Two or three years ago, I bought a guitar so my wife and I could learn to play. Since then, I’ve messed around with it once or twice, but as anyone who has ever learned to play the guitar will tell you:
When you first try to play a guitar, it sucks.
Not only do the chord fingerings feel impossible to switch between, the steel strings eat into your fingertips much in the same way I expect someone would torture a prisoner of war. Two minutes in and you really want to quit forever.
The people who already know how to play the guitar will say “Don’t worry, it gets better and less painful.” Which doesn’t help much while your fingers are still gushing blood like the Nile river (an exaggeration) but is definitely true.
In the past month or so I’ve returned for a third attempt at learning the guitar, and I must say, it’s been going much more smoothly. I’ve reached a point where I can almost squeak out a tune that sounds similar to what I’m attempting to play, and it’s definitely moved closer to the land of Fun than ever before.
As I was awkwardly rocking out to “Somewhere Only We Know” by Keane (not related to Glen Keane, as far as I know) I had a beautiful moment where I realized I had made the transition from the awful “Suck State” of learning something new to being comfortable enough that I actually wanted to keep going.
It’s a beautiful realization to have, and often we pass it by without being conscious of it. Anytime you start learning a new skill, it’s a lot harder at the beginning than it gets after a good deal of practice. Like the first two guitar attempts, sometimes we walk away because it isn’t going well. Stick with it, though, and it becomes incorporated into us. It becomes fun.
My recommendation is this: The next time you begin something new, be aware of the crummy, difficult time that generally happens at the start. It will allow you to push past it much more easily if you keep reminding yourself “it gets better and less painful,” no matter what the activity is.
Now is also a great opportunity to look back at skills you’ve built to the level of being comfortable (or at least “reasonably competent”) and remember that you made that transition. When you’re fighting through the hard part of beginning to learn, it’s really beneficial to look back at things that now seem like second nature.
And if you’re learning the guitar, the calloused fingertips on your left hand will be a constant reminder of your ability to overcome.