Once upon a time, I learned how to play guitar.
Starting was hard, and it was slow going too. I felt difficulty and pain twisting and stretching, trying to get my fingers to press down on the string and to hold it tight enough and long enough for me to play a chord.
Until finally, I’d get the notes to ring. Barely.
And then, repeat the process for the next one.
It didn’t come naturally for me. It was hard.
But I kept going at it, repeating the same motions again and again. It was boring, and I didn’t know when I would get the hang of it. I almost gave up because it wasn’t fun anymore.
Until the day I started to play chords seamlessly, and I finished playing a whole song.
Sweet, pure heaven.
Did I say starting was hard?
Just getting my fingers to stretch to position was painful at times, let alone pressing down on the string, and then correctly plucking the rights strings, and letting the sound ring out for the right length of time.
For the beginner in me then, it was a tall order.
There were days when I didn’t want to continue to learn to play the guitar.
Good thing learning and practicing to play the guitar was less boring than doing something else for my then 9 year-old mind.
When I started, I had to memorize the chords, and where to put my fingers, and which strings to strum, and for how long. I had to then learn and practice to do all of that at the same time.
One of the exercises I had to keep doing over and over was pressing down on the string, and then hitting the right string so it would sound clean. Then I had to do that for all of my fingers all over the neck of the guitar.
It got mind-numbing at times. Especially the times when I felt there was no progress.
But I wouldn’t have been able to get to where I am now without all that practice. In fact, I joke around that in elementary and high school, I didn’t really study my lessons, because all I was doing with my time was practicing and playing the guitar.
Practicing and getting better is about putting in the hours, the energy, the repetitions, and the effort, to get the basics down and be able to do things you would not normally have been able to do, or do that well.
And I didn’t sound great at the start. I kept practicing the same things over and over, but the sound changed over time. It was an uphill effort of practicing, and eventually getting and sounding better and better.
Or when I started doing push-ups. I didn’t particularly like doing it, but just doing it, and getting myself to do it, and keep on doing the push-ups day after day, got me to a point where it’s easier for me to do more and more push-ups.
Practice and drills can get repetitive, but you keep getting better at it, as long as you keep on practicing. Correctly, Consistently, and with Purpose.
Practice correctly. Make sure you’re doing is right. Doing the wrong thing will build the wrong muscles and develop the wrong habits. Get checked by an expert. Adjust or change accordingly.
Practice consistently. Be doing everyday, if you can. Schedule a time for you to practice and to focus on what you’re practicing on.
Practice with purpose. Get a clear goal and purpose to what you want to achieve. And practice towards that.
Now I won’t sugarcoat things. Practicing when you’re learning and at the beginning can also be really, really fun.
When you’re at the intermediate level, meaning you know the basic stuff, but haven’t gone on to really hard and challenging stuff, is where things can get a bit dicey.
See, at the start, when you practice, it’s easier to track progress. Starting from zero can mean what you learn and practice can be seen right away. Going from zero to one is a huge change, so to speak.
So when you’re already at 500, going to 515, where the changes aren’t that big, and aren’t that apparent. It gets easier to get bored, and to struggle, and with that comes the temptation to stop and end the struggle of practicing and getting better.
“This is it for me, I’m not going to get any better!”
“It’s too hard for me. I don’t want this anymore!”
“It’s too tiring. Too much for me.”
“I don’t think I can do that. I guess this is it for me.”
You’ve now hit a wall in your mind and your beliefs. And how you choose to face that, whether to keep working and practicing, or to stay at where you are, or to leave altogether, is what separates the stars in that field, to the greats, the goods, the almost-theres, and the never-weres.
The hard work and challenges associated with growth and getting good is there for a reason. It’s to weed out who’s willing to work hard for it from who’s just in it for relaxation and fun.
Now, nothing wrong with relaxation and fun. But if it’s your livelihood or big dream we’re talking about, you don’t want to be just all happy-go-lucky and wait for it all to fall on your lap. It’s more likely to come true if you work hard and work smart for it.
The boredom and struggle of practice is also a barrier between becoming good, or becoming great.
P.S., some additional pointers:
Doing the right things, the basic, fundamental, essential things, really, really well, is a large step of success. It’s the 20% that will have the 80% biggest impact on your results. Focus on learning and doing the basics really well.
Also, things might look like a failure in the middle, but turn out great in the end. It’s okay to rest, just don’t give up. Most importantly, don’t give up on yourself when you encounter setbacks.