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The Long Run

I’ve been a little heavy on the research-driven posts lately, so I thought I’d throw in a personal story for this post with the hope that other lifelong learners might find some small consolation and – just possibly – inspiration in it.

So, here it is:

Recently, inspired by watching my son make steady progress in learning to play the piano – and in the the process, learning to read music – I decided to reinvigorate my own efforts at learning the guitar.

Specifically, I decided I would really like to be able to read music for the guitar, rather than just relying on chord diagrams, tablature, and whatever my feeble ear for music enables me to pick up.

It turned out to be a somewhat depressing, but also motivating move.

After debating how I would go about pursuing my goal, I dug out a tattered old copy of A Modern Method for Guitar, Volume 1, from the Berklee School of Music guitar series. For people who are serious about learning guitar, this is arguably the series of books to use. It is precise, methodical, and relies on the author’s original compositions for practice – a great way to ensure that you actually read the music rather than relying your memory of familiar tunes.

So far, so good.

But here’s the depressing part: on page 6, in my own handwriting, was the date 8/21/93. That was when I stopped using this book some twenty years ago after making it through a mere 6 pages.

Ugh.

Now, this is not to say that I have not made progress on the guitar. I can get by pretty well. I enjoy playing, and I do it regularly. But still, it stings to think of what I might have accomplished over the course of 20 years by devoting even 15 minutes a day to progressing through this series of books and the others that might have followed.

Again, ugh.

But, as they say, there’s no use living in the past.

So, here’s the motivating part: Consider what I might accomplish over the next 20 years – or, heck, even the next 5 – by devoting 15 minutes a day to progressing through this series of books and the others that may follow.

I’d encourage you to embrace the same perspective. Most real learning, after all, is about the long run. Regardless of whether you believe “10,000 hours” is the required amount of time for mastery, it’s clear that deeply learning anything of real substance takes time. There’s just no way around it.

And, as I’ve noted before, even small efforts, if they are focused, and persistent, can yield big dividends.

So, get started. And stay with it. You’ll get there.

In the long run.

Jeff

P.S. – This isn’t the first time the guitar has taught me a lesson about learning. See also While My Guitar Gently Weeps.

About the Author Jeff Cobb

I am an avid lifelong learner who writes and speaks frequently on the critical role of learning in our fast-changing world.

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