Don’t Forget the Why

Don’t forget they why. Recently, I was traveling abroad and had a long flight. I worked at a company that had Simon Sinek  of TED talks fame and a thinker  about motivation/human behavior/leadership/marketing speak. So I downloaded his book ‘Start With Why‘. Two good TED talks are ‘Start with Why‘ and ‘Top 10 Rules for Success‘.

The beauty is that we can apply these principles to guitar, to music, and to life in general. Conversely, I love using music as a metaphor to see life.

While I was in grad school, my days were spent purely on music. I woke up early to work on technique: scales, arpeggios, exercises, slurs, and a few etudes. Then to classes where I would spent time in the library doing research, reading, writing, analyzing music, discovering historical pieces for guitar, topics like understanding women’s gender roles in guitar or performance practices, etc. I’d head over for a music break for ‘Listening Hour’ to hear other musicians perform then practice some more until classes. I’d then go teach class piano, class guitar, and private lessons in both. Afterwards, I’d go home to practice more and write papers.

This got pretty tedious over the years and I could start feeling my brain become mush… burnout was starting to set in. One of my teachers, Patrick Francis, mentioned you need to remember why you started playing guitar. What made you happy? What did you enjoy playing?

I am always pushing myself and I only saw goal after goal, grades, checklists, perfecting things but was forgetting why I was doing it. I was focused on the how instead (which is also important but has its place).

When I co-taught ‘Guitar Fundamentals’ with Jazz Guitarist Rick Vandivier at San Jose State University, the first thing we began class was with a few minutes of silence where the class didn’t make a noise. This was totally new to me. It made me stop and was able to set my intentions for the class, the day, or just breathe and let go. I really loved teaching that class with Rick and took away some great experiences.

One takeaway from this post is to incorporate something fun into your practice sessions. For me, that usually means that I’m playing some of my favorite pieces like Recuerdos de la Alhambra or Un Dia de Noviembre. I also enjoy playing new pieces and re-discovering old pieces.

Guitar is deeply personal for me. Why do I play guitar? I love it. It identifies who I am and that is why I play guitar to express my soul, my emotions, and my life story. It just makes me feel good and worthy of life.