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Are you stuck in a rut? Try this approach to get unstuck


2012 was a phenomenal year for British cycling.

Bradley Wiggins became the first British rider in history to win the Tour de France – world’s most prestigious three-week-long race.

The story behind his victory is rather fascinating.

In 2010 Dave Brailsford became the new General Manager and Performance Director for Team Sky. Brailsford is a man who masterminded British cycling team’s amazing success in Bejing 2008 (14 medals). As the new  Manager he had put up a plan to win the Tour de France in 5 years.

He was wrong, however. They made it in 2 and half years.

Not only that. At the 2012 Olympic Games in London British cycling team dominated again. They won 12 medals, leaving other countries far behind.  In 2013, Team Sky repeated their Tour de France victory; this time with rider Chris Froome.

Could all these victories be accidental? Hardly.

When it comes to acquiring peak performance under most stressful conditions, Dave Brailsford is a genius.  He really understands how to optimize every aspect of ride’s life to produce outstanding results at the right time.

We always start by analyzing the demands of the event we want to win, so we really figure out what would it  take to win whatever it is we  want to win, then we prioritize because you know you can’t win everything, you know you will lose more than you win, that’s for sure, so you decide what you want to win, and then we work back to where we are  today and look at the gap between where we are today and what we want to win, and create a plan and execute it. Dave Brailsford

Brailsford secret weapon is the concept he refers to as the “aggregation of marginal gains.”

Here’s how he explained it:

The whole principal  of marginal gains came from the idea that if you broke down everything that could impact on a cycling performance, absolutely everything you could think of, and then you improved every little thing by 1%, when you clump it all together you get quite a significant increase in performance. Dave Brailsford

In cycling world that means improving obvious stuff like rider’s nutrition, training sessions, bike ergonomics, etc.  But Team Sky doesn’t stop there.  Fascinating thing about Brailsford’s approach is that he surrounds himself with a supportive team of “secret squirrels”, a small group of people who look outside of cycling industry to look for latest innovations that could be applicable to cycling. This way they make sure to take advantage of cutting edge technology.

When you look at all this, suddenly all those victories don’t look so accidental but rather carefully designed.

How “aggregation of marginal gains” can improve your guitar playing

The concept of marginal gains is applicable not only in cycling, but we can definitely use it to get better at playing guitar.

The first thing we need to do is to embrace long-term thinking.

As you could see, Brailsford planned the Tour de France victory 5 years in advance. He didn’t rush the process; he believed that by deliberately and methodically improving different aspects of rider’s performance, success was just a matter of time.

There is no magic bullet; there is just constant and never-ending improvement of the process. Jim Rohn once said that “Success is a few simple disciplines, practiced every day; while failure is simply a few errors in judgment, repeated every day.” What you do consistently everyday matters much more than you might think.

Embracing long-term view is not easy in our instant gratification culture, but that’s the only way how great things can be accomplished. Learning to be patient with the process and deliberate with your actions while having faith that everything will work out just right – that’s the recipe for success.

You supply the actions; the universe will supply the time. The trick is to choose the actions that, when multiplied by this universal amplifier, will yield the result you want. To position your everyday actions so time works for you, and not against you. Jeff Olson

All those small improvements can seem trivial and insignificant in the beginning, but constantly improving your actions will eventually lead you to success.

marginal gains

Graphic from The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson

The second thing we need to do is to carefully examine what we are doing in the practice room. In the words of Sam Carpenter, author of Work the System, we need to take a look from “outside and slightly elevated” perspective. This vantage point enables us to explore our day-to-day actions in a new light. Suddenly we are able to recognize room for improvement in every little thing we do.

How to improve your guitar playing by 1%?

Do you have problem with remembering all the notes on the fretboard?

Well, what about dedicating 5 minutes of your practice time with fretboard orientation exercises?

Do you struggle to design your practice routine so it is not tedious chore?

Read this article to learn how to make your guitar practice fun and effective at the same time.

Do you practice a lot but don’t get any better?

You are probably using ineffective learning strategies. Learn how to make your skills and knowledge stick.

Are you not sure what should you practice?

Choosing the right practice material can be tough, especially if you are self-taught.  You can start with this article to get some fresh ideas.

Do you struggle with improvisation and phrasing?

What about spending few minutes every day transcribing your favorite solos and licks?

Do you struggle with finding time for your guitar practice?

Try this technique and see where it takes you.

Do you find it hard to perform well when it matters?

Maybe this article can help you to prepare better for your next gig.

As you probably know, it is all about taking action. It doesn’t matter how many articles you read, how many videos you watch or how many lessons you take. It still comes down to implementing this information to solve your day-to-day real-world problems.

Do not underestimate the power of small daily improvements compounded over time.  You will be surprised how good you can become by constantly improving tiny details of your practicing and playing.

What areas of your playing are the biggest struggles for you right now? What are you planning to do with that? Let me know in the comments.

If you want to learn powerful techniques how to become the best guitar player you can be, please subscribe:

photo credit: Brendan A Ryan via photopin cc

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3 Responses to Are you stuck in a rut? Try this approach to get unstuck

  1. Alex Flores August 14, 2014 at 10:24 pm #

    Great article Lukas! I love the notion of the “aggregation of marginal gains” That is SO true! It’s that daily discipline and investment in the future that is sure to pay off, the hard part is keeping things in perspective. It’s so easy to get caught up in the moment and that’s when discouragement can kick in which will stop you dead in your tracks. Thanks for sharing your insights!

    • Lukas Kyska August 17, 2014 at 2:44 pm #

      Thank you so much for your comment Alex! I am really glad that you’ve enjoyed the article.

  2. Greg August 22, 2014 at 2:39 pm #

    I really liked the “what if you gained 1% better proficiency at every thing”. I have never thought about it this way, and when you do the math the numbers don’t lie!

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