One of the most important attributes for any person who wants to succeed in any aspect of their life is persistence. If you are pursuing a particular skill to improve upon, it can be more efficient to devote small quantities of time to it every day, rather than several hours one day per week.
Let’s say you’re learning the guitar from scratch, over the years, people have asked me to show them how to play and most are surprised that the strings hurt the fingers to begin with. To start off, I show them 2 or 3 chords to give them the instant gratification they had in mind in the first place. The pupil will be happy that he or she can play their first chords and they will try and play them all evening; however after 15-20 minutes I tell the pupil to stop, put the guitar down and just try the chords again tomorrow for 10 mins….no more.
In-experienced hands will become weak and tense, making it an up-hill struggle to gain more ground, this in turn leads to pure frustration, so it’s best to call it time.
The following day, the pupil will pick up the guitar with fresh hands and repeat what I showed him or her yesterday, and more often than not, on the first attempt they will play the chords perfectly with all strings sounding clearly. This process should repeat daily until finger strength has risen and calluses on finger tips start to form, only then the pupil can spend longer stints per day processing without the frustration from fatigue which can cause damage to the hand.
“Andy smiled his small, composed smile and asked Stammas what would happen to a block of concrete if a drop of water fell on it once every year for a million years.” – Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King
Millions of year’s aside, this principle speaks for itself in that massive transformations can be made over time even if only a little bit of progress is made over regular intervals. I currently apply this mindset into two aspects of my life at the moment; learning a second language & producing songs for an album.
The second language I am adopting is French, which I find more stimulating than the German I was taught at secondary school. My grandfather taught himself Spanish after he retired and I figured if he can do it, why can’t I?
So I bought a language learning book and audio set from WH Smiths and proceeded to crack on a page at a time. Some days I’ll work through a couple of pages, other days maybe I just complete one page and occasionally I do not get time at all. Keeping the motivation going can be a little daunting and you feel you’re falling behind with the level you want to be at.
So I make myself read and speak just a little bit every day.
My internet home page is the front page of the French newspaper Le Monde, so even if I just read and translate the main headline, at least I have made a step and learnt a new word.
My main hobby is writing and recording music and I set myself a goal to produce an album for a solo project than involves a friend or two.
The nature of writing music alone is that it is always very much a work-in-progress. I will get to a certain point with a set of songs and find myself approaching a creative cul-de-sac, to combat this, I make a habit of exporting all the current projects to mp3 files, put them on my phone and listen to them when I am on public transport. I’ll have a listen through my short-list of half complete songs and jot down improvements or ideas of where to go next, and then I will go home and try to implement those changes and just see what happens.
This process will go back and forth for months on end with old and new songs in varying stages of completion.
I started playing guitar at the age of 8 and got very despondent during the first few years that I wasn’t making much progress. It was only at the age of 14 that I heard a recording I had made 2 years before, and I was astonished at how much my technique had improved when looking back over a longer period of time.
It goes to show that you don’t know how far you’ve come unless you look back.
Keep making those steps.