Most musicians place artificial limits on their own growth. Without even realising they're doing it...
Are you leaving 50% of your performance on the table?
Think about when you listen to a great musician.
How many of the magic moments are within your technical ability?
How often do you think: “I could have played that”?
Technically, yes, you could have played it. But the ugly truth is simple – you DIDN’T.
Because some hidden barrier blocked you from achieving this thing that is otherwise within your potential.
If you can uncover that hidden barrier. Then you can work to remove it.
And once you’ve removed it, then your response to “I could have played that” becomes: “And I DID!”.
I'm about to explain exactly how you can achieve this.
But first, a quick warning.
There is no one-shot miracle cure
Once you’ve found and removed one barrier, you’ll hit another one further down the road. You need to identify and remove that one too.
And they never stop coming.
Here's the deal:
There will always be one or two things that hold your playing back more than anything else. These are your limiting factors.
You can’t ever escape them entirely. But if you’re willing to tackle them, then you'll improve amazingly quickly.
And yet, most musicians never take this route.
The barriers are often things which are a lot more comfortable to ignore. And some of the biggest limiting factors are things many musicians aren’t even aware of in the first place.
I'll tell you what they are a bit later.
Just understand that being willing to clear those barriers one by one is the secret to rapid progress.
What does it take to do this?
Glad you asked.
I'll give you some specific exercises to work on shortly – but, first, we need to look at your attitude.
Pro vs amateur mindset
The key to breaking through the barriers is your mindset.
And musicians’ mindsets are divided into two groups: pro and amateur.
The pros choose to do the difficult work. Even when it’s no fun, or when it makes them feel uncomfortable.
But they reap huge benefits as a result.
Let’s be clear.
This is not about whether you make a living from music or not.
Turning pro is a choice that any musician can make – it’s free, but it’s not easy.
“Either you’re working to get better or you’re not working to get better. And everyone that’s working to get better is on the same level, they’re just at different phases of the journey.”
It's not about putting in huge numbers of hours every day. You might only have a few minutes to practice.
And there are plenty of guys who make their living from music, do loads of practice but ...
... they still have an amateur mindset.
What's the bottom line?
It's not how good you eventually want to be, or how much time you put in. Turning pro is about whether you’re serious about maximising your progress.
You resolve to do what's important rather than what's easy.
Then you show up consistently and do it.
But this is hard – really hard
And that’s why most musicians avoid it.
You’ve got to be willing to spend time looking for the things that are holding you back.
Then you’ve got to take the actions that will improve these areas.
This often means doing things that make you uncomfortable.
That challenge how competent you feel.
But here's the kicker:
The more you push through the initial discomfort, the easier it gets. Over time you might even start to enjoy it.
Albert Gray spent his life searching for the common factor that successful people share.
Turns out it isn’t hard work, or luck, or even talent. As he said in The Common Denominator of Success:
“The secret of success of every man who has ever been successful lies in the fact that he formed the habit of doing the things failures don’t like to do."
You might be wondering:
Why do successful people like doing unpleasant things?
The truth is – they don't! Here's Albert again:
"Successful men are influenced by the desire for pleasing results. Failures are influenced by the desire for pleasing methods and are inclined to be satisfied with such results as can be obtained by doing things they like to do."
This is the pro mentality exactly. Pros do what it takes to deliver compelling performances.
Some pros just perform to friends and family.
Some get out regularly on the local scene.
Others tour the world playing at the highest levels.
But the essence of a pro is always the same. They remember what a lot of other musicians forget.
Practice is just a means to an end.
And that end is to give your best performance when the curtain rises.
This is a decision
Turning pro is uncomfortable and it’s scary. It demands sacrifice.
It's not for the 99%, the majority, the people who choose to remain amateurs.
Most amateurs are perfectly happy already. They enjoy where they are right now and that's enough for them.
They always look around for the next new thing to work on - rather than doing the difficult work of breaking through the blocks right in front of them.
And that's absolutely fine.
But some amateurs want more.
They realise at some level that they're an amateur ... but they want to change. They want to play music at a higher level. But mostly, they just don't know how.
There's still hope for those amateurs.
You should know by now whether you’re currently an amateur or a pro. And which one you want to be long-term.
The beginning of a journey
If you want to be a pro, then this article has shown you the mindset you need.
For some folks that’s enough.
It's a long journey, though, and most people benefit hugely from some support along the way.
All the training out there on the internet gives you NEW stuff without asking whether that's right for you.
And most of the time there's no way to check whether you’ve gone deep enough before you move on to the next thing.
This is why you want a genuine teacher as well as passive online content.
Even then you're not necessarily done.
Most musicians share the same biggest limiting factor – one that almost no teachers think about. And if they do, they don't know how to address it.
But that's a separate topic.
If you'd like to find out what that limiting factor is, then click below to continue to the next article in this series...