How many times have you been frustrated with yourself due to a poor performance, wasted practice time, or a sense of stagnation in your playing? How many times have you looked back over the past year or two and thought, “I could have been so much better of a bassist if I only_______________”, if you only, what?
How would you fill in the blank? If I only, practiced more? Procrastinated less? Worked in more bands? Learned more songs? Moved to Nashville, L.A., or New York? Regardless of your answer, I believe it’s important for all of us to look back and assess how we have grown, or stagnated, in our talent. For many of us, it can be painful to recall missed opportunities, relationships that suffered, or time that was simply wasted. However, if we actually take the time to assess these things we will take a very important step toward significant, positive change…if we want to move forward!
Procrastination is Not a Medical Condition
The reason it’s difficult to believe we can change our ways is that we allow our past to define our identity. Then, if we settle on that identity we feel that we are “locked in” and can simply never change. I would look at my own proclivity toward procrastination and allow that to define me saying, “I’d practice more but I simply can’t keep to a good routine”. After repeating that line to myself over the years, I began to believe it and create my identity, I’m a procrastinator.
Renowned motivational speaker Zig Ziglar used to say, “Failure is not a person, failure is an event”. Hearing that quote made me realize that I considered Procrastination to be part of my DNA, procrastinator, to me was a person, ME!. By thinking this way, I allowed myself an excuse for mediocrity. It’s like I was expecting people to understand my mediocre performance and growth, because I had a “condition”. Don’t let yourself be limited by your past!
Let’s get something straight. Procrastination is not an incurable medical condition. I’ve been dealing with it for most of my life and have my share of regrets to prove it. However, in the past 5 years, I’ve learned much about myself and how I have limited my own growth by simply refusing to believe I could change. The truth is, I can change and so can you. However, it requires that we first, do a few things to set ourselves up for successful change.
Success Is a Choice
If you want to be a better bass player, then you have to choose to be better. Success will be much more certain when we set a goal to be successful. But, be prepared to encounter obstacles! Obstacles are the food Procrastination needs to survive. Therefore, name your potential obstacles, be prepared to face them, then get them out of the way ASAP! One of the best ways to avoid obstacles is to create a plan, any plan. In fact, make it as SIMPLE a plan as you can. You can add to it later.
Start With One Small Goal
Setting and achieving one small goal at a time will be more effective than trying to set too high or too many goals at one time. Begin with planning a consistent 4-5 day a week practice routine. What should you start with? How about using this chart and find three areas you’d like to improve in your playing. If you’re looking for my suggestions, then I would work on three things – scales/arpeggios, right hand coordination, and learning a song. Shoot for committing 15 min a day to these things. Play a major scale for 5 minutes, eventually working through every key (click here for video demo). If you are able to focus on your right hand (plucking hand for you left-handers:-) while playing your scales you’ll be “killing two birds” in one exercise. Next, find an easy song that you can learn. Find the chord chart and play the notes from the chords on the chart. I’m including a link to a simple practice chart you can use (click here for the blank version). Fill in the left-hand column with areas of practice and check the days that you accomplish your goal for the day. Remember, start small and you’ll begin to feel a sense of accomplishment as you see your subtle improvements. IMPORTANT: IF YOU MISS A DAY, OR EVEN A WEEK, START WHERE YOU LEFT OFF. We all miss practices, we all fall off our routines, but the successful musicians will not allow themselves to quit. Make the choice to not quit!
Let me know how it goes. I’d also love to hear what has worked for those of you who have overcome your own obstacles.