Learning Guitar

As I noted in last week’s post on self-trust, I’ve been thinking about the next 20-25 years of my life and what regrets I might have if I don’t make certain changes soon. This may surprise you, but one of my biggest regrets in life is that I never learned to play a musical instrument.

Why Music?

Music is a form of self-expression that I’d love to explore and add to my repertoire of long-term skills. I love listening to music, and I often feel that there are ideas I’d love to express musically, but I lack the skills to do so.

I’m friends with many musicians, and I love watching them perform live. I often feel envious of their skill. Well… it’s not exactly envy per se. It’s more this recognition that I could invest in this skill path as well, and I’d surely enjoy the rewards if I did so.

I keep sensing that there’s a lot of opportunity to connect music with personal growth. Obviously it would be a growth experience to learn how to play. But I also see opportunities in how music could be used to express certain ideas and feelings that aren’t as suitable for writing and speaking.

When I was younger, I had to work a lot on building the courage to express myself, even when I had the technical skills to do so. With music it’s not about the courage but rather the skill set. I’m very comfortable on a stage due to lots of public speaking experience, so I think that comfort level could serve me well when it comes to exploring music. I often feel like I’m missing out a major aspect of what can be expressed from a stage without the ability to express some ideas musically. I see friends who weave together speaking and music, and it just seems like such a delicious and meaningful combo.

I would love to be able to do a live event where we incorporate live music as we go, including something I wrote – and not hurt people’s ears. I’d love to have another way to help people tune in to their own insights and feelings. I’d also love to invite other musicians at the event to come up on stage and share their music as well. I think that could add much more liveliness, fun, and co-creativity to these experiences.

Just as I can tune in to inspired ideas for new articles, I sometimes get song ideas as well. But I don’t know how to give them form and substance. I might pick up a melody that I can hum, but I don’t know how to play the same sequence on an instrument, and I sometimes have some lyrics running through my mind as well. So I’d like to build the skills that would allow me to express these inspirations as well.

I’ve also been helped a lot by music. Sometimes it inspires and energizes me. Sometimes I find it comforting. I remember feeling a special kind of healing from listening to R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts” during a particularly dark time when I was younger. I’m sure I’m not the only one. I would so love to gain the skills to create a song like that. I just don’t think that expressing “Everybody Hurts” as an article or a speech would have the same impact.

I often find myself thinking musically about other areas of life too. When mapping out the flow of Conscious Growth Club’s structure over the course of a year, I thought about the rhythm, tempo, and beats, like a year-long song where each week is a different measure. I’ve gained a lot of value from this approach, and I see great potential for developing better musical intelligence.

So that’s my why.

Which Instrument?

Learning guitar appeals to me more than other instruments right now. Guitars have also been popping up in my reality a lot lately, so I also feel like I’ve been getting some extra nudges to go in that direction. I could learn multiple instruments down the road, but for now I feel drawn to focus on just one for a while.

I have many friends who can play guitar very well, including one who is world-class and has played at Carnegie Hall multiple times. I feel like the presence of so much talent is inviting me to at least get started. It just looks like so much fun once you reach a decent level of skill.

I also like the casual nature of an acoustic guitar. Just grab it and play anywhere. Sit outside on the back patio, and just play. Bring it on a road trip.

I’ve never owned a guitar before, and I don’t know how to play one at all. So my starting point is that of a total newbie.

I know from experience that the early phase of learning a skill can be a bit of a slog. You have to learn the basics first. That’s fine. I can be patient. I’ve already been through this long-term learning process with other skills.

With time and practice, I’ve learned how to express any thought through writing and speaking. I’d love to learn how to express inspired ideas musically too.

Getting Started

Last week in the Conscious Growth Club forums, I shared my intention to start learning guitar, and I asked some newbie questions. There are many musicians in the group, so this was a good first step. By sharing the intention, I invited other people to add extra energy to the intention. The early feedback and encouragement also helped me feel more committed to the idea. Sharing an idea makes it more real.

I realized that if I could create a consistent thread of action on this, starting now, my future self would be immensely grateful for it. I want my future self to have this skill set, even if it takes many years of practice. I see him playing music and still having fun with it 20 years from now.

On Saturday morning I awoke with an inspired idea to go out and get a guitar and look into lessons. I had previously tried browsing online for one, but there were so many choices and options that I didn’t understand yet. I figured that a better way to lean into this was to go to a local guitar store. So Rachelle and I went to Guitar Center shortly after it opened.

There were dozens of acoustic guitars in the store, but there were only two left-handed ones. The first one I didn’t really like, but the second one I liked a lot. So that was an easy choice.

Here’s my new guitar. It’s an acoustic-electric model.

Steve's Guitar

The experience of buying my first guitar felt like picking a wand at Ollivanders Wand Shop, where the wand picks the wizard. I feel like this guitar picked me. Of course it probably wanted a left-handed wizard, so its options were narrowed too. I like the symmetry of that.

Thanks to this being Memorial Day weekend, it was also on sale. 🙂

The universe helped me out even more though. Shortly before we were going to leave, I was commenting to Rachelle that I don’t even know how to tune a guitar, and a guy behind us (who turned out to be a guitar teacher at the store) overheard my remark and spontaneously showed me how to do it. He used a free app called “Guitar Tuna,” but the guitar also has a built-in battery-powered tuner, which I later learned to use.

We got to chatting, and I told him I was starting out with zero experience and that I was interested in lessons too. He immediately offered to teach Rachelle and me how to play the song “Happy Birthday,” so we went into a private teaching room and had a free lesson, which was fun.

I liked his enthusiastic teaching style, so I signed up for lessons on the spot. I’ll be doing weekly lessons every Saturday, starting June 1st. So that’s perfect to align with the June monthly challenge in Conscious Growth Club. The theme for our June challenge is overcoming procrastination. So my commitment is that in addition to doing the lessons, I’m also going to practice every day for at least the month of June.

The teacher’s name is Max. He’s 42 years old. And he’s been playing guitar since age 10 and teaching since age 15. He also performs in live shows and works at a recording studio. Music is basically his life.

So now I have a guitar, a very upbeat instructor, and I already learned to play a simple song. It only took one morning to really get things rolling. I’m a lot further along than I was when I woke up that morning, and there’s some nice momentum carrying things forward.

I learned that for beginners, developing calluses is an early part of the experience. So even before I know how to play any chords (other than E minor), I’ve already started doing 10 minutes per day of pressing on the strings with my fingers, just enough that they start feeling tender but not so much as to create blisters. I’m also practicing tuning the guitar since that’s about the only skill I know so far.

With just a few hours of action, I feel like I’ve switched dimensions. Now I get to explore the dimension where I learn to play guitar, which sounds like a fun and rewarding path.

What’s Your Preventable Regret?

What will you likely regret 20-25 years if you don’t put something into motion today? If you commit yourself and lean in with courage, could you get some momentum going and switch dimensions in a few hours, much like I did with creating this thread of learning guitar?

What could you do today to add a new thread of skill-building to your life, such that your future self will be beaming you the energy of gratitude and appreciation?

At least start by sharing your intention with people who will encourage you and add some positive energy to it, so it starts to feel more real. And if you don’t have people in your life like that, then you have some extra clarity on what it’s costing you to maintain an unsupportive social circle… and what you stand to gain by upgrading this area of your life.

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Steve Pavlina

Steve Pavlina is an American self-help author, motivational speaker and entrepreneur. He is the author of the web site stevepavlina.com and the book Personal Development for Smart People.

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