It Takes This Long to Learn the Guitar

How long does it take to learn how to play the guitar?

The answer is: when you stop playing, you stop learning.

It’s been said that writers are born, not made.

So are athletes.

So are scientists.

So are cookie chefs.

Sounds like something most elitists would say, especially those crustacean cookie snobs.

Reading comes easy for my little girl, but she was not born to do a forward roll in gym class with ease. I am also guilty of many shortcomings, forward rolls included.

A neighbor of mine plays hockey professionally. After seeing a set of shiny golf clubs in his garage one day, I joked if his swing was as good as Happy Gilmore’s. His response was a modest nod, and I did well to hide my jealousy. Share the wealth, pal.

Advantage may come down to just physical biology.

Your muscles, your connective tissues, your joints, your bones, your brain and your heart may function far superior to mine. From this, you may be more adept than I am at climbing tall trees. In many of us, we are as unbalanced as we are sturdy. We may stand steady on one leg while teetering on the other. But it’s not just about functional strength.

It’s being awesome at choosing the right colors when decorating a room.

It’s being able to tell great stories.

It’s being able to sing like golden honey.

We call them gifts.

These are the innate abilities we have that make us unique. Sure you have prowess of balance because you have mastered all that fleshy matter around your ankles, but does that mean you are born to be a champion clog dancer?

Consider what follows as a letter to my children:

I’m left-handed and left-brained. So I had no business picking up the guitar, let alone learning it right-handed. It took several years just to get comfortable with it. Though I claim to be no master at it, it was something I was just determined to learn. Hours and days and weeks. Call it naive stubbornness, but I’d like to think of it as courageous persistence.

If you really want to learn something and be good or even great at it, you already have what it takes.

Persistence. Heart. Courage. Discipline.

It’s going to mean chunks of time out of life, but you will make progress if you really want it.

It has nothing to do with being born flat-footed, or having less speed and strength than those you admire. Some of those athletes on the field have to work three times as hard just to stay competent.

Avoid gauging your progress and abilities against the success and abilities of others. You should focus on yourself as your measure.

Find your reasons for why you want to learn something so it can become your gift. If it’s because you want to imitate your heroes, you should visualize yourself at your funeral and hope there are no quips about your lack of originality. Be brave and smart about it. Create a plan. Reward yourself for every small achievement.

When you fail (not ‘if’), move through it and continue as long as the desire is there in your heart.

Okay, I lied. This letter is really a letter to myself.

Thank you for writing this to me.


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