Vitamin Blog - Guitar in 5 Minutes

A daily boost of motivation, specifically related to - the easiest way to learn guitar from scratch. Often discusses the concept of Beginner's Mind, the Zen precept of openness.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

3 Awesome Creative Things To Fire You Up

On one of my favorite podcasts, ESPN's Football Today, they play a clip of Pete Carroll, the new coach for the Seattle Seahawks, at his introductory press conference.  He steps to the mic, and in a singularly uninspired voice he intones, "I am so fired up....."

The point is:  you can't fake it anymore.  There's too many people watching with their blogs, phone cams, Twittering, etc.

So here's 3 nifty things that crossed my desk today to keep your creative juices flowing:

1)  The Night I Met Einstein - by Jerome Weidman from Derek Sivers' blog -
       the story of a man whose ears were opened to Bach by the brilliant physicist himself

2)  Ed Hamell, who goes under the name Hamell On Trial, has written 156 songs in 156 days.  He's releasing an album called "15 of 100" of the best of the first 100.   He is still writing - - inspirational creative outbursting!   You go, Ed!

3)  An interview with Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead from 1978, in which he talks about buying every guitar instructional book he can get his hands on to learn new exercises. Whatever you might think of Jerry, it's pretty cool to hear a guitarist of his stature talk about getting back to basics and the value of constant learning......

Practice Beginner's Mind.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snow Falls On The Ground

Life is unpredictable.  You're just moving along and wham!  there's 2 feet of snow outside your doorstep.  You may even have known about it for a few days but it wasn't real until it was there.

Or you're doing great and all of a sudden - the flu!  a cold!  something that makes you stop, slow down, and re-evaluate.

Life is always going to be unpredictable.  Change is the name of the game.

So, isn't it comforting to have some kind of routine during times of extreme change?  For me, I get up every morning, do a Neti pot, and take a walk (when there's not 2 feet of snow) or do yoga.  No matter where I am, I like to do this every morning.  Starts the day off right.  I also like to get my hands on a guitar every day.

Maybe you are practicing the guitar every day when you come home from work or just before bed.  Routines that seem awkward at first will become familiar and comfortable as the world continues to spin around you and things naturally evolve and change.

Take the time.  Practice Beginner's Mind.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

When The Deal Goes Down - 3 Things You Can Do

Disappointment.  It happens to us all.  There are minor disappointments - oversleeping, not getting something you want for a present, breaking a guitar string at a crucial moment, losing a piece of musical equipment, etc.  Then there are major disappointments - not getting the job or loan you applied for, getting laid off, having a car wreck and missing your gig, etc.  But these are still not major life tragedies.

Like the Richard Carlson book says, "Don't sweat the small stuff (and it's all small stuff)".  This can be SO hard to remember.   But a disappointment is NOT a major life tragedy.  

3 things you can do to remember this.

1)  Take it easy - Be gentle with yourself.  Take yourself out to a movie or dinner, take a nap, take a walk, take the night off from your usual activities.  If you are like me (a type A go-go-go personality), then this can be the hardest step, especially if you feel like the disappointment is something you caused.

2)  Make a gratitude list - Do it quickly.  10 things you are grateful for.  I'll start it for you:

1)  You have running water, hot and cold
2)  You have a roof over your head
3)  You have enough food for today
4)  You have enough clothing for today and tomorrow
5)  You have a guitar

Maybe you don't have these things;   if not, cross them off.   If so, then you are ahead of HALF the world.  This is truly something to be grateful for.   I'm not trying to make you feel guilty - just trying to put it in perspective.  Like Rob Brezhny's book Pronoia says, "At least 50 million sub-atomic events had to happen to get you into the shower this morning."   Be grateful for what you have, even if it feels like pulling teeth.  Being grateful is like a muscle - the more you do it, the more grateful you are.

3)  Take action - The antidote to depression is action.   Take action.  Massive action.  Don't make one job call, make 50.  Take all that energy that it takes to be depressed and put it to good use.   Like Duke Ellington said about his prolific composing, "I just took all the energy that it takes to pout and wrote some blues."   Start small though.  It can be daunting to go from 0 to 60 in 5 seconds.  But honestly, the hardest part is getting started.  It's much much harder to make 1 job call than 10.  By #7, you'll be in a groove.

Practice Beginner's Mind.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Falling Behind

It happens to all of us.  We start off a new year or a new project all excited and full of enthusiasm, and then in a month's time we are stuck in our "same old loops", back to business as usual feeling stuck and mired.  

If you've ever seen the movie Groundhog Day, then you know being stuck in a loop is about.  For those who haven't seen it, Groundhog Day is about a selfish man (Bill Murray) who relives the same day over and over (and over) again.   It's not a good day in his life - he's a newscaster sent to Punxsutawney, PA to cover the groundhog's emergence (not really a Pulitzer story), he runs into an annoying old school friend, the woman he likes rejects him, and so forth.   When he realizes he is stuck in a Feb 2 loop, he tries to kill himself in multiple ways only to wake up in the bed at the beginning of the day again.  Gradually, as he realizes he's stuck in the day, he begins to find a side of himself that actually cares about other people and cares about contributing something to the world.   And (SPOILER ALERT) he is only released from the day when he "gets it right".

We don't get the chance to perfect the same day;  we don't get the chance to re-live high school/college/grade school and "get it right".  Many of our best and brightest pass away long before their time.  Life is short, and a "vale of tears" as the Psalm says.

But, everytime the clock or metronome ticks, everytime the calendar flips over, everytime time marches on and we feel left behind - we have the chance to start over.  Each moment gives us the chance to say, "Well, I'm not happy about that.  It's time to do things differently."

So you abandoned your New Year's Resolution to start running?  Strap on your running shoes and head out the door at the next chance you can.

Haven't been practicing the guitar?  Find 5 minutes today and sit down and play something.

Need a job but are un-motivated and discouraged?  Check out those want ads for a few minutes right now. Better yet, start researching what it would take to do what you really want to do.

and practice Beginner's Mind.

"It's a nice day to....start again" - Billy Idol

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Taking Care of Ourselves, 5 Things That You Value, and 3 Rewards

It is so hard for us sometimes to do the things that nurture us.  We overeat, watch too much TV, stay up too late, and think we are rewarding ourselves.   To say nothing of booze binges, drug binges, toxic people binges, etc.  

These "rewards" drain our energy for the things we really want to do - the things that support us, that help us become our best, and give us energy for the tasks ahead.   And they all come with punishments - hangovers, fatigue, credit card debts, gained weight, and lost self-esteem.

Today, make a list of 5 things that you could do that express your most cherished values. 

These could be:

  • Spending time with your child, spouse, or other loved one (family)
  • Learning to play the guitar (music, art appreciation)
  • Cleaning the garage or spare room  (order)
  • Going for a walk, a hike, or a run (nature, exercise) 
  • Planning for and taking a long-desired vacation (travel)
You get the point.   What is it that you truly value?   What kind of person do you want be?  THEN (and the two lists may overlap), make a list of 3 ways you can reward yourself in accordance with those values.  It may include self-denial such as
  • skipping dessert
  • going to bed early to get up for a morning walk
  • going to bed a little later so that you can get in some reading time
  • making sure you practice the guitar 5 minutes a day 
  • doing yoga in the morning instead of surfing the Web
  • saving money in a jar for a trip to Paris
When we treat ourselves like we matter, the Universe responds in kind.  "Everything counts!" says Gary Ryan Blair.  "There will never be a day that does not require perseverance, dedication, discipline, and personal integrity."  

Practice Beginner's Mind!  

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

3 Ways To Review Your Progress And Not Beat Yourself Up

It's so hard sometimes to go back and measure our progress.  Whether it's the turning of the calendar to a new year, a new decade (!), or some kind of personal milestone, we all hit those times when we look back and see how far we've come or how we've fallen short of our goals.

If you're like me (i.e. incredibly hard on yourself), it is much easier to see the glass as half or all empty than half full.   Try not to take the easy way out!   Credit where credit is due.

Reviews are important, though.   Accountability is a positive thing and will help you progress personally, spiritually, in business, in your relationships, and in all areas of your life.

Here's 3 simple ways that you can review your progress and not sabotage your future:

1)  Acknowledge your accomplishments:   Start off by making a list of at least 5 things that you have done right.   I credit Ariel Hyatt of CyberPR for this strategy - she suggests doing this every day to keep yourself positive.  This could be as simple as showing up to practice your guitar 5 minutes a day, showing up at the computer to write for 5 minutes a day, etc.  The point is showing up counts!  Give yourself more credit that you feel you deserve.   And schedule some kind of celebration for a job well done - let yourself eat your favorite food, watch your favorite TV show, listen to your favorite music.  You deserve a treat.

2)  Be honest about your shortcomings:   In any kind of personal/business inventory, an honest appraisal of your weak points and missed goals is crucial to forward momentum.   However, keep in mind that the purpose of listing your shortcomings is to figure out what future action is needed.  It's the opposite of wallowing.   List where you've fallen short and, for each area, list an action that can be taken to prevent the same thing from happening in the future.

3)  Make an action plan:   The antidote to depression is action.   List at least 5 things that you can do today (even if you don't get to them all today) to make your next year/fiscal period better than the last one.  They don't have to be huge earthshaking movements.   Small actions breed larger actions.  Start small.  

I wish everyone has a wonderful, healthy, happy 2010!   Hey - we survived the 00s!

Practice Beginner's Mind.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

5 Tips To Make It Through The Holidays (and keep practicing)

Stress.  Holidays.  Time (or lack thereof).  Loss.  Hurt.  Grief.  Frustration.  Anger.

Sound familiar?    So much of life is out of our control.  

Everywhere I have gone this week online and off I see many people having a hard time.   So here's my 5 cents worth (thanks Lucy Van Pelt) of holiday advice on keeping your sanity and finding that even keel (whether or not this includes guitar practice, which hopefully it does):

1.  Don't sweat the small stuff (and it's all small stuff).   If somebody cuts you off in traffic, cuts in front of you in line, is rude, or offends you however, try to let it slide.  Especially with strangers.  Make a deal with yourself that you'll get angry about it after January 1st.   If that seems like too long, start with "I'll get angry about it tomorrow".   Remember, all that anger doesn't hurt them;  it only hurts you.

2.  Breathe.   Lots of tasks to get done before and during the holidays.  Take a minute to breathe.  Many of us, myself included, walk around holding our breath.  You have 10 seconds to catch your breath and start again.  Everybody can find 10 seconds.   Breathing is so very important.  Those who do yoga can practice ujjayi pranayama or "yoga breathing"- this alone can really help re-center you and it doesn't take much time.

3.  Be a little selfish.   This is the giving season, it's true.  But if you give everything you have to doing things for other people, you may feel a little hollow inside.  I'm not talking about big giving, like volunteering at a soup kitchen or playing Santa.  I'm talking about the stay-at-home mom who is cooking Christmas dinner, taking care of 2 - 4 kids, and buying all the presents.   I'm talking about those who are caregivers for sick relatives.   You can afford to take little bits of time for yourself, even if this just means 5 minutes to practice your guitar or meditate.   It is an old adage that if we don't take care of ourselves, we have little to give to others.

4.  Be a little helpful.   Ha!  The contradiction.  But if you are taking even just a little time for yourself, you will most likely be filled with at least a tiny bit of the giving spirit.  Also, it feels good to hold a door for someone, to do the dishes when not asked, to lighten someone else's load.   It's a vicious cycle:  we take a little time for us, have more to give to others, and head into our time for ourselves with a lighter heart.  This will improve your practice.

5.  Take what you need and leave the rest.  When I was 9 years old, my best friend got a Millenium Falcon (a Star Wars toy vehicle).   He and I would play with it at his house, but I was in massive envy.  I asked for it for Christmas, but never got one.  I felt 2nd rate for years because, when personal computers came out, I got a Commodore 64 for Christmas instead of an Apple.  This is the kind of stuff the holidays bring up, and, as you can see, I had a relatively privileged childhood;  I know people whose memories of the holidays include drunk parents, abuse, and no presents.  But no matter how "small" the wounds are, they are still wounds and we all have them in some form or the other.   So, the other day, I posted a picture on a social network of my 4th birthday party, and a friend of mine (also in the picture - we are still in touch!  How fantastic) commented on how she was always jealous because she thought I had "the best" toys.   How wild!   I can honestly say I *never* thought my stuff was "the best";  I always felt second-rate.

Here is my point:  parents do the best they can under the circumstances.  Children do their best as well.  Sometimes the best is not at all acceptable (i.e. your sister always gets the preferential treatment, there is physical/psychological abuse going on, etc).   But unfortunately we cannot redo our own personal histories.  They are there forever.  But we can choose how we relive them, or not to relive them at all.  We can take the best of our families, and leave the rest.  Maybe the best was that you had a safe space to escape to when things got rough.  Maybe the best is that, no matter what, your family always seemed to be able to laugh together.   Maybe the best part for you is that Christmas ends.  But you have the power of choice on how to react, and what you will create from these painful memories.  If you learn to play the guitar, you can write songs about it and make something beautiful/dissonant/rocking out of the bad feelings.   Someone thought I had cool toys - that still matters even at 30something...cleave to the positive!  Let go of the baggage (at least for a little bit).

Practice Beginner's Mind!  Happy holidays.