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How To Stay Focused With Your Guitar Playing – The 5/25 Rule For Guitar

Into them will help you make much more progress towards achieving them. Think of it like having 25 plants to water and only 12 litres of water per day. You can spread the water between all 25 plants and have them all grow a little bit, or you can pick your 5 favourite plants and give them all of the water and watch them grow and flourish. With less to focus on you will be a lot less cluttered, have a lot more direction, and will be invigorated with new energy as you start building more and more momentum towards achieving your goals.

So how does this relate guitar?

If you’re anything like me, you’ve got more things that you want to learn guitar than there is time to learn. For example when I was 15 I was obsessed with Van Halen, Guns ‘N Roses and AC/DC and wanted to learn all of my hard rock and heavy party tricks. Then when I was 16 I saw Buddy Guy for the first time and it introduced me to the Blues. All of a sudden I wanted to learn everything there was about the blues on top of all the work I needed to do in my rock playing. Then I had to learn a Tommy Emmanuel piece for a school performance and then I became really motivated to learn more fingerstyle solo guitar, then when I got to Uni I had to play jazz for 5 years which exposed me to even more cool things which I am still catching up on learning to this day.

The point is there is just so much to learn on guitar that it will take a lifetime to master. You can learn really broadly and cover a lot of knowledge at a surface level, or you can learn  fewer things but go really deep. Mr Buffets’ 2/25 rule is more focussed on learning 5 things really deep. You have the choice of what to do, but focussing on 5 things and knowing them really well will give you much greater skill, and much more confidence in those areas, and will also allow you to learn your secondary items much easier down the track, because you will already have built up a lot of skill.

Once you have mastered 1 of your 5, you can add one of the other 20 into the core group and start focussing again. It will be like dominoes where you build up momentum and knock things down one by one and over a period of months and years, you will accumulate lots of skill and knowledge and be a masterful guitar player.

Exercise Time

Here’s what you are going to do to complete this exercise

  1. Write your top 25 things that you want to achieve on guitar (or as many as you can think of) 
  2. Select the 5 most important items and either highlight them or put them onto their own list. (Keep this list in your guitar folder).
  3. Focus all of your time, effort and energy on obtaining these 5 goals. Ignore the 20 least important items.
  4. When you complete 1 of your 5 goals, then and only then can you put one of the other 20 items into your list, make sure it’s important.
  5. You should do this exercise once a year (or once you have completed all 5 original items) as your goals and ambitions will change over time.

An Example 

  1. Be able to play 1000 notes per minute
  2. Master my sweep picking
  3. Be a great blues lead guitar player
  4. Be a great blues rhythm guitar player
  5. Record my own album
  6. Be a great jazz improviser
  7. Be a great jazz rhythm guitarist
  8. Master funk rhythm guitar
  9. Master finger tapping
  10. Learn my entire fretboard 
  11. Join a band
  12. Play a live gig
  13. Have a youtube channel with 1 million subscribers
  14. Be able to play every song from my favourite album on guitar start to finish
  15. Go on a tour of Australia and play a gig in every state
  16. Sell 1000 copies of my CD
  17. Learn all of my jazz chords
  18. Get into a music course at university
  19. Master all rock guitar techniques
  20. Master fingerstyle guitar.
  21. Complete my Grade 12 Classical Guitar Exam
  22. Master my music theory.
  23. Do an audio engineering course
  24. Get my black belt in karate
  25. Get my pilots license

Now there are lots of things to achieve on that list, all of which take varying degrees of time and effort. Each one of these goals can also be broken down into many micro goals, especially mastery of entire genres. You will also notice that some of these goals conflict with each other, while others are supportive and run parallel. Eg, the mastery of rock, metal and blues styles are all very similar while learning jazz improvisation and passing a classical guitar exam couldn’t be further apart. Then there are things like getting a black belt in karate or a pilots license which arn’t relevant at all.

Here’s my top 5

  1. Master jazz improvisation
  2. Master jazz rhythm guitar
  3. Record a solo guitar album
  4. Sell 1000 copies of my CD
  5. Get 1 million YouTube subscribers 

So now I focus only on the things that will bring me closer to achieving one of these 5 goals. I totally ignore the other 20, even if they might be easier to do or more fun. Every step I take towards something in my 20 if a step away from my top 5. I must be disciplined and see the bigger picture.

So that is Warren Buffet’s 5/25 rule. I recommend you try it out with your guitar playing goals. You will be surprised at what it reveals about you and what is important, and more importantly, it will give you a clear path to work towards your goals. 

Michael Gumley is a professional guitarist and guitar teacher located in Melbourne, Australia. He has toured both nationally and internationally with his band, has endorsement deals with Ormsby Guitars, Blackstar Amps, Line 6 Effects, Yamaha Guitars & Ernie Ball Strings and is the head teacher at Melbourne Guitar Academy. If you’re looking for guitar lesson in Strathmore Michael will be able to give your playing the direction that it needs and set you on a path towards your True North!

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