Successful guitar students prepare to fail – What?

Guitar_player_737492Hang on a minute. Aren’t successful people confident and positive about what they can achieve? Weren’t we told that if you expect to fail you probably will? The ‘Self fulfilling prophecy’ idea right? Well it turns out that a sign of a successful person is someone who is actually expecting to fail and this applies to any kind of success including success on guitar. While this can seem a contradiction it makes sense when explained.

It’s all about the B plan

Firstly I should point out that successful people don’t want to fail and its not a prophecy but rather a ‘what if something goes wrong plan’. Would you prefer a pilot who is prepared for problems or a pilot who optimistically expects nothing to go wrong? When we expect failure we are not surprise by it which in turn generally means we have prepared for possible failure. In the case of guitar we are not going let a perceived failure derail our plan to ultimately succeed. This idea of preparing to fail was something I became well aware of through teaching but not at first mind you. In the early years when student drop out rates were high I became frustrated as a teacher. This led me on a quest for answers. After much research it was obvious.

The solution to an age old problem

I was pumping students up in the beginning saying how much fun learning guitar would be, but when disillusionment set in they soon lost interest. I tried using all kinds of motivational techniques but in the end what worked was this. I would ask a question like “What will you do, say after 6 months when you feel frustrated due to perhaps perceived slow progress and want to quit?” Many students will respond by saying they won’t want to quit but I reply with “but what if you do?” I persist with the question until I get an answer because the fact is almost every student will want to quit in their first year for some reason. If the student has a plan for dealing with the situation ahead of time their chances of success rise dramatically. Do you have a plan for guitar failure?


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