The one thing that’s brought me the most progress as a musician is not some clever technical tip.
It’s not about how I practice.
It’s my attitude towards new opportunities.
And I can boil it down to just one word…
It’s simply saying “yes” to every opportunity.
But this can be scary.
And that often leads you to make excuses for why you shouldn’t do it.
I’m going to show you just why it’s so important.
And I’ll help give you some of the belief that will allow you to put this “get out there and do it” approach into practice.
It makes me sad…
I can’t bear it when musicians hold themselves back unnecessarily.
But I see so many of you out there.
Waiting until later.
Waiting until you’re a little bit better.
Waiting until the time is perfect.
That’s when you’re going to get out there and do it.
Well, I’ve got news for you.
It’s not going to happen if you take that attitude.
Or, if it does, you’ll get round to it much later than you should.
And while you’ve been sitting there waiting for everything to be perfect, other people will have got out there.
They’ll have been imperfect. But they’ve done things anyway.
And they will have made a lot more progress as a result.
They will be much farther down the road than you because you’ve just sat there.
Because you haven’t gone out and said “yes” yet.
You need practice as well as theory
Now, theoretical knowledge is great. You definitely want some of that.
But at the end of the day, there is no learning without doing.
Imagine being forced to choose between two options:
- having all the theoretical knowledge in the world, but no experience putting it into practice
- having absolutely no theoretical knowledge at all but just getting out there and getting a whole lot of unstructured, unguided experience
If I was in that position, I would take experience over theory every time.
Now, the big barrier that gets in the way of getting out there and getting experience is usually feeling that you’re not ready.
Maybe you feel that you’re not good enough. That you’re just not even allowed to get out there in some way.
Or you might have the same little perfectionist tendency as a lot of musicians (myself included).
You always feel that you could do it now.
But surely it’s a good plan to spend just a bit more time getting it slightly better.
A little bit more perfect.
Then you’ll be happy to get out there and share it with the world.
That’s not good enough, though. You need a different approach.
Make “Yes” your default answer
This is the solution.
Even though you don’t feel ready.
Even though you feel scared.
You want to get out there and say yes to an opportunity before you’ve had a chance to think it through.
And you’ll find that, once you are committed, magical things start to happen.
Once you’ve committed yourself: “Yes, I am definitely going to do this” – you will work out a way to deliver the goods.
A way to make things go as they need to.
So, say yes.
If someone asks: can you play a gig?
If someone asks: do you want to take a solo on this tune (that you don’t know at all)?
Whatever it is:
Yes! Yes! Yes!
Here’s what it looks like in practice
In case you’re still unsure, here’s a story that might give you a bit of inspiration.
Way back many years ago, when I still had a day job in an office, I got a phone call one lunchtime, asking if I could play a gig that night.
And not just any gig. This was a solo guitar gig for a gallery opening.
The band that had been meant to come and play had had travel problems. They just couldn’t make it.
Now, at this point, I had never played a solo guitar gig.
Not once in my life.
I had no music planned.
But I said yes right there on the phone without hesitation.
And with no idea how I was going to make it happen in just a few hours’ time that evening.
I literally ran home to prepare. And I worked something out.
It wasn’t pretty.
And I wasn’t proud of what I ended up playing from a purely musical point of view. There were all sorts of problems and mistakes.
But it was good enough. It got the job done. I got paid at the end.
The measure of success is that you did it
The real result wasn’t that I played some amazing solo guitar gig.
The real result was that I’d said yes to something challenging, and new.
And then delivered on it.
As a result, I now knew that I could play a solo guitar gig if I needed to.
Only that morning I hadn’t known that.
The important thing for you to remember when you take this approach is that success is about saying yes.
And then following through on that promise.
It is not about how well you perform in the things that you say yes to.
Sure, it’s nice if that happens. But what we’re doing here is strengthening your ability to take action in uncertainty. In scary situations.
Because the more that you do this, the easier it gets.
And that’s going to mean that you take more of these opportunities. You get more chances to learn.
You put yourself in more growth situations, and you expand as a musician and a person.
When you really get into this, you move so much faster, great things happen.
I really hope you will start saying yes.
Again, and again and again.
If you’re up for this, make a start by just typing “Yes!” in the comments below.