Are You an Advancing Guitarist?
A true musician (or artist of any type), must be a lifelong student. Whatever level of mastery we think we’ve achieved, there’s always more to learn (not to mention lessons worth revisiting). Learning moments come from mentors, bandmates, fellow travelers, critics, rivals, fans and hecklers. Are we open to them? Can we put your ego aside to listen, learn and improve? We better! As Ryan Holiday points out in Ego Is the Enemy, “If we’re not still learning, we’re already dying.”
The more accomplished we become at our craft, the more likely we are to allow ourselves to feel accomplished. We avoid challenges to or reconsideration of what we know, or think we know. We are quite happy to sit in our comfort zone where we never feel inept or stupid and where we are never called out or upon.
I frequently catch myself enjoying this false sense of achievement. Happily ensconced in the warmth of familiarity, complacency and safety. But this is delusion and it’s dangerous. What’s more, this is not life of a professional artist. These are the habits of amateurs, dabblers and dillettantes. So I ask myself, “Is that what you are? Is it what you want to be?”
The Way Forward for People Like Us
For the advancing guitarist (or any creative), we must be perpetual students. We must cultivate a beginners mindset (what Buddhists call Shoshin). To do so, these are the kinds of relationships we must nurture.
Those Who Are Better Than Us
These are the teachers, mentors and coaches we should seek out. The musicians we should jam with and, when we can, perform with on stage. They will elevate our playing level, challenge our assumptions and provoke us when we are complacent or stagnant.
Those Who Are at the Same Level as Us
These are our peers, bandmates and jamming buddies who are rising up through the ranks and developing alongside us. They help keep our skills sharp and let us know when we’re falling behind. Music is a collaboration, not a competition, but we must keep up!
Those Who Are Not Yet at Our Level
These are the people we teach. Teaching others cultivates empathy. It is also the best way to clarify and cement what wev know and assists in unveiling our shortcomings and the holes in our knowledge or skills set. Teaching reminds us that knowledge is a gift to be shared, not a weapon to wield against others nor a treasure to withhold.
To be an advancing guitarist or artist of any type requires to us to be continually leaning in, learning and leaping. Seeking, stretching and striving. Reacting, remembering and reflecting. Generously giving and gratefully receiving feedback, questions and comments. It’s all so simple. However, simple does not mean easy. Like anything, this all becomes easier through practice.
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