You May Need A Teacher Or Buying Something Isn’t The Same As Doing Something

Talkin’ Yourself Out Of A Job

There’s a study excerpt I read, (probably a link from a TED Talk page), that talked about new research that shows that when you talk to people about doing something that it has a similar chemical process in the brian as actually doing that thing.

You may have experienced this if you’ve ever gotten amped talking with your friends about something you’re going to do, resolve to start your life-changing journey the following day, and find yourself out of gas. (The band X has a great song line on the track, Lettuce and Vodka: “Last night’s judgment day is this morning’s cartoon…” that sums up this predicament well.)

Personal experience has shown me that it’s not just talk that has this effect.  Education can often work this way as well.

For example, you get all excited because guitarist X has released a new book on the topic you want to know more about.  You buy the book to study the material and after some initial examination of the material, you find it in the pile with the other materials that have gone neglected.

How many people buy gym memberships and then never go to a gym?  It’s those same people who are often making statements like, “Yeah…I know I have a membership and everything, I really need to go….”

The Point of College

One thing that surprised me a lot about college was coming to the conclusion that what I learned at the time only accounted for a fraction of it’s value.  Going to college:

  • Exposed me to new ideas
  • Honed my aesthetic and made me realize why I liked or didn’t like things
  • Exposed me to new players
  • Forced me to play with others on a higher level
  • Taught me how to learn.

That last one is the big ticket item in the list.  You might not have to go to college to learn that lesson but you do need to devote a lot of concentrated study to learn what works for you.

For example, there were times in my life that a gym was a really good fit for me.  There were times that a gym was a bad fit for me.  Being a home owner now, and realizing that it was easier to clock in at home and put the time in made it a much easier decision to get a stationary bike and some weights because that worked better for me.  Some people need to go to a gym to get in the proper mindset (and to have access to the right equipment) to work out.

So the first point is that everyone is different.

But, acknowledging that everyone is different, everyone starts from the beginning at multiple points in their life.  In my experience, the big difference between people who stay with it and people who drop out is what and how they are learning.

A large percentage of the lessons I have taught have been correcting misinformation.  For example, if left to your own devices and watching YouTube videos that tell you that even with two working legs that the “proper” way to run involves only using your left leg, you might get really skilled at running with just your left leg and be able to run with one leg faster than anyone that you come across, but not matter how much time or effort you put in, you are never going to outrun a trained athlete who runs with both legs.

It’s the same thing with technical things like picking, hand tension or fretboard attacks.  Sure you can learn it wrong and get to a certain point, but you will invariably plateau and then wonder why you aren’t progressing any further.

The Flamenco Dance Master Class Lesson Scam

I’ve already posted about this, but I can tell you all about, what I believe to be, a brilliant scam that I’ve seen perpetrated by multiple Flamenco dance teachers in the states.  It works like this:

A well known dancer who happens to be in town for a show advertises a master class for students through the promoter.  While you might think that a master class would imply that only advanced students would attend, generally a lot of beginning and intermediate students show up and  jockey for the best position in their class to see the teacher.  Two things happen with this:

  1. It automatically drops the level of the class to the lowest common denominator
  2. It becomes very difficult to see the choreography

This is also the point in the scam to mention that typically ANY recording device will not be allowed in the class.  Sometimes they’ll let you record the audio but video is generally forbidden.

Then the class is taken through some warm up exercises and then through the choreography.

Here’s the scam.  Unless you’re a trained dancer familiar with the style, there is no way you will be able to get the choreography down without recording it.

Here’s the genius of this.  Later, when the student is trying to figure out the choreography and getting it wrong they blame themselves for not having the ability to remember the steps.

The dance teachers know this.  They’re profoundly protective of their choreography because they had to learn it the same way everyone else did.  By working with their teachers repeatedly and learning the choreography slowly over time.

So, they either have two choices.  They cross an item off their bucket list and go onto something else or they take more lessons and learn the pieces.

Now “scam” is a harsh term for this.  The only scam aspect of it is that it presents a masters class that won’t offer a lot for most people to learn.  Only a microscopic percentage of people who take an individual master class will walk away with something substantial.  What this system does accomplish is perpetuating the need for a teacher.

While no one want’s to be out of a job here’s the thing:

A good teacher will teach you a skill.

A great teacher will teach you what you need to learn and a great teacher will ultimately teach him or herself  out of a job because the student won’t need the teacher anymore.

While this might seem like a terrible business plan it works on numbers.  Great teachers do this because there are always new students on the horizon who need to learn.  And students who get what they need will refer other people to those teachers.

Buying Something Isn’t The Same As Doing Something

While there are some people who can teach themselves by picking up a book and working through the material, many people will need someone to help guide them and challenge them to get the material down.

If you pick up a book or a video and don’t make any progress, don’t despair!  It may just mean that you need to schedule some lessons to get on track and have someone help guide you to get to your goals.

Buying something isn’t the same as doing something but it’s a great start!

The important thing is to figure out what works for you and then take the appropriate action.
I hope this helps!
ps – if this applies to you and you feel like lessons may benefit you – feel free to send me an e-mail at for information about lessons.