Can You Make It To The Second Chord?

Do you find yourself starting new projects all of the time? 

It’s easy to get excited about a new idea.  Conversely, it’s difficult to stick with the project that you haven’t finished yet. 

Why? 

Because finishing something often requires an incredible amount of tedious, frustrating work.  But if we don’t finish our projects, then no one gets to interact with our idea, and we don’t experience the fulfillment that comes from connecting with our community. 

Can You Make It To The Second Chord?


I teach a summer guitar course for elementary/middle school students.    The class is usually successful because the students work in a classroom environment for over an hour ever day.  They’re forced to put in the hard work. 

A question popped into my head while I was teaching the class the other day: Can you make it to the second chord? 

Just about every student can successfully finger that first D chord.  Playing that second chord is exponentially more difficult though.  I take that back.  Most students can play that second chord too.  


The real difficulty is experienced when trying to switch between those first two chords.  That’s where the hard work comes in.  Nothing but tedious, repetitive practice will do.  You have to sit your butt in the chair and switch between that D chord and that A chord over and over and over again until you get it right

A lot of people just don’t have the stamina to make it through this phase.  

Do you?

The good news is that after you make it through that second chord, things get easier.  Switching to that third chord isn’t quite as hard.  Why?  Because the skill that you obtained through the hard work of switching between the first two chords carries over.  You’re building on what you already know.  You have momentum. 
 

Making it through that first difficult part is crucial though.  It stops most people.  Don’t let it stop you.  Work through the pain.

Finish your project.

Make it to the second chord.  


I know that many of you are writers, bloggers, visual artists or podcasters.  What's the equivalent of "making it to the second chord" in your discipline?  Please share in the comments.  

8 comments:

  1. Great analogy, John. I think the equivalent of the first chord for me would be opening a document or facing a blank page.

    The second chord is the first sentence or phrase--sometimes part of the story, sometimes "OK, here's what has to happen in this chapter..." Or if it's nonfiction, something as simple as "outline" or "timeline." At that point I'm committed.

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    1. Thanks Tom.

      Writing a book is such a gargantuan task, I'm amazed that any novels are written at all. But I imagine once you get going, that momentum will keep you going.

      Thanks for chiming in.

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  2. Thanks, John.

    Its a variation on the 10,000 hour rule--you have to put in the time so that what you do--music, writing, photography stops sucking. Its easy to get discouraged in the suck phase.


    I have a lot of photos I would never want to sell and no one would want. Learning experiences!

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    1. Hey Paul,

      As you know, I'm a big proponent of Gladwell's 10,000 hours. From a songwriter's perspective, I had a friend who advised that you had to write 100 songs before you wrote any good ones. In my experience, that's pretty accurate.

      There is a tipping point of when you start to feel a sense of competence in your craft, which I think is really important. You're not good yet, but you could do it. You sense that you're in the club. Nothing can really replace that feeling. It's different for everybody, but I knew it immediately after I'd been playing for about a month. I knew I could do it and it felt great.

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  3. I really liked this blog post. I am a great starter, but when it comes to finishing my own projects things get a little iffy. I have no problem finishing a project for someone else, but if it is for me then I often get distracted.

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    1. Thanks Gayle! Best of luck in finishing your own projects. Just pick one and finish it. You'll feel better and you'll have the momentum to do it again.

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  4. This has actually ben my project this summer. For years, with a few rare exceptions, I have started stories and then let them fizzle and die. This summer, I've made it my goal to write every day on my wip, whatever that may be. Because of that, I've finished 4 stories and submitted one (going on two). I think I might connally be getting the hand of that second chord.

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    1. That's great to hear J.M.! Working everyday at something is almost always effective. Happy to hear that it is working for you. Congratulations on submitting your story!

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