Cultivating the Master Mentality
Becoming a master of the guitar is both easier and harder than most people think it is.
While that might sound like an absurd statement at first glance, a deeper look will make it seem fairly obvious. The extra difficulty lies in the necessity for absolute commitment and determination while the “easiness” refers to how your practice over the years stacks up in ways that you can’t understand until you’ve experienced it.
From the beginner or intermediate standpoint, becoming a master seems like an impossible goal. As I’ve said on a few occasions, this is because it would take many lifetimes to achieve mastery if your progress continued at the same rate as it does when you first start out. However, since we know there are masters of the guitar, we can easily deduce that the rate of progress actually increases exponentially over time.
Because of this, the necessity of practice really isn’t something that needs to be driven home as much as it is. It’s critical to know how to practice correctly and optimally but, if you’re doing things right, your motivation to practice every day will be unwavering.
In this case “doing things right” refers specifically to what we can call the “Master Mentality.” This is the most important aspect of mastering the guitar as, without it, you’ll simply never get there.
The Master Mentality is typically what people perceive as being “talent” or “a gift.” It’s the unseen variable in an equation that few people know much about. If you are unaware of its role, it’s easy to see people who have it as somehow tapping into unearthly forces that give them superhuman abilities. In reality, unearthly forces and superhuman abilities aren’t required at all. It all comes down to a few simple shifts in how you think about the guitar and your goals.
Let’s take a look at some differences between how an average guitarist thinks and how a master-to-be thinks:
- When an average guitarist sees a master performing an amazing technique or piece of music, they have a tendency to say or think things like “well, I might as well throw my guitar in the trash.” There’s this idea that emerges that they’ve just been wasting their time all along as they clearly don’t have whatever the “inherent ability” is that the master has. You can imagine how far that guitarist will go to achieve something that they firmly believe they can not achieve…
When the master-to-be sees a master performing the same technique or piece of music, their thought process is critically different. For one, any doubt that they could achieve the same thing is immediately stricken from their mind (and this occurs automatically because they’ve practiced and made a habit out of thinking this way). They know that there is literally nothing that someone else can play on the guitar that they don’t have the potential to learn and master themselves.
- Here’s a statement that’s so intuitive and obvious that actually stating it feels redundant: the average guitarist struggles with motivation to practice. The average guitarist either only has a vague idea of why they want to play the guitar or has a very lame reason (motive) behind it and therefore struggles with motivation. Lastly, the average guitarist thinks in terms of practice.
The master-to-be doesn’t have to worry too much about motivation because they are constantly excited to practice the guitar. The key word there is “excited.” Not only does the master-to-be have a much clearer idea of why they want to get better at the guitar, they also have a reason that gives them genuine enthusiasm and excitement. Instead of thinking in terms of practice, the master-to-be thinks in terms of where the practice will take them.
Well, that’s it!
Anyone can cultivate the Master Mentality at any time. It doesn’t matter whether it’s your first day learning the guitar or you’ve been playing for 30 years.
If you struggle with doubts about your potential and/or motivation to practice, it’s a simple matter of building new habits of thinking. Any time you catch yourself having a self-defeating thought in terms of your potential on the guitar, throw it away and replace it with something constructive and encouraging. I would argue that you are simply learning to see things more realistically when you do this by cutting insecurities out of the picture – as insecurities are the biggest liars there are.
Contrary to popular belief, you are not your personality, you are not what you or other people think about you and you are not your perceived limitations. All of those things are malleable. The potential of the mind has no actual limitations other than the ones we impose on it or allow others to impose on it. The illusion of limitations can be very compelling but it’s important to remember that it all comes down to habits of thinking.
Any time you catch yourself feeling frustrated with the need to practice, pay attention to where your focus is. Thinking about practice won’t get you very far. Think instead about where that practice will lead you.
Now this might sound a bit too “self-helpy” for your taste, but keep this in mind: whether it has been articulated or not, these are the key differences between the average guitarist and a guitarist that will achieve master level.
Build these habits and you will already be halfway to becoming a master. The other half will happen almost automatically after that, over time.
Dan Mumm is a Metal Method instructor and shred master. Check out Dan’s lessons here.