Paco De Lucia has left the building

Paco De Lucia died today.

 

In public, I remain stoic.  I reflect on the fact that the nature of life is terminal and that even though losing Paco is painful that it is a much better alternative to him never having been here at all.

In private though, I am heartbroken and this is a devastating loss to me.

When I was growing up, I saw a transcription for Al DiMeloa’s Mediterranean Sundance that included Al’s (and part of Paco’s) solo.  When I finally heard the Friday Night in San Francisco recording, I was knocked out.  Much of my senior year was spent getting DiMeola’s wicked picking together but the stuff that really grabbed me was Paco’s playing.  It had all the speed and fire of DiMeola and a depth to it that was other worldly.

Years later when DiMeola, McLaughlin and De Lucia toured again I got to see them at Boston’s Symphony Hall.  I was six rows back and the tickets cost me a small fortune, but, in retrospect it was a moment I was waiting my whole life for.

DiMeola sat on the left hand side of the stage with his Ovation guitar plugged into a mini-refrigerator sized rack mount unit.  McLaughlin sat on a piano bench on the right going into a small Sony digital unit.  De Lucia sat in the middle with a mike on the guitar.  I understand that privately the men did not speak to each other on tour and I do not know if there was an argument before the show, but Paco came to the stage that day as a matador.  He played circles around two world class players and then drove it home.  People may have had opinions about who did what before the show, but the only name I heard after the show was Paco (except for my friend Scott Crosby who was on a McLaughlin kick at the time but he can certainly be forgiven ; ) )

In Flamenco, there is a concept called Duende.  In its simplest possible description – it’s basically the goosebump moment.  The moment that the hair stands up on the back of your neck and all of your attention gets dragged into the moment.  Paco could summon duende, and it was always lurking behind every nuance of his playing.

He used flamenco for a vehicle for self-expression and had such a unique voice that, starting with his work with Camarón, he created new forms and new definitions of Flamenco.  He is also the guy who brought the cajón to Flamenco.

Paco used technique as a means to an end, “I have always found that the more technique you have the easier it is to express yourself. If you lack technique you lose the freedom to create.”  He combined a number of existing techniques in a manner and accuracy that had never been done before.   He set a standard by which all other players would be judged.  He inspired legions of other guitarists and musicians who all strove for that power.

There is basically Flamenco before Paco and Flamenco after Paco.

There will be many players in his wake who will technically dominate the instrument but there will never be another Paco.

For my money, the greatest player that ever walked the Earth.

Paco De Lucia has left the building.  And the building is much smaller than before.

A Public Service Announcement – Stuart Adamson – Holidays – And Seasonal Affective Disorder

Stuart Adamson

I’ve been thinking a lot about Stuart Adamson (guitarist and founder of Big Country) lately as I knew that the anniversary (not the term I’d like to use here – but the only one that comes to mind) of his death is in December (it turns out it was December 16th.).

The first time I heard, “In a big country” and heard the way the the guitars were imitating bagpipes, I was blown away.  It never occurred to me that a guitar could imitate other instruments and in a lot of ways – the explorations I’ve made in adapting techniques and approaches from other cultures to guitar all stem from that initial door being opened for me.

It is incredibly awful to realize that the man who wrote these lyrics:

“…I’m not expecting to grow flowers in the desert,
But I can live and breathe and see the sun in wintertime..

And in a big country, dreams stay with you,
Like a lover’s voice, fires the mountainside..
Stay alive..”

would be found dead by his own hand in a hotel.

I don’t know anything about Stuart Adamson.  I don’t know anything about the pressures that drove him to such a desperate act so his particular situation isn’t something I feel comfortable discussing.

will say that coming into this season reminds me again of those I know with Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) and the winter holidays are always particularly difficult (and sometimes very desperate) times for them.

If you or someone you know is prone to depression around the holidays – please seek out (or encourage them to seek out) professional help (if you or they are not doing so already).

Even if professional help is not available at the hour you might need it if you are feeling desperate at a minimum try to reach out to other people.

And if other people need help, please make yourself available to them.  Sometimes a caring friend is just enough to get people past a dark moment long enough that they don’t do something rash.

No matter how physically or emotionally isolated you might perceive yourself to be – there are people who care about you.  We are all interconnected.  We all affect other people.

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In the U.S. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.

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Again, I don’t know anything about Stuart Adamson.  But in listening to The Crossing, I can’t help but think the world is a smaller place without him.

Pre-Thanksgiving Updates

Hey everybody,

Just a few quick updates in chronological order.

Guit-A-Grip

Guit-A-Grip is going to have a refocus which will be of interest to readers interested in the Music Business side and career sustainability.

For those of you who have ever read a book and thought, “Hey I can do that!”  You probably can – but there are some things you might not have counted on.   My latest post on Guit-A-Grip shows a little accounting slight of hand from Amazon and details the good bad and ugly of self-publishing (replace the words “book” and “publishing” with “recording” and “music business” and many of the same observations apply) here.

There’s also a new podcast on project management up.  If you’ve decided to hit that New Years resolution early – this podcast might be of interest.

Guitar-Muse

A gear review of the Positive Grid Jam Up and Jam Up Pro app for iPhone and iPad got reviewed here and I would have had a review of their new BIAS software (which looks like the real deal) but my iPad was too outdated. Positive Grid IS working on an iPhone version and I should be testing that when the Beta version is out.  In the meantime you can read some overviews here.

TrueFire Guitar Guru Chris Buono sat down and gave an in-depth interview on teaching, performing, gear, endorsements and more.  That interview should be up on guitar-muse this Thursday.

It looks like there will be at least one more gear review, one more interview and one more lesson on Guitar-Muse before years end, and I’ll post that info when I have it.

A lost gig

Ah….I forgot – it turns out that the 1 gig I got to play with the Children of Mu project last year  was recorded by mastermind/drummer  Justin Wierbonski.  If you like the Onibaba stuff or the Daren Burns stuff you might dig this as well.

You can stream or download the track here.

“The Children of Mu live at Bar 4 from 7.12.12. 100% improvised. Recorded with an Optimus CTR-115 Hand Held Cassette Recorder and a Radio Shack 33-306 microphone.”

Steven Husted – Bass
John (Lavibora) Aleman – Guitar
Nick Herman – Percussion
Scott Collins – Guitar
Justin Wierbonski – Drums

Other

In the meantime, I’ve been playing some low key gigs and open mics to prep for some acoustic and electric recordings  I’m trying to get out the door by the end of the year, writing a book on practicing and editing the pentatonic extraction book.  It’s a lot coming down the pike but it’s good stuff and I hope you dig it!

As always, thanks for reading!

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An Unusual Capo Variation And Milking A Vamp

Hey everyone!

I haven’t posted a lesson in a while here – so I though I’d post a really quick one for getting some mileage out of a single chord vamp.  This is a little something I improvised on a tune for a live performance that’s now a loop based riff I build on live with a tentative title of, “remedial looping”.

That E Minor thing

First, let me take a BIG cue from my harmonic combinatorics book.  When I look at an E minor chord – harmonically I see something like this:

E Minor Harmonization

So whether it’s an E minor/ Em7 / Em9 / Emin 11 (b13) – I know that playing any notes from the E natural minor/G major scale will get be SOME variation of the above chords.

As a start let’s look at an E minor 7 chord:

E minor 7

Interesting observation – if I look at the barred notes on the 5th fret:

5th fret barre

The notes are all found in the parent scale.  If I think of this voicing as a virtual capo and drop some of the notes on the 7th fret of the E minor chord to the 5th fret I get this really cool chordal cluster:

E min 7 (add 11 add b13)

Going further – I could use open strings instead of the 5th fret and get a less clustered sound.  Instead, I decided to flip my capo around and use it as a partial capo on the second fret so that the low E string would ring out unobstructed but the rest of the notes on the second string would be fretted by the capo.

2nd Fret Partial Capo

Using the same idea as the previous example here’s the same modified Emin7 shape using notes on the 2nd fret instead of the 7th fret.

E min 7 sus 4

Make sure to play through those clusters individually as there are some good sounds there!

Put it together in a little string slaps for percussive effect and you have a little groove like this:

E min vamp

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Note:  I play the notes on the B and D strings with the 3rd and 4th finger while I move the capo.  How I attack the D-E at the end of each measure will depend on fingering.  Sometimes I’ll slide and some times I’ll hammer on.

This is a pretty simple idea, but there are a few challenges with executing it cleanly.  Just remember to pay attention to the 3 T’s (Timing, Tone and (hand) Tension) and be aware of your finger position to make sure that the strings all ring out.

File under – a little theory can go a long ways!  I’ve left a number of variations out of the lesson to have one simple thing for you to develop on your own.

Good luck!

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PS for those of you who are interested – this was tracked on my iPhone with the JamUp Pro app and a Line 6 Sonic Port interface.  A review of the Jam Up app will be up in the weeks ahead on Guitar-Muse.

GuitArchitecture Series U.S. Book Sale – Worldwide PDF Sale

To celebrate my FretBoard Visualization update release, I wanted to announce some discounts on books that are available right now.

Softcover (Bound) Books

Amazon is currently offering 10% discounts on many of my books (with free shipping if the purchase is over $25).  For some reason, the cover photo’s of the books aren’t all showing up on the Amazon Preview – but they’re the same books that Lulu releases (Lulu is the printer)  So here are the books and the prices (you can click on any graphic to go to the page or click on the books tab above to read a detailed description about any of them).

Symmetrical 12 Tone Patterns:

12 Tone Cover small

284 Pages Softbound

List: $35.00

Selling: $31.50 (w. free US shipping!!)

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GuitArchitect’s Guide To Chord Scales

guitarchitect-2

190 Pages Softbound

List: $25.00

Selling: $22.28 (w. free US shipping if total purchase is over $25)

The GuitArchitect’s Guide To Harmonic Combinatorics

harmonic-combinatorics

410 Pages Softbound

List: $35.00

Selling: $31.50 (w. free US shipping)

The GuitArchitect’s Positional Exploration

positional-exploration

254 Pages Softbound

List: $25.00

Selling: $22.26 (w. free US shipping if total purchase is over $25)

The GuitArchitect’s Guide To Modes: Melodic Patterns

melodic-patterns

333 Pages Softbound

List: $30.00

Selling: $22.27 (w. free US shipping if total purchase is over $25)

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Fretboard Visualization – Pentatonic Minor Scale

Book Cover Full

isn’t on Amazon yet – but it’s only $15 on Lulu.

PDFs

Lulu has PDFs of my books for sale and they’ve all been discounted from $15 to $10!

If you weren’t able to order the 4-book pdf bundle before, it’s a great way to get the same deal!

As always, thanks for reading!

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Announcing My New Podcast and Website – Guit-A-Grip

Hello everyone!

I just wanted to let you know that I have a new blog and a new podcast called:

Final

You can find the website here: guitagrip.com 

You can find the podcast on iTunes here:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/guit-a-grip-podcast/id638383890 

GuitArchitecture VS Guit-A-Grip

Simply put, GuitArchitecture focuses on a specific methodology for how to play guitar while  Guit-A-Grip focuses on the philosophical/psychological underpinnings addressing the why of guitar playing.

A number of posts in this area currently on GuitArchitecture will gradually be migrating over to Guit-A-Grip with all new content there as well.  There’s been some site clean-up here already and there should be more coming soon.

For those of you who are concerned – don’t worry – both sites will still maintain the same 2004 Web design standards ; )

So GuitArchitecture isn’t going anywhere – it’s focus is just going to be tightened on the physical and technical aspects of guitar.

The Podcast

The Guit-A-Grip podcast is going to be weekly(ish) and there’ll be a new podcast up before the end of the week. Hopefully it’s something you’ll dig.  If you do – please leave a review on iTunes!

I’ll update this post later with some more info and observations – but in the meantime I invite you to join me in Guiting-A-Grip.

As always, thanks for reading!

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A Transparent Guitar And A Translucent Lesson

Hello everyone!

I hope this finds you well!  I have a couple of quick updates and a new lesson here for you today.

Guitar-Muse update:

Just in case you didn’t see it, I just wanted to let you know that a new review / tutorial on what to look for when buying a new guitar is up on Guitar-Muse right now.  Interested parties can check that out here.

Book Update:

All of the GuitArchitect’s Guide To… covers are done and up online.  You can see the revised editions here.  The Pentatonic book is getting a graphic overhaul and cleaned up for the print edition.  But I should have a new cover (and a revised edition) up by April.

Update Update:

I’ll have a couple of big announcements to make in the weeks ahead, but I think that it’s going to be good news for the readers of this blog and perhaps offer something truly useful.  So stay tuned – I might have an announcement (and something new to offer) as early as next week.

And an overdue lesson:

It’s been a spell since I’ve posted a lesson here (most of the lesson material for 2013 has been transcription work and lessons for Guitar-Muse), so I thought I’d rectify that with the following little morsel.  One thing I hope to do more in the future is offer bite sized lessons rather than the 3-6,000 word uber-lessons I’ve put up in the past.  Hopefully by making the lessons shorter, I can get them posted in a more routine fashion.

“You say you want a substitution…”

Okay – maybe none of you were saying that but I’ve got a string skipping idea that I think you might dig and want to explain where it’s coming from.

In this lesson, we’ll start with an F Pentatonic Minor (F, Ab, Bb, C, Eb)…and then add some notes to make something cool.

Visualizing the scale:

The first step in this lick is to visualize F Pentatonic minor in the 8th position.  The first group of notes in the example below is a F Pentatonic Minor scale.  In the second figure, I’ve removed the Bb  and moved the Ab to the G string to make it a 3-note-per string idea with a similar fingering.

 F Pent Minor - F Pent Minor 2 string

I find that removing notes from a straight scale-based pattern helps open up the sound of the scale as well when playing it in a linear fashion.

Preliminary Lick: F Pentatonic Minor on two strings

F Pentatonic Minor 2 strings

And here’s an mp3
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Where there’s two there can usually be three:

Now I’ll take this same string skipping idea and expand on it moving it to a pattern on the E, G and A string.
F Pent Minor to F Minor 3 String

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Preliminary Lick #2: F Pentatonic Minor on three strings

F Pent minor 3 strings

And here’s a MP3:

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Adding by Subtracting

Using a trick I pulled from Eric Johnson (and a number of other players) I modified the scale by adding the 6 (the note D in this case) and the 9 (G) to the Pentatonic Minor scale to give it a slightly different sound.

Rather than think of extra notes – I simply modify some of the notes of the scale by a 1/2 step:

Changing the b3 to the 9 means changing an Ab to G

Changing the b7 to the 6 means changing an Eb to D

I don’t do this with every note, just a few of them.  If you look at the before and after below, you’ll see that the modified scale has the same number of notes but with an added bonus – namely a symmetrical fingering.

F Pent Minor to add 6 and 9

The advantage of a symmetrical fingering is that it makes it easier to manipulate when we use it in a pattern.

The Lick

Now with all of this back story it becomes much easier to see how I came up with the pattern below (based on an improvised idea):

F Dorian string ship seq

Here’s an MP3:

And here’s another MP3 in a more improvised vein.  By adding the natural 6 and the 2 (9) to the scale – what we really have here is a string skipping dorian lick.

Taking the idea a little further

In this case, I don’t mean stuffing more notes into a passage – I mean getting comfortable with the sound of added notes.

The MP3 below uses an approach from an early chapter of my Symmetrical Twelve-Tone Patterns book.  In that text, I talk a lot about understanding what it means to play “in” before you play out and being able to resolve “out” ideas or (in this case) resolve notes outside the scale.  But I also talk about working through ideas and finding resolutions.

When working with pentatonics add ons like the ones above, I’ll often work on accenting a note so I can really start to hear how it sounds in context.  The following short improvisation starts on the 6 and stresses that note for to accent the Dorian sound.

When working with ideas like this strive to get past the notes and to, instead, get into the sound.  It’s not just about playing a lot of notes, it’s about knowing which notes affect you before you play them.

Finally for those of you who are interested in the tech side of things – if you like the tone – it’s the same – AU Lab, Apogee Duet, FnH Guitars and Scuffham Amps combo that I typically use….

Scuffham Amp RigWith a little added reverb and a front end boost courtesy of the TS-999.

TS999

I hope this helps and, as always, thanks for reading!

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Hooey (Lewis) and The News

Hey all,

A few quick updates:

Guitar-Muse

In case you haven’t seen it yet, my ZT Amplifiers Extortion pedal review went live on Guitar-Muse.  You can read all about it here.  In other GM news, I just submitted an article for a Galveston acrylic guitar review (disguised as a guide on what to look for when buying a guitar).  I fired off some questions to Magic Band touring guitarist Eric Klerks for an upcoming interview, and have some really cool lessons coming up including an exhaustive overview on Ridgely Snow and a lesson on Chaostics.  More interviews and gear to follow.

Publisher’s Weekly

Also, A new article just went up on Publisher’s Weekly online (it should be in the print edition soon) on Indie Rock and publishing that I was quoted in.  You can read that here.  Special thanks to Alex Palmer for listening to me ramble about the state of the industry and distilling that into a few quotes.

Onibaba

The first disc of the session I played with Daren Burns Onibaba is coming out soon and the artwork by Kio Griffith looks AMAZING:

550051_10151514391407152_449277603_n

The disc features awesome playing from the incomparable Vinny Golia, George McMullen, Craig Bunch, Daren Burns and Randy Gloss.  Daren has a CD release show in LA that I have to miss – but I’m psyched that this is finally coming out.

Mas Books

The book updates are almost all done.  I’ve gotten almost all the proof covers back and approved them.  Positional Exploration‘s in the mail and after a make a few small tweaks on Fretboard Visualization – that’ll go in the mail.

In other book news, look for my next Kindle title –  Nothing Ever Got Done With An Excuse, this fall.

A cast of a different kind.

I just tracked a quick demo of a tune from my new 12-Tone book that’s going to be the “show” music for a podcast I have up my sleeve.  I’ll post more details as it gets closer to air – but I think it’s going to be cool and works into the long term goals of the site in a somewhat indirect manner.

And Mixing and Tracking Resumes

Rough Hewn Trio and solo acoustic cd are on their way to getting completed – dare I say this spring?

That’s it for now.  Heap o’ new stuff on the way.

As always, thanks for reading.

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Altruistic Action And Selfish Motivation

The best relationship lesson I ever learned.

Believe it or not, the best lesson I ever learned in a relationship tied directly into a lesson that it took years to integrate into my playing.

Years ago, I was in an absolutely intoxicating relationship with a remarkable woman that I thought I was going to marry.  But there were a lot of difficulties in that situation.  I had just come out of my undergraduate program by the skin of my teeth and entered the workplace in a field that had nothing to do with the skills I acquired…to pay off the student loans associated with those skills.  I threw myself onto this ready-made family and was completely  in over my head.  (I eventually learned that, “No, no…I got this.” is the mantra of the drowning person succumbing to their own delusion.)

But I really wanted to make the relationship work so I did whatever I could to accommodate the other person (generally at substantial discomfort to myself).  The more I became a martyr, the more miserable I became and as I became more miserable I simply poisoned a doomed relationship that much faster.  I doubt that you’d be surprised when she broke up with me.  I, on the other hand, was gutted.

And the first thing I did?  I threw all of those things I did “for her” back in her face.  And I did that because I was immature and I didn’t understand the situation.

I didn’t understand that she never asked me to do any of those things that I did.

It took me months to learn the lesson that in any relationship, you need to do things that you want to do.  You need to be selfish in certain things because if you only do things that you hate doing, you’re going to be miserable and you’re going to be miserable around.

When I did get married years later, I was grateful for that lesson as I was for doing things for my wife because I wanted to do them for her.  There are a number of other lessons that I’ve had to learn since then, but I am thankful that I got that first one out of the way…

Perhaps you’re thinking, “Nice story Scott.  Bully for you – but what the Hell does this have to do with guitar playing?”

A lot actually.

In your relationship with music you also have to be a little selfish.

If every action that you take is going to be dependent on someone else’s approval for you to feel good about it – you are on a road to artistic ruin.

Piggybacking off of my last post, there are many things that you are likely to work on that will not pan out for one reason or another but (in a “it’s the journey not the destination” variation) the only reason to get involved in any project is because you can invest yourself into it emotionally as well as physically and/or financially.

Be 100% clear – you may play guitar – but if you are not in the business of moving people with your music all the finger exercises and hours with a metronome in the world won’t help you.

You move people by writing and playing honest music.  It’s a critical step in connecting with people.  If you’re sincerely invested in what you’re doing, that’s going to come across.

To be clear – I’m not saying that you have total license to be an ass.

Have you ever seen a band or a movie that has no regard for it’s audience at all?  You’ll know it when you do – because it comes across as self indulgent and you’re going to feel kind of icky when it’s done.

If you get a call to play light background music at a wedding and you show up and play Black Metal for a bunch of blue hairs – you’re being an ass.  The point of this isn’t to alienate an audience, it’s to bring people in and engage them in what you’re doing.

When I wrote my GuitArchitecture books, I wrote about things that I thought would be useful for people – but I did it based on books that I would want to read.  If it passed the test of me picking up a book and saying, “wow that’s really cool!” then I figured that someone else would dig it as well.

I released it for other people, but I wrote it for me.

If I was dependent on accolades, then I could never release anything because I’d be too petrified that someone wouldn’t like it in one fashion or another.  Instead, I invest myself in doing the best work I can and know that if I think it’s good that someone else probably will as well.  I put myself in the mindset of asking how I would best learn a particular lesson and then use that as a model for communicating those ideas to other people.

The worst moments I’ve ever had in my playing are the one’s where I start second guessing what I’m doing and editing myself instead of just committing to what I’m doing.

In helping other people you help yourself.

In helping connect with other people, I better myself as a person.  It’s a key reason why I spend time on this site posting free content.   In sincerely trying to help people, I also build trust, make connections, develop friendships and ultimately earn fans.

Helping people helps you in the long run, but only if you’re offering help for the right reasons.

Again it comes back to balance.  I come from a working class background and I learned quickly that I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t act in their own self interests in some way shape or form.  It’s okay to be a little selfish in your motivations, but you have to be sincere in what you’re doing.  When I see people “networking” I throw up in my mouth a little but when I see people really engaging with other people and then building off of those connections it doesn’t bother me at all. In whatever you do, if your actions aren’t altruistic they’re not going to take you very far.

I hope that helps!

As always, thanks for reading .

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Embracing The Setback

I was working on a project last night that wasn’t going particularly well.

In fact, I had been avoiding it for the last year or so, and I remembered last night why this wasn’t done before as my usual modus operandi of:

  • tacking the project head on
  • getting reminded by a kick in the face of why I had abandoned it previously and
  • ultimately reaching a frustration threshold that required putting the project on hold again

was already in full swing.  

And then I remembered something, from the Hagakure,

“Seven times down.  Eight times up.”

I’ve written before about increasing one’s awareness for potential lessons that you can learn from a given situation, but I think it’s important to revisit this area periodically as it can be a stumbling block.

Old Definitions

I used to get really frustrated when things didn’t work out.  Admittedly, my capacity to fail at things is world class.  For a long time my success rate for projects turning out positively as I expected them to was about 5%.

I would look at those situations, and analyze them endlessly to try to figure out what was wrong and see what I could learn from them.

But there was a commonality with the 90-95% failure rate.

That commonality was me.

Re-defined results

Once I stopped blaming external forces, and started taking on the blame, I realized that this issue wasn’t execution – it was expectation.  I had expectations of making things work through sheer force of will, even when a more objective observation would have revealed that financial, technical or scheduling shortcomings were things that could not always be overcome by sheer force of will.

So I started working on a modified time set.  I didn’t worry about how long it took for me to get something down.  I didn’t worry about having to have something perfect.  I just did the best work that I could do, and did it as often as I could.

If I had written my first guitar book and expected it to set the world on fire, I would have been crushed at never getting it out the door.

Instead, I developed another project and used the skills and focus from the first project to make a better book.

My print editions are now getting proper covers – some of them TWO YEARS after I wrote them.  If I settled on a crappy design and locked myself into that two years ago, I would have had something amateurish that I would have been ashamed of.  Now I have something I can stand behind.

That never would have happened if I had been in a rush.  If I had had expectations that it was going to be perfect or be nothing.

Now I have 10 books that I’ve written (8 of them published).  I’ll write more.  But if I had stopped when the first (still unpublished one) didn’t pan out – I never would have completed the others.

You will face setbacks in whatever you do.  The reason to embrace them is that if you have a setback, it’s because you’re doing something.

Consider this for a moment.  If you try to move 100 small things forward and 95 of them fail – you’re still 5 things further ahead than you were.

So now I’m plowing through that project – as painful and slow going as it is – not because I have to get it done, but because the intertia in getting that thing done will act as fuel for all the other things I have to do.

And there’s a lot to do.

I hope this helps!

As always thanks for reading.

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