Greatness… What Does It Really Take?

Posted by: Daniel R. Lehrman Posted in: Guitar Articles

The top guitar players or performers in any field for that matter, think differently when everything is on the line. The great performers focus on what they are doing at the time and absolutely nothing else, they let it go and don’t think or care about the results at the moment.

This type of mindset allows you to live in the moment. It is the capacity to focus all of their energies on the task being performed. When nothing else exists but the “game” so to speak it becomes easy to immerse yourself mentally and physically into your vibe of playing the guitar. It is the type of control is very typical of the best performers in any field. Blocking out every possible distraction and locking yourself into a total unbreakable concentration.

In reality, it would be nearly impossible to have your focus broken when ones mind is so deeply concentrated on playing a guitar. For most of us this act of single mindedness is difficult if not impossible to achieve. As an example, if you watch a video of Stevie Ray Vaughan playing his guitar, do you really think he is paying attention to the crowd at that point? No way, Stevie is in the ‘zone’, look into his face he is some where else letting out his emotions and immersed in his guitar work.

Do you think that when an athletic sports icon like Michael Jordan is getting ready to shoot free throws in the competitors arena that he sees all of the people waving banners and signs to distract him? He does not even know they exist, his focus is on shooting free throws only. He always had one of the highest percentages of free throws made. When the few of us can reach this point of focus then we can reach higher goals.

It should be noted that when your mind becomes totally focused on a task, all doubt and uncertainty is pushed to the side. In short, you stop experiencing a body that is inhibited by mental or physical distractions. The mind becomes one with the job at hand.

For me, this is a very difficult exercise to develop. however, I can focus to this extent on many occasions. Most of the time I’m oblivious to any distraction, such as the phone or my wife talking to me or even being observed while I’m playing. It is an art I have to work on a lot. Actually it is a marriage of muscle memory and the ability to play by instinct. I have to practice focus when I drive, for the sake of safety, but more important, to avoid road rage.

Applying this to the act of being able to play the guitar is one of my strong points. I love to play the guitar, and that helps. A Logical and Effective Method to Practice The Guitar is an excellent way to learn the discipline of being a guitar player. Understanding and incorporating the Seven Realistic Steps to Being the Best Guitar Player you can be has been my guide to success. I have my basic routine and variations of it so I don’t get bored. Although fighting the boredom by enforcing focus is one way to learn the art itself.

Here is a story on focus and concentration and tuning out annoying people. My neighbors and our best friends in the world are remodeling their kitchen from the floor up, literally. Harold or ‘H’ as we call him is a master at home remodeling and at focus. I was over there yesterday helping him fit and hang the cabinets. Another good friend, Joe came over to help also. H is a perfectionist and it shows. He is not in a race, he wants everything to fit perfectly, H has no problem taking the time necessary to do the job right. We, meaning, Joe, myself and H’s wife spent a lot of time needling him in a fun way about speeding it up, don’t worry about this or that corner, the gap is fine, it is level enough, etc.

I’ve know them for 20 years now and it was typical H. He totally tuned us out, did not even act like he heard us. Just kept his focus and concentration and did the work at his own pace and stayed focused on doing the job at hand. Needless to say, it came out perfectly and we got it done faster than expected by sticking to his plan and focusing us out.

Here is another example which is an easy and a meaningful one for understanding the power that can be derived from totally focusing on an event and not the outcome. Consider for example what would happen if I asked you to walk across a board that was 12 inches wide, 15 feet long feet long and a foot off the ground. I’m sure you would be able to complete that task without any difficulty at all.

On the other hand, what if I extended the board between two giant skyscrapers with a drop of about 200 feet to the ground? I would be willing to bet a walk across that same board would cause considerable anxiety for most of us. I’ll bet some of you would not be able to do it. The skill level required to walk across the board is exactly the same, whether it is 12 inches or 100 feet off the ground.

The difference is the psychological response to the perceived uncertainty. Instead of totally focusing on the task, your attention is directed to the possibility of what could happen. If you were totally focused on walking across the board … if your mind became one with that task … you would not experience any fear or uncertainty. Walking the board would be, well, a “cake walk.”

Our thoughts create our reality, where we direct our focus is the direction we tend to go. The key to success is to focus the full power of our conscious mind on things that we are engaged in, not things that we fear. I like what one of my top level guitar player friend says about this very issue. He says, “When I go on the stage, I just think about my playing. I forget it is entertainment.” That is what great guitarists do …. they perform so naturally and so instinctively that they seem to be able to enter a pressure-packed situation that would terrify or freeze the rest of us as if nothing matters. ‘They let it happen, let it go. That’s greatness!

Nearly everything I do at Guitar Players Center requires this focus paradigm. This includes writing articles and keeping my site up to par. I practice focus all the time. Am I always successful? No. But that does not stop me from trying harder. Are you kidding, if I fail, all that does is inspire me to give it more effort until I succeed.


3 Responses to Greatness… What Does It Really Take?

  1. Beautifully written. What a fine sentiment.

  2. Amen. As Mark Twain saud, genious is 1 % inspiration and 99% perspiration.
    We need a world of smelly great musicians!

  3. Babolat tennis

    Interesting read because I know none of them.

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