Rehearsing failure

G4 GUITAR flightI should point out that I am not about to suggest you practice guitar with an aim to fail. Rehearsing failure is a technique that will help you to be prepared and to deal with failure when it arises. I first heard about this strategy in a book about successful sports stars. In high level sport a critical mistake can shake your confidence and end up costing you the game. Dealing with your mistakes quickly and refocusing are critical.

Are you prepared for failure?

Think of safety instructions or a fire drill. These are simply preparations for when things goes wrong. You hope you won’t need them but in the event that something does happen you will be prepared. In the infamous 9/11 New York terrorist attacks it was those people who had done routine evacuation drills who mostly survived. They knew what to do when disaster struck. Failing guitar is hardly a disaster but the same principals apply. You need to be prepared for the day you decide to quit. A decision to quit is the only kind of failure when it comes to learning guitar. Being prepared will improve your odds.

Learn from your past

Imagine you had decided that ‘Stairway to Heaven’ was a song you wanted to play within your first year of guitar lessons. By the 6th month mark you were still struggling to hold down the first few chords and as a result you felt like a failure. At this point you decide to quit declaring you just don’t have what it takes. Rehearsing this situation before it occurs can dramatically reduce the chances of you really failing by throwing in the towel. Try to imagine yourself in different situations. A good place to start is to look at other pursuits you have begun but later quit. What happened? How did you feel? Why did you start and why did you then quit? Perhaps you took up tennis or golf or you started a business or a diet or a fitness plan. Look closely at the reasons and then using your imagination apply them to guitar.

Strategies for dealing with failure

By rehearsing in your mind the failing scenario you will be better prepared to deal with it. You simply need to imagine yourself failing and how you will feel and then work out how you will respond. Try writing down the various scenarios and then write your strategy for ensuring you do not quit. One strategy I use is what I call the contract strategy. Firstly when I decide to take up something new I set a short time frame. With guitar let us say 3 months. I then commit to practicing for the 3 months. At the end of the 3 months I review my contract. There is also the delay strategy. In this case when I feel like quitting I delay my decision for another week to see that I still feel the same next week. I have used this with many guitar students as well. When they say to me they are going to quit I ask them to give it one more week and then see how they feel. It works in about 50% of cases. Look for the strategies that work for you and by being prepared you will rarely fail.

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