Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Clever Salesman

This is a interesting topic, as my mind can trick me into focusing on what I don't want. Today, I realized that I fell into the same trap yet again. I had to laugh out loud when I saw it.

We want to focus on what we want. What do we want? To play faster, louder, more fluidly, more confidently, with more joy. What do we focus on? - not making mistakes, not getting tense, not cracking notes by playing too loudly. You cannot get what you want by focusing on what you don't want. It may seem to be a subtle difference in language, but in terms of results, the difference is tremendous.

Children don't seem to have these issues as much as adults. Many people think children pick up music quickly because of certain physical attributes, but I believe it's because most children have less critical minds. They make mistakes and it doesn't distract them from feeling good when they play. They don't take the mistakes personally, so they are not fearful of making mistakes while they go for what they want. This is incredibly important to understand.

We adults tend to think that we can have joy in playing only when we are playing well. This is the critical mind at work. The paradox is this - to play well we must feel well inside. If you want to play open and freely, you must feel that way inside. As my teacher has told me many times - go after what you want and feel well no matter what befalls you. How simple, and yet how easy it is to forget this.

The critical mind is a clever salesman, but for today, I will not buy.


Chris said...


I find myself agreeing strongly with you here. It is also very noticeable how intently a child can focus on something which interests them.

There is also the point of having so many distractions and commitments as an adult - not least looking after the kids and paying the bills! - that truly focussing is difficult.

My desire to have wealth is not so that I can buy loads of stuff! Nice as that would be :-) It is that I could get up and practice and do things I would like to do and not be worrying about the invoicing, next job, what's left in the bank etc.

And also - after a long time without playing guitar - I found myself slowing and almost going backward with my playing when I found a teacher. My problem was exactly what you said here. I used to practice and relax around mistakes. I suddenly found myself frightened of errors and worrying my tone was going to meet with disapproval.

One more thing to be worried about. I only have to block that out and I will make progress ;-)

Magical Bill said...

Hi Kevin,

As a semi retired school teacher who has only recently returned to playing classical guitar, I really enjoyed your last post. and the comment from Chris.

For myself, the big problem is trying to stick to the task at hand. For example, if I am looking at an instructional video (http://classicalguitarblogger.com/blog3/category/piece/page/8/), it is too easy to think, "Oh, I forgot to email so and so."

So thanks for a timely article. It will help me to stay focused.

Cheers, Bill Oldham

kevin r gallagher said...

Hi - many thanks for the comments. The major point I want to stress is to feel good as you practice. If you get distracted by the mind, it's fine. Don't get upset about it or feel like you have to dicipline yourself over it. Just bring your attention back to the guitar and let yourself play. If you get distracted again, notice it, and bring it back again. Don't worry and don't get upset - if you do, you feed the distractions even more.

Ignore it as if you would ignore a dog trying to get you to feed it under the dinner table. If you feed the dog he will always beg for more, but if you ignore him he will eventually leave you alone.

Best Wishes,