The Best Guitar Hack You’ll Ever Learn

Ovation Adamas Guitar
My Ovation Adamas, lovingly cared for my brother for 22 years

Guitar Hack

I’ve been playing the guitar for almost 30 years. As Mark would say, “Strictly rhythm, he doesn’t want to make it cry or sing.”

There was one practice that propelled my guitar playing into the stratosphere, and from the lessons I’ve seen online and off, it seems to be something no-one suggests.

Talk To The Hand

Guitar playing, like any instrument, is a function of manual dexterity. The way most of us learn most manual skills, is to view a model, then replicate it looking at our hands.

With music this translates to ‘hand-eye co-ordination.’ Can we manipulate our hands (and lips, feet, tongues, breath depending on the instrument) just ahead of the music.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

The Eye Problem

The problem is our eyes often have to be in at least two places at once (three if there’s a conductor, four if there’s also an audience). As the music (chords, tabs) look nothing like the finger positions as a beginner you’re flicking between the music and your fingers.

Not just beginners either.

Just like mouthing words silently when you read (because you learned by reading out loud) slows down your ability to read faster, looking at your instrument slows down your ability to improve.

Now this isn’t typing. Or driving. So actually you don’t need ‘hand-eye’ co-ordination at all. You need ‘hand-ear‘ co-ordination. (I know Beethoven disproved even that. But stick with me.)

Immerse Yourself

Like learning a new language is quicker through immersion, so is improving on the guitar. If you need your eyes elsewhere when you perform, immerse yourself in playing without the comfort of relying on your eyes.

Close them!

That’s it.

No Really, Immerse Yourself

Once you’ve learned a chord pattern, or riff. Practice. Do all your practice, with your eyes closed. In fact when I started learning I used to switch the lights off or wear a blindfold so even if I was tempted to cheat I couldn’t see the fingerboard.

It’s uncomfortable at first. Actually it’s still uncomfortable 30 years later. But it is the quickest way to learn chord changes. Also tunes. Because rather than relying on your eyes, you rely on your ears to give you feedback.

That’s far better for music.

Wax on. Wax off.

 

There’s No Difference Between Theory And Practice…

…in theory!

This is the same principle as the:
“Map is not the world,” or “All models are inaccurate by definition.”

As Mike Tyson put’s it, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.”

The reality is that there is a significant difference between: theory, the idea, the plan, the map – and – practice, the execution, the battle, the world.

Differences in events, environmental conditions, relationships, dependencies exist in practice. Which is probably why it’s called practice.

Whilst you begin with the theory, you execute with practice. Can you play a guitar without knowing guitar music theory? Technically yes. Of course, knowing the theory will improve your technique immeasurably. But knowing the theory is not enough.

Expecting practice (the execution, the battle, the world) to be exactly like the theory is the chief cause of stress!!

Think about it.

Every time you’re stressed. You have a mental model, a theory, in your head and something in the real world doesn’t match the theory. That’s (always) it. You have a theoretical expectation of someone, or theoretical plan to achieve something, or theoretical idea about customers, or driving, or …

…and the practice no longer matches the theory.

The trick is to let go the theory. Centre on the now. Accept the reality of the universe.

Because the only place there is no difference between theory and practice, is in theory.

 

5 Techniques to Interview for Gold

Project 2012: Day 212

Ever totally bombed out of an interview? Whether that was an interview for a job, or interviewing a client for information?

Some times we think the interview went well, even when it didn’t because we felt so good. It turns out, however, that for whatever reason, we didn’t come across well, didn’t articulate our strengths, or sell our credibility and capability, to the interviewer.

Don’t forget, you cannot guarantee your interviewer is very good either. So you have to be able to build rapport, and sell yourself, even when the interviewer isn’t doing a good job of eliciting that information.

How do you do this?

Decompose the skill

Like flying an aeroplane, riding a bicycle, or designing the re-entry shield on the Space Shuttle, every skill is made up of activities, tasks, and processes to execute perfectly. You can learn these skills, and moreover, you want to practice them.

Here then are the top five ways I recommend you practice to perform at your best in every interview, no matter the skill of the interviewer:

1. Prepare Stories

Not fiction. But the stories that describe how you did act in certain scenarios. These should cover your technical (content) skills, whether that be hair dressing, accounting, sw development, or neuro-surgery. You should have at least 2 – 3 stories, experiences, that describe your achievements, or challenges you overcame (or learned from).

Also your inter-personal skills: Leadership, conflict resolution, teaming etc. Again 2 – 3 experiences that describe how you showed (or recognised) leadership, dealt with conflict, worked in or led a high-performing team.

The reason is that when you’re asked how you responded in a certain scenario, you can tell a personal story from the heart that shows how you did respond. Or learned when you responded inappropriately. For detail on how to frame such a story, check out my blog post here:

2. Time and Space

Diligently put aside the time to practice. That means schedule it into your calendar, and your friends (that you’ll practice with) calendars.

Don’t reschedule this commitment. No high performing individual: musician, athlete, soldier, or emergency personnel skimps on their practice. Neither should you.

You also need a conducive space to practice in. Athletes playing in stadiums for the first time can freeze in stage fright. So do musicians. Fighting a real fire is a lot scarier than a simulated one. So as much as you can, arrange a space very similar to a typical chat room or office. If you have a friend who works for a similar organisation, see if you can book one of their meetings rooms (through your friend of course) perhaps before work, or during lunch times.

3. Friends Feedback

This helps you identify, and most importantly, rectify your blind spots.

Get good friends that won’t let you off the hook, but will drill you like any interviewer worth their salt. Then after the entire interview, or at least their line of questioning, they should give you specific and conditional feedback

4. Repeat

Speak to any musician, they’ve repeated their scales hundreds of times; racing car drivers repeat tracks over, and over, and over. This is one of the ways advertising is so successful, because they repeat the exact ad again and again.

So it is with your interview skills. Repeat answering tough questions, regaling your experiences, and asking insightful questions, again and again. These are your scales.

5. Interview Others

In medical surgery there is a concept of “See one, Do one, Teach one.”

The idea is that you’re not qualified to perform a procedure until you have taught someone else the same procedure.

I think that this is genius. When I became a dive instructor I had to learn the 6 components of clearing a mask. Something that I’d done a thousand or more times, unconsciously, in my years of diving.

The way this works is you have to break the whole into a logical sequence of consumable skills, hence you reinforce those skills in yourself.

The same is true for interviewing. As you practice asking questions to elicit information, and hear others answer (too short, too long, inappropriate, or brilliant) you’ll improve your ability to respond within interviews.

Also, you’ll be helping your mates to practice their skills.

Awesome Hot smile

Can you do this?

Is your next job worth the effort to practice these skills with your friends?

Thinking of your work experiences you want to share in answering questions; practice in a place and at a convenient time for your hosts, and supportive friends; constantly get conditional feedback about your interviewing skills, repeat regularly, and finally interview the friends that you’re working with.

Voila.

I’d love to hear your personal interview stories (From either side of the desk).

Katniss Everdeen’s 5 P’s to Getting Your Dream Job

Project 2012: Day 170

We call it job hunting, yet so much of getting a job is more like shopping than hunting. And I don’t mean the, “decide what you want, go to the shops and hunt it down” kind’ve shopping. More like the “order online and wait patiently for a delivery” kind’ve shopping.

Let’s get back to hunting.

Remember Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games? Her talent was hunting. Let’s look at the 5 key things she did as a successful hunter:

 

Prepare

Even before heading out to the woods to nab that squirrel, Katniss was prepared. Her bow and arrows were hidden in a hollow log. She had a couple of identified routes to get out of District 12, where she knew there was a hole in the fence, and the times the electricity was off. She had her father’s leather hunting jacket, her hunting bag.

Even when the unforseen happened, she managed to overcome the odds because of her preparation.

Preparation is crucial in job hunting too. Preparing your CV; what you’ll wear; how you intend to communicate; and how you present yourself both online and off.

Once you’re prepared, it’s easy to take advantage of surprise opportunities. But if you don’t have your bow and arrow when that deer surprises you on the trail, no amount of planning or skills will help.

Plan

The next thing our young huntress did was plan. She agreed times and locations to meet Gale in the woods. What they’d do if discovered. How they’d split up the bag.

Of course it’s the same with getting your dream job. Hunting is active, not passive. You need to plan the phases of your hunt, when you’re going to take time off, how you’ll get to interviews, what time of day you’ll communicate.

Pursue

Of course Katniss didn’t just prepare herself and her tools for the hunt, plan it out, then sit at home. Far from it. Despite the weather, or other commitments, she got out into the woods and pursued her quarry. Pursue is such a good word when it comes to hunting. Because so often there is no evidence whatsoever that you’re getting any closer to your goal.

Note, Katniss get’s out into the woods and pursues her target. Even Gale, who set’s traps is out there working actively.

This is where all the preparation and planning comes into play. Yes, there is serendipity, but as my dad always used to say: “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”

Of course it’s the same with your job hunt. You want to be actively following leads, calling people, and attending interviews.

Practice

This girl could put an arrow through the eye of a squirrel. Have you ever loosed an arrow at a standing target, let alone a moving one. Even at 10 paces, with no wind, no motion, and no camouflage, it’s surprisingly difficult to hit the bulls eye of a target.

Even her ability to plan, often on the fly; or move silently through the woods; spot and identify quarry; or communicate with the hunting party; was second to none.

That kind of skill comes with hours and hours and hours of practice. Not only solo practice, but practice with someone giving you feedback.

Putting together a CV, selling yourself on the phone, and presenting your best self at interviews are all skills that you can consciously improve with practice.

Profit

Here’s where Katniss differed from many hunters. She understood the value of her prey. Not only its intrinsic value as food, but value to barter for other necessities. Despite her youth, she was pretty skilled at identifying the best customers for her bag. Not to mention her prowess at negotiating.

When all of your preparation, planning, pursuing, and practice comes together in that job offer, you need to negotiate for it to provide the outcome, financial or otherwise, that you want.

There You Have It

Looking for your dream job? It’s a hunt, and you will be successful if you prepare, plan, pursue, practice, and profit effectively.

Here’s hoping that like Katniss, these skills will help you nab much more than a squirrel.