to learning

The truth is that each of us is capable of anything. Try it and find out. Learn what you want to learn and see for yourself. You will likely find that the more you practice, the better you get.

Here are some tips that I learnt on my journey from knowing absolutely no guitar, to being able to play a really basic Oasis tune or two (Yes, 3 months of practice has only got me so far!).

  • Forget Your Barriers: Right now, forget them! Pointless they are.
  • Get The Tools: You don’t need the best or the latest or the greatest. I bought the lowest price guitar I could find that I thought would produce a satisfactory sound to learn on. Maybe all you need is a pencil and paper? Perhaps you need some books? Whatever you need, get it and put it in front of you, somewhere where you can easily get to it in your free time.
  • Pick It Up & Do It: That’s it! Just actually do it.
  • Practice Is Key: Unless you are a prodigy, or a reincarnation of Mozart, you will not be able to play piano straight away. You will be awful. You will sound like a dying cat. Only in due time will harmony emerge in your creations. Put in practice, and you will see results. (Barrier warning: watch out for your mind saying “some people learned this quicker than me”. It doesn’t matter. The point is if you practice you will get better.)
  • Never Be Disheartened By Those Who Are Already Well Practiced: This was a big one for me, and ties in to those barriers again. Don’t look at people around you and think that you will never be as good. This is your personal journey. Instead…
  • Be Inspired By Those Further On In The Learning Curve: Draw inspiration from those artists who you admire, be they friends or people you have never met. I am lucky enough to have a friend who gives me the odd guitar lesson to keep me on track with my learning. His advice is invaluable. I actually watch youtube videos. It’s like having a personal online tutor for free. Drawing on these sources will make you better.
  • Creative Learning Never Stops: Nobody perfects creativity, and nobody learns enough to stop learning. Those who do have merely gone stagnant. Good guitar players still aspire to learn, and still look up to other talented musicians (or writers, or painters, or whatever your game is).
  • Enjoy Being Bad… And Getting Better: The joy of learning is in learning itself. If you don’t adopt this attitude you risk losing the heart to see anything past the initial stages. Enjoy every stage of the learning process and you are on a guaranteed winner. More than anything just practice.

Final Thoughts

Learning guitar has taught me much more than just what I know how to play. It has taught me that I really can learn anything if I put my mind and heart to it, and dedicate the time and energy. Forget your barriers to learning, and just put the hours in. You might be surprised at the results.

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