When we hit a plateau in our learning of any topic (including jazz guitar), we often seek ways to improve upon the way we improve. We can think of it as seeking a meta-improvement, in a way. Often, all we need is some perspective: a glass of wine, a day off in the practice routine, or some fresh musical concept that shines a new light on some of the jazz guitar topics we're practicing on.
When it comes to perspective, I personally am a fan of the author Marc Allen (see The Type-Z Guide to Success with Ease). He lays things down simply so that the only things we have to do are: first, thinking on what we want and planning ahead, and secondly, asking ourselves "What is the next single step I have to take in order to get to my goals?" I find that my life becomes easy when it stops being complicated. I execute some of Marc Allen's ideas daily, such as reading affirmations out loud. I can't help but have a big smile on my face whenever I read anything by this author.
Then there are countless more authors such a Shaikti Gawain, Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra (etc.) and musicians like Kenny Werner (see his Effortless Mastery here) that can also help in getting your daily dose of crazy (meditations, affirmations, sentences containing "The Universe", etc.) All this stuff is interesting. Some of it is even fun! I believe that I'm keeping that spiritual artsy-fartsy thinking (and attitude) since it gives me a sense of momentum and drive. I know what I want and what I need to work on. Basically, it helps me seeing where I'm going with my life, in a broader sense. :-)
What about Pat Metheny?
So what does jazz guitar legend Pat Metheny have to do with those crazy affirmations, meditations and prayers concepts? Well, I was recently re-reading The Pat Metheny Interviews by Richard Niles and it struck me this time: the man is constantly referring to visualization, law of attraction, manifestation and all this new-agey stuff that people constantly talk about since the book The Secret came out.
Ok, NO, crazy old Pat is not saying "The Universe wants Pat Metheny to be a legendary musician." and NO he's not reciting mantras while on stage. It's more subtle than that. I believe Metheny is simply demonstrating a very vivid type of intelligence coming through as understanding how life really works and how to get what we want (instead of settling).
Now, I have never read "The Secret", but I admit to watching the movie (just once, I promise). The concepts Pat Metheny uses and the ones in the book are the same. The book is kind of based on wishful thinking combined with the drive to taking action that follows. Not rocket science. The big take away: Want something? Go and grab it or make it happen. To use the fancy words: go and manifest it in your life.
And here's what I say (and what Pat is constantly referring to in his interviews): Want something? Sure! Be precise about exactly what it is that you want and then go set a deadline and sweat a little every day. And you'll get it.
So, without further ado, here are the three main ways (I believe) Pat Metheny has been using these concepts throughout his fantastic career. Keep in mind, those come from my own interpretations of The Pat Metheny Interviews.
Three Striking Ways Metheny is Using "The Secret"
Projection and Visualization: Pat recalls clearly envisioning his dream playing environment as a young musician. He's mentioning that he knew clearly (very early on) exactly what he wanted to do, musically. To quote the maestro:
"I could see it. I could see the band, I could see the setup on the bandstand, I could hear what it was gonna sound like, I could imagine the kinds of players in an idealized version. That's a big component in kicking things into that next stage of development. Being able to really have a goal - a tangible specific sense that's also realistic of your future."
Faith: At some point in the interviews, Pat Metheny is describing the way he writes new tunes based on the "faith" that they will eventually come into existence. He points out that he "orders" the songs to fit the kinds of playing situations (players) they'll be played in. He's using an analogy previously employed by bassist Steve Swallow to make his point:
"It's like ordering a burger at a deli: As you're walking to the deli you think about wanting a burger and what you'd like to have on it and then you place your order. To a certain degree, there's an act of faith there that a certain point, you're gonna get the burger! With a tune it's sort of like that: I need an up-tempo tune that's going to be on that tour with Roy [Haynes] that's coming up. I didn't ask for a grilled cheese sandwich with lettuce and tomato, I asked for a burger with pickles. I placed my order. In the case of a tune, it may take a week or a month or a year, but what's funny is: that tune tends to show up."
Goals: Around the same part of the interviews as he's discussing his visualization process, Pat Metheny tells us what he does when approaching a promising young musician: Pat simply asks "What do you want to do?" I don't know about you but when I first read the interviews, I imagined uncle Pat knocking on my door and asking just that. Nerve-racking, isn't? Just that very thought provoked several changes in my life at that point (no kidding!) But furthermore, here's what Pat Metheny is saying:
"It's amazing how many people don't have a picture of what they want to do in their mind."
And What About You Now?
I hope this makes you see your musical life from a brighter, different angle. It's not so important to know what you should practice, if you're holding the pick correctly, what string gauges to use, what the other guy said in the forums ... or if you should change your pickups on your 6th archtop guitar.
In the end, the big picture is more valuable to your musical progress. Set goals and let the small details work themselves out. Keeping an eye on the prize simplifies lots of things for me! So, think a little on what you'd want from your jazz guitar life in 3 months, one year, five years? And read uncle Pat and his interviews here. Life changing!
Note by the author: What I really use daily to make things happen
At the time of writing this, I've been using the Marc Allen concepts found in The Type-Z Guide for about 4 years. They're only four steps and they make all the sense in the world if you are, like me, a language oriented person. I like words, I like to listen to the radio and podcasts (more so than TV!) and I'm not very visual. If you are more visually inclined I recommend Creative Visualization by Shakti Gawain. The biggest part of using these tools, at first, is to convince yourself that they actually work! :-)
Also worth mentioning: I'm currently in my 10th month of my first year in the Best Year Yet program. I have a coach and he's kicking my butt big time. Highly recommend. At the beginning of the year, we write and reflect and set ten yearly goals. Then those are broken down to monthly and weekly goals, assessed very often. It works like a charm, especially since it's simply a roadmap kind of tool.
The Best Year Yet Online package annual fee includes the full Best Year Yet System: Make your Plan, Track your Plan, and Become a Master at Producing Results. Here you have all the tools you need to have your personal best year yet. 2017 Update: I also use some concepts found in David Allen's Getting Things Done, and use Trello to organize tasks, projects and thoughts.
And lastly: I sometimes listen to Wayne Dyer and Deepak Chopra until I can't take it anymore. When the BS detector is beeping, I just turn it off and continue with my day. ;-)
Marc-Andre Seguin is the webmaster, mastermind and teacher on JazzGuitarLessons.net, the #1 online resource for learning how to play jazz guitar. He draws from his experience both as a professional jazz guitarist and professional jazz teacher to help thousands of people from all around the world learn the craft of jazz guitar.