Dear Guitar Student,
Everyday, it seems like another hero is disgraced as their outer success is contradicted by their personal conduct. It’s enough to challenge your faith in humanity. But don’t give up, because having a hero is one of the best ways for you to reach your own personal greatness, as a human or as a guitar player–and because the world needs you to be a role model, too!
In this article, I’m going to explain how understanding how social learning works can unlock your potential to learn and grow. I’ll start with how emulating others can show you what to do, and then move on through who to do it with, how to do it, and finally on how you can help others in their own growth–which might just be the why.
Find A Path: Success Leaves Clues
Performance super-coach Tony Robbins points that one of the best way to achieve a result is to look for somebody who’s already done it, and then do the same thing. He says “success leaves clues!”
So, instead of inventing your path from scratch, follow a trail blazed by others! This works for more than learning guitar–I’ve used books, classes and experts, or even just asking people questions to study everything from juggling and learning Spanish to marketing and website building. If you’re a NYC guitar school student, you are probably the type of person who also seeks this kind of expertise.
If you want to play guitar (or learn any skill) you need a proven path! Find out what other people did and then do the same thing. Get a book, enroll in a class, or make a plan to follow somebody else’s strategy.
Find A Tribe: Who’s In Your Band?
While having a path is important, you still have to take action to walk that path. That guitar won’t play itself! One of the best ways to support your progress is to become part of a community of like minded people. This is because we are social animals. We have literally evolved to emulate the behavior around us, whether it is how to forage for food or how to strum and sing.
So having a partner or friends or classmates who are also enjoying practicing music and building their skills will help you do the same. In fact, a NY Times article on how to keep your resolutions lists social interactions with other people who are doing the same thing as a top recommendation for success. So get around people who are doing what you want to do!
For example, when I came to New York City I started playing a weekly open mic. Striving to perform up to the level of aspiring NYC musicians helped me level up fast–and I made a lot of good friends while I was at it.
If you want to supercharge your progress, you need to leverage your highly evolved social brain by getting around other people who are doing the same thing. Get a friend involved, join a class or start going to an open mic or other group. (As a bonus, you’ll connect with other people, which is one of your essential human needs!)
Find A Hero: Reach For Greatness
You know that incredible feeling you get when you are reaching your potential? There are some people who are reaching that level every day. And they are available to us, even if we don’t know them, in recorded music, books and interviews, videos and stories.
In high school, I emulated a college football player named Eric Yarber, who outworked lots of bigger players to become an All-American. As a 115-pound 15-year-old, I imprinted on him like a baby duck! I tried to play like him, walk like him, talk like him. Holding his example in my mind helped me outwork a lot of people on my way to winning many competitions and turning into more of the person I wanted to be.
Later, in guitar, I brought that same kind of attention to guitarists like Mark Knopfler and Joe Satriani and others. Knopfler played with a pick and two fingers, so I did, too. Joe Satriani practiced and played for hours a day–so I figured that’s what I should do, too!
You may not be striving to be a football star or a Grammy award winning musician–but you still need heroes, because you are on your own heroic journey to becoming more of who you want to be! You need models of passion, dedication and excellence to imprint on. But please–choose your heroes with care. Don’t mistake outer success for true excellence–look for people who are living life like you’d like to live life!
And yes, in this age of false heroes, it is a bit of a risk to admire somebody. But do it anyway! It is better to love and lose, than to never love at all–and it is better to look for the greatness in others and be disappointed than to not look for greatness. The fact that real and fallible humans are doing admirable things is itself proof that we can, too!
Look for heroes to imprint on.
Be A Role Model: Pass On The Spark
When I arrived at college, I met my high school hero–and it turned out that his outer successes were matched by a character of intensity, enthusiasm and, yes, a mindblowing work ethic. He wasn’t just a good example at a distance, though–he also went out of his way to encourage others, including me. In fact, he is a big reason why NYC Guitar School’s mission is “Coaching Personal Greatness”. I wanted to help others feel the way I did when he helped me reach for my own potential.
Remember how we humans are social animals? That means that you, also, are affecting others behavior every day. And as you become your own best self, those around you will inevitably become just a little bit more of their best self. That is true whether you’re on stage, on the subway, or at work or in your home!
As always, I’m so grateful playing guitar and teaching guitar in this beautiful city! Enjoy this beautiful May weather!
On to greatness,