I’ve recently decided to get really serious about learning to play the guitar better. I have all these friends who are so super talented at it…every time I hear and watch them play I think, “I want to try to do this too.” I may never be as good as this guy, but I am determined to work hard at it.

And as a result, my left hand is killing me.

I’ve never really had much of a relationship with my left hand. I’m very right handed. But now, I have to stretch my left hand beyond the 10 or so chords I’ve known since the 6th grade. I’m learning finger picking, scales, riffs, and all sorts of nifty tricks.

I’m realizing very quickly that in order to have the agility to do these things well, my left hand, which typically doesn’t really listen so well, has to be forced into submission. I have to make it do things that it doesn’t want to do. And I have to make it do them over and over and over again until it starts to behave. I had no idea how many muscles there are in one’s hand. There are muscles in there I didn’t even know I had. I can feel every single one.

And because I can really feel my left hand learning and stretching and growing into its new role, I am now more aware of it than ever. I’m stretching it beyond what I thought it was capable of. And I’m celebrating small successes (3 minor pentatonic scales in a row without a string buzz or screw up!)

I’m also realizing the relationship between my left and right hands now. It’s not just about getting my left pinky to stretch across the frets and land in the right spot. It’s about doing that while my right hand is plucking the correct string. If my hands aren’t willing to collaborate, the whole thing’s a bust.

Finally, I’m also very aware of my time limit with practicing. I did 2 hours the other day without a break. At the end of it, my hands were numb, and my brain wasn’t processing the new things so well. I knew that I’d overdone it. I don’t yet have the stamina built up to play at length, and I need to accept that until my strength is built up, I will have to get by on less.

So there you have it – my 3 guiding words for 2010. Stretch. Collaborate. Less. These three realizations might just be my secret to finally being a better guitar player, but they are in fact, much more.

Stretch. My left hand hurts because I am stretching it beyond what it’s been used to. Stretching means changing the shape and size of what I’m doing so I can do new things. It’s going to be uncomfortable. But it’s also going to get way easier the more I do it. The pain will subside, and then after a while, I’ll be able to see that my hard work has paid off.

Collaborate. The only way to make beautiful music is to get both hands working together. Otherwise, it’s pretty boring. The same can be said for people. Sure, there are a lot of things I want to and can do on my own. Writing this blog, for instance. It’s all mine. But as I review the many goals I’ve set for myself this year, I see that there isn’t much I’m going to want to do without other people in the mix. True collaboration is about bringing smart brains together, and creating things that are remarkable. Whether it’s music, video projects, or other creative endeavours, I have no intention of flying solo this year. It’s going to be all about creating amazing things with other people.

Less. I’ve set an ambitious goal as I fly firmly into my fortieth year. I’m going to work on less, in many aspects of my life. That doesn’t mean I’m giving up all my worldly possessions or anything…but I am going to think about how I can streamline what I do have and simplify things. I’m going to worry less. I’m going to spend less time focused on what has been or what’s coming and focus on now. I’m going to weigh less by eating less and doing more physical activity. I’m going to pay less attention to the negative people and situations that come into my life and more attention to the people and things that are important. I’m going to work with less, so I can have more. Make sense?

Three words. I’ve got them written on my board, just like last year (Connect. Difference. Positive). I’m ready to take on 2010 boldly and without looking back.

How about you?

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