Learn The Basics On Crappy Instruments

| By Mike Michalowicz (Google+)

At age 13 I bugged my Dad about getting a guitar. He supported it. He actually insisted on taking me to the store to get one.

When we got there, he immediately marched us over to the used section, and asked the salesman which guitar was in the worst condition. Which one was the most beat up, basic guitar? That’s the one I got.

Old Beat Up Guitar

As we drove back home from the store he told me why: I always need to start with the most basic beat up instruments; it makes me appreciate the instrument. It makes me find ways to create music out of something that’s unforgiving. It forces mastery.

What kind of “music” are you pursuing in your business or career. Don’t start with the fancy tools. Skip the bells and whistles. Start with the beat up basics. It forces mastery.

Posted in Break to Fix Strategies, Entrepreneur Strategies, Entrepreneurship, Management Strategies,

15 Responses to “Learn The Basics On Crappy Instruments”

  1. Read Home says:

    this article is good but honestly all i care about is that the rolling stones are the greatest band in history

  2. When I wanted to play saxophone, my mom took me to her friend who had one in the attic of her garage… it is SO old (pre WWII) that not only does the manufacturer not exist anymore, it has an extra key on it that doesn’t come on saxophones anymore. When we took it to get it overhauled so I could play it (new pads, cork, etc), they added a piece of cork to permanently close that extra key. I had to work a lot harder to get to section leader in band playing on that p.o.s., but the result was superior ratings at every solo competition in Jr high and high school. By the time I graduated, I was first chair in the alto sax section.

    I still play it from time to time. That beat up old thang even made a guest appearance on my first album in a couple of songs. And yes, it’s totally true. If you really want it, even a crappy set-up won’t stop you from pursuing excellence.

  3. Mike Kawula says:

    Such solid advice. So tempting when starting that the one course or one program is that magic bullet.

  4. Edwin Soler says:

    This is why I love your stuff SO MUCH!!!!!!!!! While others sell the fancy newest shiny object, it always comes down to the fundumental basics everyone else forgets. Awesome short post !

  5. Dave Heinrich says:

    i agree completely! sounds just like spring training in baseball. All the great athletes say their wins are due to the work/practice they do before the match/game!

  6. smsfan says:

    Denny may or may not be right about the guitar, but the story made a light bulb go off in my brain with regard to my business. For that, I thank you so much. I got the point.

  7. Denny says:

    Sounds good on paper, but it’s a load of crap! Being a life long guitarist, who has helped start many an aspiring player. Giving a beginner a crummy beat up guitar will almost always yield a frustrated person who gives up on the instrument.

    I have found that getting the easiest to play guitar will encourage playing the instrument and will ultimately get the beginner “over the hump” and will have the student making real music. So, this analogy falls short in my opinion.



    • Thanks Denny. I think we agree to disagree.

      Check out Eddie Veders first instrument (I cut and paste some off the Pearl Jam site) http://pearljam.com/band/eddie:

      What was your first instrument? When and where did you start playing?

      A beat-up ukulele. To keep the strings taut, I had to wrap the headstock in masking tape. My first instrument, in a way, was one of those little green memo pad notebooks when I was really young. I’d write songs, putting arrows over the notes so I’d know which note was higher than the other

  8. Steve Jones says:

    Always great advice Mike. I got my pilot’s license on a 1967 Cessna 172 that had ancient instruments. When I fly a plane with a modern glass cockpit, I not only appreciate it more, but also believe I am more intuitive with the airplane and a better pilot because of it.

    • Now THAT is using the basics. Actually that is kinda scary… I mean life and death. But I would trust you flying a plane over a guy that only worked with the good stuff, any day.

  9. gandrewvaughan says:

    That’s a great concept. I’m curious, did you become proficient at guitar?

    • I did. I played for about 3 years on that acoustic (it was a Honer. Which if you know anything about guitars, they DON’T make guitars. Not really. The are a harmonica makes). Then I got a Washburn.. and was stunned at how easy it is to play.

      Today I play only occasionally Guitar is my hobby, but not my passion. But, I can still get around the fret board pretty well… and I have my pops to thank for that.

  10. [...] If you want to master skills in any art or profession, the key is to start with the worst and most unforgiving tools. It forces mastery.  [...]

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