I’m going to share a secret with you.
Something so obvious. So simple.
So seemingly unimportant that only a tiny (but “elite”) group of people recognize it’s value.
Something that no matter what. No matter what goes wrong.
No matter what gets in your way.
You’ll keep getting better and better.
You’ll keep moving forward.
Day after day. Month after month. Year after year. You’ll keep getting better and better and better…
And you will succeed.
The secret is in this little phrase: “Keep swinging the axe”.
How to Find the Gold on Guitar
Picture yourself as a miner. A gold miner.
Your job is to get up everyday, pull on your soiled overalls, trudge down into the mine, heave up your heavy, black-iron pickaxe, and dig.
Every single day. That’s your job.
Each day, dirt covers your face and wedges under your nails. Your muscles and joints scream for relief. And the smoothed wooden axe handle hardens your blisters into the leather.
But every day, you go deeper and deeper into the mine. And swing your axe.
Then, one lucky day, you finally see it!
Shining on your face like a warm lamp… a nugget of gold gleaming from the earthen wall.
As your eyes widen with a fiery glow, you hastily and furiously pry the precious nugget from the earth.
At last! You’ve found it. Time to celebrate!
Back at home, you can finally relax – enjoy your evening. Sitting smugly in your chair, you admire your wonderful accomplishment.
At last, with a smile of quiet satisfaction, your head hits the pillow.
But then morning comes. As soon as the sun pierces the darkness. It’s time.
Pressing yourself out of bed, you pull on your worn overalls. You reach up to flick on your headlamp. And you march down the long, cold mineshaft with determination. Right down to the spot where you found it.
You slip your hand around the familiar wooden handle. You pick up your axe. And swing it.
Day after day. Month after month. Year after year.
You keep swinging your axe.
Gold Only Comes From One Place
Swinging the axe. That’s where the gold comes from. There’s only one way to get it.
Keep swinging the axe.
As a guitar player. You have to mine your own gold.
No YouTube video, no book, no friend down the street, no DVD, no article, no phone app, no computer software, no nothing can mine the gold for you.
It’s up to you.
You have to swing the axe yourself.
What does that mean? It means it’s up to you to put in the work. To practice what you know you should practice but don’t. To make time. To learn new things. To keep going when you want to give up.
When you find yourself getting distracted, get back on track and keep swinging the axe.
When you don’t know what to work on, find ONE thing and swing the axe.
When you have too much to work on, pick ONE thing and swing the axe.
When you don’t have it quite right, swing the axe.
When you get tired and frustrated, keep swinging the axe.
When you break a string, change it and swing the axe.
When it doesn’t sound like you want it to, fix it and swing the axe.
When you worry if you’ll ever get there. Keep swinging the axe.
When your fingers hurt, your brain is mush, and you feel like quitting…
Take a deep breath.
And swing the axe.
The gold will come. The more you swing the axe, the more gold you get.
All you have to do is keep swinging.
Each Nugget is a Breakthrough
When you finally strike gold – those little nuggets – they’re called breakthroughs.
Breakthroughs are those “aha moments”. When you suddenly see things in a new way. When everything comes together for you. When you finally “get” it.
By the time you see it – when you have a breakthrough – congratulations, you’ve reached the next level as a guitar player.
You will have many of them along your journey. And you should celebrate each one. Enjoy your victory
But when morning comes…
Get out of bed. Pull on your overalls. Switch on your headlight. March down to the mine. Pick up your axe. And keep swinging it.
It’s the only way.
If you do this… if you keep swinging your axe…
One day you will look back in awe at the shiny mountain of gold you mined from yourself.
People will see your golden mountain and call it “luck”. They’ll call it “talent”.
But you’ll know the truth.
You earned it.
And it was all because you kept swinging the axe.
42 Years Worth of Gold and How it Got There
There’s a little band you may have heard of. KISS.
Ring a bell?
Like them or hate them, you can’t deny their outrageous success. One of the most successful bands in history, They have hits, albums, raving fans, clubs, and memorabilia – and money – galore.
But they didn’t start that way.
In fact, they weren’t even called KISS.
After already years of band experience, two founding members of KISS started as Wicked Lester.
After dubbing the band KISS, their first three years weren’t exactly a walk in the park.
They’re first album lost money.
Their hair caught on fire. Repeatedly.
They couldn’t catch a hit with their second album.
And after three long years of dedication and hard work, their record company was going bankrupt.
But they kept digging.
Finally… they struck gold with their first breakthrough – a successful live album.
They celebrated! They enjoyed their victory and partied like never before.
But then the morning came.
In their seventh year, tensions between the members were so high, the drummer would simply stop playing. Right in the middle of a concert.
He had to go. And they had to keep digging.
But it didn’t stop there.
Just 4 years later, the lead guitar player was also fired…then the new guitar player was fired just one year after that!
In fact, within just three short years, the band went through no less than four different guitar players.
Nevertheless – continuing to strike gold along the way – they kept digging.
And morning continued to come.
After nine more years of spilling sweat and blood on tour and in the studio, KISS’s drummer dropped dead.
A life-halting, tragic moment.
But by now, they wouldn’t be stopped. Furiously and more confident than ever, they dug.
Nugget after nugget. Morning after morning. They kept swinging the axe.
After 24 long years, the band announced a reunion tour… and sold 40,000 tickets within 47 minutes.
Did luck play a role?
Without years and years of digging, it never would have happened.
Even then the band kept digging. And morning continued to come.
Nugget after nugget. Morning after morning. Hardship after hardship. They kept swinging the axe.
Finally. After 42 long years of grit, grueling, and grinding…after 42 long years of blisters, bruises, and heartaches…
KISS, the band that started over four decades earlier under a different name, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
42 years. And 30 Gold albums.
Were they lucky? Did talent take them to the top?
Or was it something else?
When Gene Simmons (one of KISS’s founding members) was asked on Twitter “What was the number one all time key to success”, he said this:
“The Harder I work, the luckier I get.”
It’s easy to marvel at KISS’s massive pile of gold. It’s easy to say “they were talented”, “they got lucky”, or “they knew the right people”.
But it never would have happened if they hadn’t picked up the axe. And swung it.
How do your frustrations on guitar compare to KISS’s long, tough road?
Do you think you can practice those chords a few more times until you know them? Do you think you can rehearse that solo until you have every phrase right? Do you think you can play that one scale pattern until it’s effortless – even with your eyes closed?
You can start from where you are right now. And you can go further than you ever dreamed of.
Will you keep swinging the axe?
Will you keep digging?
Take a couple of minutes and answer this question in the comments:
What stops you from swinging the axe? Where do you stop digging? Why? Is it not knowing where to dig? Is it not knowing how to swing? Are you frustrated with bar chords, soloing, or knowing what to do next? What is it? Tell me in the comments below…