Tipsy Tuesday: Focus. Disconnect. Do not be distracted.

Listen up. I’m about to give some ancient (but wise) advice.  Yes, I came across something old and still applicable on the interweb.  Although published in 2008, I am compelled to share Derek Sivers’ speech, “6 Things I Wish I Knew the Day I Started at Berklee [College of Music].”

Out of the 6, my favorite piece of advice is

#1: Focus. Disconnect. Do not be distracted.

This resonates with me because I’ve been distracted by all the fun activities summer brings and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

Derek Sivers elaborates,

My favorite part of the movies is the training sequence, where a young Bruce Wayne, Neo or Kung-Fu Panda goes to a remote location to be trained relentlessly, nonstop, past all breaking points, until they emerge as a master.

The next few years can be your training sequence, if you focus.

Unfortunately you’re not in Siberia. You’re surrounded by distractions.

You’re surrounded by cool tempting people, hanging out casually, telling you to relax. But the casual ones end up having casual talent and merely casual lives.

Looking back, my only Berklee classmates that got successful were the ones who were fiercely focused, determined, and undistractable.

While you’re here, presidents will change, the world will change, and the media will try to convince you how important it all is. But it’s not. None of it matters to you now.

You are being tested. Your enemy is distraction. Stay offline. Shut off your computer. Stay in the shed.

When you emerge in a few years, you can ask someone what you missed, and you’ll find it can be summed up in a few minutes. The rest was noise you’ll be proud you avoided.

Focus. Disconnect. Do not be distracted.

This is your #1 most important challenge. If you master focus, you will be in control of your world. If you don’t, it will control you.”

Well said, Derek!

(You can read the other 5 tips HERE or watch the video)

The woes & triumphs of finding a mentor

Kristen L. Acoustic Guitar

I’ve met some talented guitarists in the San Francisco Bay area but I finally settled on one–Alek.  He has something the other guitar teachers did not: a teaching style similar to Danny’s and chemistry that inspires me and makes me hurry home and start practicing.

To all of you self taught guitarists, I commend you because I don’t have the self discipline to watch videos and organize my own curriculum.  Instead, I need accountability and motivation or else, I lose momentum and wonder why I am doing it in the first place.  I can’t imagine sorting through thousands of guitar videos that are available today… do you ever feel conflicted in your interests?  I think I would learn things out of order. But if you ever decide to get a guitar teacher, definitely be extremely picky.

Growing up I’ve had my share of bland, non-inspiring, overpriced teachers.  Fortunately, I’ve figured out what I prefer in a teacher and came to the conclusion that no matter how talented or at what price… chemistry and teaching style is at the top of my criteria.

  1. Chemistry is everything.  This is my number 1 priority.  Three weeks ago, I had a “free trial lesson” with a guitarist who used to live in NYC and LA.  He had friends who played with Michael Jackson and what not… simply a long list of impressive connections but our lack of chemistry made me forgo his services.  Don’t get me wrong, he was really outgoing, a great conversationalist and everything but he didn’t get me amped up about practicing.  He also didn’t cater his lessons to my goals and it felt more like a check list: “learn the parts of guitar, okay good, CHECK.”  I felt like he didn’t care about what I already knew and was just going through the motions.
  2. Teaching style is not one for all, nor is it customizable.  I’ve stuck with some wonderful musicians thinking I could just ask them to slow down or reword their explanations but it’s difficult to change a person’s teaching style and mind set.  You must find someone who naturally accommodates the way you learn because very few teachers can adapt to different students.

My favorite thing about Alek is he jumps right into the nitty gritty: theory, technique and technical terms that hurt your brain.  Luckily, I enjoy squinting my eyes as I memorize and wrap my mind around music theory.  It helps, it really does–no, not all actually.  On top of that, I can visibly see in his eyes and hand gestures that he’s passionate and enthusiastic about my journey to layin’ down some sweet solos.  We typically (accidentally) we go over the allotted time period but he’s never rushed me out or glanced at his watch.  In fact, sometimes I am the one packing up my guitar while he’s still yammering on and on about our lesson–it’s refreshing.

The other guitar teachers I “tried out” simply covered barre chords (which I already know) and how to read music (which again, I already know).  It baffles me because they knew I can read music after I explained my history but they quizzed me anyways.  I know, I can’t be annoyed about that because, yeah, a lot of people are big fat liars.  But I proved to be well-versed, big thanks to my militant, high school marching band director.

In retrospect, Danny is still the best teacher out of the 8 or 9 I grew up with.  And I still keep in touch with him, in case you’re wondering.  In fact, he texted me a couple days ago asking when I’m moving back to the east coast!

Realism + Stubborness = Success?

Realism is what we sometimes lack in regards to mastering an instrument or any other skill set. We tend visualize achieving our goals without the monotonous hard work that is necessary to reach them.   Now, believe me, I  am a fan of visualization but only focusing on the overall outcome may only lead to failure or even worse, quitting.  Ultimately, we must conceptualize the process we must adopt to become the successful, bad ass we strive to be!

Now here’s the realism again: this process will require a tremendous amount of time and energy to achieve your goals and the talent you aspire. It’s not going to be easy because to truly master this instrument, we must go beyond what is
reasonable, practical and even normal. …That is the visual I am trying to embrace myself.

I want to adopt the mindset of doing “enough” is actually not enough. I love reading memoirs and biographies of successful people, and the biggest thing I’ve learned is successful people never do what is “normal” or “just enough.” Sacrifices will be made in terms of extras in life beyond necessities, so what will those be for you and me?

Whatever level of mastery you or I desire to achieve, understand the commitment, stubbornness and realism that must be put in to get out something incredible beyond our imagination!

I’m sure me asking you these questions may seem silly but seriously think about this if you haven’t already: what must you do to achieve your goals? 

Okay.  Now think about how and when you will do that.

Was your answer to practice regularly?  Well, okay, when? What time? How long? How often?

Six days a week, I practice twice a day by dividing my session into AM and PM practices with the goal of 2 hours (minimum 1 hour) each.  This is reasonable for me because of my free time and the sacrifice of going home early instead of staying out late with friends like I’ve done in the past.

Maybe you already practice regularly and want to start a band.  Who are you going to contact?  What type of personality traits and work ethic are you looking for in band members?  What social media platforms will you use to contact people?

I suppose what I’m getting at is to stop saying you’re going to simply do something.  We’ve both been down that road and where did it lead us?  To a blog, apparently.  So develop a plan of action instead and implement it this week! If you fall off, try again. It’s never too late and it’s not failure unless you quit, which I REFUSE to let you do. We are in this together.