guitar

What got you here won't get you there

One principle / distinction that I’ve been thinking about lately and have been using in my coaching is this:

"what got you here won't get you there."

Our strengths that got us to one level of success are not necessarily the ones that will get us to success at the next level.

Another way to say this is that the demands on our time and mind-space grow as we grow. If you seek a new level of achievement with old tactics and strategies, you will struggle. You are a different person now. You need new ways to approach the new world you created and now inhabit, and the new world you want to create and live into.

In my world, this distinction plays out like this: In my 20s and even my 30s, I could fairly easily find 4 to 6 hours a day to practice my guitar and write songs. 

Now, in my 40s, with a fulfilling relationship to nurture and grow, a team to lead in my music career (my social team and my VA), a coaching practice that lights me up and that I love working on and in, a desire to write more songs for myself and other songwriters, a self-creation / self-mastery practice (meditation, writing, gymnastics, backpacking), I have to work hard to find even an hour a day to practice my guitar.

I cannot expect to have hours and hours of time to get better at guitar and cannot keep operating as if it will happen, someday. As Ramit Sethi says “someday is code for never.”


I can’t muscle my way through as I once did. I can’t just expect myself to grind like I used to, stay up to the wee hours fitting in more things. Fitting shit into my life sucks now. It used to be how I operated. Now it hurts. It doesn’t work for me anymore. Now, with my other responsibilities, I create my schedule. I craft time for each activity. I deliberately say no. I protect songwriting time.

I also use my intuition now. I network and collaborate with people now.

I have acceptance for the things I can't do and I focus on my strengths versus trying to bring my weaknesses up to strengths. I find the best person for the job and then I empower them to do it, own it, and report back.

I let go more.

I am seeing how far I go and who I become and what is possible through letting go.

What got me here won’t get me there.

A parallel universe in which I got everything right?

When we’re centered there is no such thing as “doing it wrong.” It could be anything in our life: guitar playing, songwriting, washing the dishes, writing, working, exercising, eating, etc.

When we aren’t centered, when we are coming from fear, worry, comparison, being too far behind, not being good enough, not being farther along, when the voice in our head is beating us up about every single thing, then everything in our lives feels like a mistake.

Here is why that un-centered voice (the ego, the “I”) is full of BS: it looks at every single thing in our life and says that it should be (or should’ve been) different or better than it is (or was).

This is a total scam. It’s also a no-win situation.

The inner voice is insatiable. It’ll never stop criticizing you.

There is simply no way to be better or different in a way that will satisfy the ego.

As the Zen teacher Cheri Huber likes to say, there simply is no parallel universe in which you did / do everything perfectly and everything turned / turns out exactly as the inner voice wanted / wants it to.

There just isn’t. There is no amount of doing that will satisfy the voice in your head. Ever. Never has been and never will be. Its whole existence is based on getting you to do, do, do so that you are constantly distracted and thus not able to see its lies and delusions. It wants to keep you suffering and doing and striving and failing and achieving but yet not quite measuring up enough and scared and comparing and wanting and exhausted (do I need to go on?)…

When we notice this voice and begin to wonder why it’s so mean to us, we can sometimes catch a glimpse of what’s really here, what’s really true.

What’s really here and true is that Life is.

You didn’t do it wrong. Ever. Not before and not now and you won’t in the future.

There are no mistakes.

The 1 second commitment

When we make a commitment to practicing something, anything — say playing guitar for an hour a day, meditating for two minutes in the morning, turning our phone off at night — that practice is not actually about playing guitar, about meditating, or about time away from the phone.

It’s really about training the muscle that says no to the voice in your head that wants to talk you out of doing that thing you committed to doing.

We want to get to a point that no matter how we feel (I’m not getting anywhere, I’m miserable, I’m too exhausted, I’m hungry, I’ll do it tomorrow) and no what what the voice in our head is saying, we simply keep our commitment.

Most of the world thinks they get credit for reading about how to keep a commitment or listening to a podcast about how to keep a commitment, or, if they are feeling a little bit more energized, that they get credit for “trying” to keep their commitment.


These things don’t count, I am sorry to say. I wish they did.

Keeping a commitment to yourself is a form of training. As the Zen coach Cheri Huber says, “We are training to be the person we have always wanted to be, the person we can trust with our life.”

Keep your commitment to yourself as if your life depends on it. Because it does.


If you have to scale the commitment back, do that. Don’t skip the practice all together. If your commitment is to play guitar one hour a day and you just don’t have time and the voice in your head is saying all sorts of things to you about what is more important, then play for one focused minute. If you can’t do that, just simply pick up the guitar and hold it for 10 seconds or 10 slow breaths.

I know that sounds absurd.


But only the person who has not yet had the courage to keep even 30 seconds of her commitment would laugh at such an idea.

Guitar and Meditation

I've been seriously dedicated to meditation for three years now. (I've given up keeping track now, it is so ingrained in my life.) And I've been playing my guitar since I was 11 and seriously practicing it since I was 18. 

Here's what I notice about the practices of meditation and guitar playing:

The enormous life-changing skills of presence, awareness, focus, concentration, letting go ... these are what I work on in tiny increments everyday in my meditation practice (10 to 20 mins in the morning and, when I am at my best, at least 10 minutes in the afternoon).

When I bring these skills to the woodshed (a jazzers term for "practice room") and to the time I spend with my guitar on my lap, I notice that I learn better, I am more calm and less overwhelmed by all the I still want to be able to do on my instrument. My guitar practice sessions are more focused, less scattered. There is a glow and restorative aspect to this time. My mind is refreshed and still. This is new for me. Before, my practice session were always, basically, demoralizing -- showing me only how far I had to go and how painstakingly, achingly, terribly slow my progress was, if I wasn't backsliding, which I often felt like I was.

Learning to see that meditation is a way of practicing my guitar and that practicing guitar is a kind of meditation has made both activities exponentially more gratifying and deep.

There is a rich and satisfying inner life to my guitar work now that I am sure was always there somewhere, but I could never see it. I was moving too fast, trying too hard, too attached to what I couldn't do, hadn't done. 

My friend the great saxophonist and human John Ellis once mentioned to me that he felt he needed his time in the practice room with his saxophone everyday as a way to stay grounded and sane. At the time, I caught his drift -- that he meant that his practice was, spiritually, more than just practice. 

I -- finally -- get it.

401 days in a row of

Practicing music (which encompasses a range of activities but mostly it means playing guitar and writing songs)

and

Meditating in the morning

I haven't told you about it before now for the following reasons and more ... 

  • I didn't want to jinx my efforts by talking about it too early in the process because I'd tried to do this at least five times before and have failed each time
  • It was/is a private journey of commitment (not a public journey of showing-off)
  • I didn't want "friendly" advice or any other tips or tricks or hacks from just "anybody." I only wanted feedback and support from people who'd been down the same path or who had some skin in this little game of mine (like my partner and my life coach)

 

WHY THE HELL?

For most of my life, making myself sit down to practice guitar has been a struggle. I am not -- in this post --going to go into the story of why that is.

Let's just say that proving to myself that I could practice my guitar for at least 365 days in a row would be a way to banish one major self-limiting belief.

Adding meditation to the mix was a logical part of this challenge.

I had been meditating on and off -- sometimes seriously and for many months in a row, sometimes more informally and sporadically -- for roughly 20 years. I already knew how beneficial the practice was to all aspects of my life. Now, I just needed to make it a rock-solid habit. 

And here I am at day 401.

 

KEEP GOING?

Could I have stopped at 365?

Sure! I accomplished my goal of making these into genuine habits. 

But something changed. They're MORE than just habits now.

Now, playing my guitar and meditating every day have become so important to my life, I have ZERO desire to stop.

Yes, I'm still counting days and still committed to keeping the streak going. But more than that, I am swimming in the daily acts of music-making and meditating. 

 

The first days and weeks were hard

During the first week, the first two weeks, the first month practicing guitar every day and meditating didn't go swimmingly.

It was a conscious choice and a conscious commitment.

Daily, I struggled to remember to do these two things, to say NO to other activities and obligations, to deliberately create time for them, to put them FIRST before other things. 

I literally had to remind myself to meditate and practice with post-it notes and google calendar reminders and notes left around my apartment.

And there were so many temptations and excuses to skip one day or give up one more time, like all the other times I'd given up.

Life is full and I could always think of a million other things that needed doing instead of practicing.

And when I was stressed and pressed for time, was I really going to take 20 minutes out of what? thin air? and meditate?! I was already late, I was already behind on too many things, how was meditating going to help me? An extra 20 minutes was going to help me! Or so the voice inside my head said.

But, this time and every time that voice yelled at me, I listened but I meditated anyway, I picked up my guitar and played anyway.

(i'm happy to go deeper into the specifics of my struggles in a later post. If you want me to, let me know in the comments below.)

 

RUN TO THE EDGE AND JUMP IN

Finally, after about ten months, things started to go swimmingly.

And now, I just dive into meditating and playing music and bob around in the waters, having fun, open to hanging out and seeing what happens. 

It's kinda like every day is the perfect day to go swimming -- the air temperature is hot and makes you want to jump in, and the water is perfect, not too warm, not icy cold. 

Running to the edge means sitting down on my meditation pillow, grabbing my meditation beads and starting. Running to the edge means just picking up my guitar and starting in on something, could be writing a song, working on a transcription, playing through chord-progressions, practicing drums, listening to music and analyzing songs and song-structure, working on some ear-training, etc.

I let wonder and curiosity guide me. I don't worry about how little or how much time I spend in the water.

I just jump in and see what happens.

 

ANYWHERE WITH ANYONE AROUND ME AT ANYTIME FOR ANY AMOUNT OF TIME

Now, I do these two things anywhere and with anyone around me at anytime of the day or night and for any amount of time -- even for one minute and usually for much, much longer. 

If I had to list three of the most important things I do every day to keep myself sane, stable, generous, kind, open to change, flexible, humble, they would be:

  • working out 6 to 7 days a week
  • meditating every day at least once a day
  • playing music every day at least once a day

There are other important daily priorities and commitments too, obviously. But these are three out of the half-dozen or so that are fundamental to my well-being.

 

AND YOU? WHAT'S YOUR STREAK GOING TO BE?

Have you ever gone from 0 to 365 days in a row of practicing a habit?

Or maybe it wasn't 365 days in a row, but it was five days a week of writing, or completing three workouts a week, or eating healthily for one month.

What did you do and how did you do it?

Let me know in the comments below! I'd love to hear about it.

 

YOU REALLY KNOW IT WHEN YOU CAN TEACH IT

Maybe you'd LIKE to do something like this and you just don't know where to start.

Want to find out how I was able to do this? and want to know what made the difference?

I know what it feels like to try things like this and fail.

As I said in the beginning, I've tried to do this at least five times in the past, and it never, ever worked. I always bailed at some point. I let obligations and duties and travel and basically everything else get in the way.

Send me an email via the contact page and I'll get in touch with you. We can hop on a quick call and decide how committed you are and what your next steps could be and how I could support you.

Caroline Brooks ... 1/3rd of the Good Lovelies

I don't even remember when I met the Good Lovelies, Caroline Brooks, Kerri Ough, and Sue Passmore.  It was definitely when I was living and making music in Canada, but where exactly in that great north country did I meet them?  Was it in the Royal City of Guelph?  Was it that circus-like February weekend in Montreal at Folk Alliance (when I also met Lori Cullen, Duane Andrews, Kurt Swinghammer, and Pat Boyle)?  Was it at the always-killer Hillside Festival?  The mist of time is thick and I am disoriented, pleasantly so.

No matter.  Allow me to introduce you to the sweet sound of the Good Lovelies (one of Canada's premier folk bands) and to one third of that power trio, Caroline Brooks.

Gregory Pepper

It is a very tricky thing to introduce you to Gregory Pepper.  In fact, it was so intimidating that for awhile I put it off.  Finally, I stopped being such a baby and decided to ship this interview with Pepper because by now he's probably thinking: "WTF, Schutt?!  What ever happened to that interview you asked me to do??" 

Here goes ...

Who is Gregory Pepper?  

He is a man of many nicknames: Peps, Pep Pep, Pepper, GP.   

He is a man of many bands and band names: Gregory Pepper and His Problems, Common Grackle, Big Huge Truck (to name only a few). 

He comes from the Royal City of Guelph, Ontario.  Guelph (pronounced "gwelf") is the best little gem of an Ontario town.  I lived there for seven years.  I call it the "Austin, Texas of Canada."