2020 Vision – Friendly frets guide to crafting your musical future

Welcome to 2020! This is a great time to reflect back on this past year and reflect on how we want to be involved with our creative and musical pursuits. Do you have a 2020 vision for how you want to engage with music and grow your musical skills? Have you been thinking about how you would like to participate in making music in your community for this coming year? Formulating your goals and resolutions for this coming year doesn’t have to be a dreaded task. It actually can be a very healthy and productive endeavor. This guide consists of a 4 part series with worksheets that are designed to help you chart your personalized vision and goals for 2020 and beyond!
2020 Vision - Friendly frets guide to crafting your musical future
Photo by Dayne Topkin on Unsplash

Welcome to 2020!

This is a great time to reflect back on this past year and reflect on how we want to be involved with our creative and musical pursuits. Do you have a 2020 vision for how you want to engage with music and grow your musical skills? Have you been thinking about how you would like to participate in making music in your community for this coming year? Formulating your goals and resolutions for this coming year doesn’t have to be a dreaded task. It actually can be a very healthy and productive endeavor.  I am going to suggest an approach that you might consider for setting up your own 2020 vision. It is specifically tied in to music development but it can be adapted for other ares of your life as well. This is but one way to approach this topic so feel free to use my ideas as a way to craft your own approach. 

Here is what you will Learn

  • You will be armed with a specific linear process by which you can create your own personalized music vision. We will work together on this using the worksheets I will provide along with each segment of this series.
  • You will learn how to translate your vision into realistic and tangible goals which you can further break down into smaller steps.
  • Identify your fears, objections, and obstacles that seem to stand in the way of your vision and goals. I will show you how you can use these to your advantage as a way to solidify or refine your vision.
  • You will locate specific ways you can nudge yourself to take action on your goals and create momentum. Small actions sometimes are all that you need to create momentum towards your personal vision.

Series Overview

Charting a personal vision and tangible goals is a very broad and squishy subject. I’ve broken this topic and our working process into 4 segments which I will preface for you before we begin.

Part 1 – What do you see? Using Visualization and Imagination to capture your personal vision.

We begin by giving special attention to visualization and imagination and how to harness these two valuable cognitive skills to craft forward vision. We will create our very own personal life “movie” or narrative and takeaway broad music goals we wish to accomplish for 2020.

Part 2 – Get Specific – Define your goals by focusing on the details. 

I will give adequate time to discuss how we can make our goals stick by zooming in on their small details. We will also apply the framework of smart goals to help generate detail and fill out the general goals we created in part 1.

Part 3 – How to utilize your fears, objections, and obstacles to your advantage.

Goals have energy and naturally invite conflict with us and our personal reality. We will address these head on by listing them and finding ways to use them to our personal advantage.

Part 4 – “A” is for Ant and Action. “F” is for the friction of friends.

We will move from theory to practice when discussing how you can instigate motion and action towards your goals with small but significant nudges. We will also discuss how you can increase the odds of success of your goals/vision by fostering social supports.

Table of Contents

Part 1: What do you see? – Using Visualization and Imagination to capture your personal vision

Websters online dictionary defines imagination as “the act or power of forming a mental image of something not present to the senses or never before wholly perceived in reality.” In essence we are taking in the sights, sounds, and visceral experiences of an activity that is not occurring in reality. We are taking in a mental picture similar to viewing art in the museum. Visualization seems to be a very close cousin to imagination and one might argue it’s the same thing. Webster’s defines visualization as “the act or process of interpreting in visual terms or of putting into visible form.” From my perspective, this activity requires a little bit more volition and energy on our part as we are actively trying to translate a concept, idea, or activity in a visual form. The key difference that I “see” here is that imagination involves us taking in possible future experiences where visualization requires us to conjure up a mental movie of us engaging in specific activities.

Imagining and Visualizing our future musical self:

From my perspective we use imagination to absorb and passively take in experiential possibilities and these imaginations might have a reoccurring theme that slowly begins to simmer from the back burner of our thoughts. Eventually we move those imaginations to the front burner and start the work of visualization as we take special efforts to view ourselves actively involved in an activity or experience we haven’t actually done before. Let me share two stories from my own life and use them to build a framework for how we can think about this and, ultimately, how we can reap life rewards from developing awareness and ownership of both imagining and visualizing our future. I will add the disclaimer that I am not a life coach, therapist, or success guru but just a musician and educator which is why I will only support these concepts from the next two stories linked to my music development.

Violin? Who me?

I was a passive recipient of a vision that included me imagining me learning violin. When I was a mere lad in second grade my life took on a huge paradigm shift when our class was visited by Mr. Gelprin, the orchestra teacher. He provided a good sales pitch to the class on the merits of learning how to play a stringed instrument. At the end he asked for a show of hands as to who would like to sign up to learn how to play the violin? Without thinking my hand shot up. Before that moment I never considered learning music. I had no pre-conceived thoughts that said, “I want to learn violin.” This vision was presented to me and I was a passive recipient. What I did know was that I wanted to learn to play the violin but had no reason why.

Let’s start a band! What will you play?

In this second story I’m 13 and I just experienced my first live concert that featured a rock-oriented band that was safe enough for my parents to let me attend. I was in awe as I watched the band play from the stands under the lights. The days following that I started to visualize myself playing the guitar and singing in front of my peers. Within a few days of that my friends and I started to discuss starting a band. Unfortunately, we had a problem. None of us played any “band” instruments. One friend decided he would play drums, the other, the keyboard, and myself, the guitar. This led me to read up on electric guitars and eventually use my hard earned paper-route money to buy one. How was this story different than the first? Well, from my perspective, I was the active architect and creator of this musical vision for myself. I was inspired by watching others perform and also watching my dad learn guitar. I kept this imagination up and let it grow like a feedback loop in my head until I needed to take action and do something about it. My imaginations fueled the activity of visualizing my future playing music.


Here are the takeaways from these two stories:  First, sometimes we receive vision or imagination passively similarly to being presented with a menu at a restaurant. We then make gut level, intuitive decisions whether or not to entertain those ideas. When this happens we might end up stepping into new paths that we had never considered before. Second, We have the option to actively instigate our own vision by engaging in the work of visualization. We don’t have to wait for life to pass us by or the stars to align perfectly to create the spark of change and motion in our lives. I believe we serve ourselves and others well by keeping an open mind to our imaginations while doing our best to actively visualize and then craft our own unique musical stories.

Task #1: Visualize your personal music video

It is now your turn to apply these very elaborate concepts by visualizing your own personal music video.  Take a moment and download Worksheet #1  to help you with this task.  Sit in a quiet place, take a walk, or use the excuse of an errand to take a road trip in your car, bike, or scooter. Once you have selected your space take time to imagine and then visualize a video segment of yourself being actively engaged in a musical activity. While also doing this be sure to choose a way to record your thoughts.  Use page 1 of Worksheet #1 or a blank sheet of paper.  You could also use a voice memo or video app on your phone to record yourself retelling this vision.

Follow up actions/questions:

  • Describe the general sequence of events in your visualized music video.
  • Describe the specific actions and activities (i.e. playing bass in a funk band outside on a sunny afternoon).
  • How did participating in this activity make you feel? What emotions were you feeling in your personal movie? Write those down as well – both positive and negative.
  • Describe the over-arching accomplishments that you were completing in this vision. Why do you consider this an accomplishment? Why is it important to you? Why does that accomplishment resonate with you?

Here is a hypothetical personal music video that I came up with below.  You will notice that I quickly wrote down what I saw and felt in a stream of conciousness fashion.

Guided Imagery worksheet

List specific Actions & Accomplishments from your vision

It’s highly likely that you, and most of us, have been engaged in imagination and visualization well before this exercises. Just like clouds, our thoughts migrate on personal narratives all the time and then change and dissipate.  Now, Let’s assign a bit more value to your personal narrative that you’ve just imagined by working with it a bit longer.  Take some time and list all of the actions/accomplishments that you deemed as valuable in your visualized music video. Don’t think too hard about this or edit this list. Just write down as many actions or outcomes that come to you, as quickly as possible.  Feel free to list these on a blank sheet of paper or page 2 of worksheet #1.

Here is what this would look like for me when completing this same exercise with my vision of performing bass in my hypothetic funk band:

2020 Vision worksheet # 1 Actions and Accomplishments

Group Similar Actions/Accomplishments Together

Let’s move ahead to the next step in this process and try to formulate broad goals from our list of actions and accomplishments. One way you could approach this would be to loosely group similar actions and accomplishments together. Don’t think too hard about this but group these items based upon your first impressions. For example, if I was playing bass in a funk band successfully at a public performance I might group the skills this way:

Grouped actions and accomplishments

Translate Actions/Accomplishments into Broad Goals:

Now that I’ve grouped these items together I can craft some very rough broad goals based upon these groupings of accomplishments. I would recommend that you come up with as many goals as possible and then choose the top 3 that resonate with you the most. Why the limitation of 3 goals?  Well, it is possible to entertain more than 3 goals but, based upon your available time, circumstances, resources, and energy it might not be realistic to actually make all of those goals attainable if we focus on so many at one time.

Worksheet 1 - translate actions/accomplishments into 3 broad goals.

Wrap Up for Part 1

Imagining new possibilities and experiences and then actively visualizing ourselves taking the steps to participate in them carries a huge sum of potential for your musical vision for 2020. I hope you take the time to follow through on the exercises I’ve suggested.  If you’ve engaged in the work from this post you will now have engaged in the active work of imagining and then visualizing yourself actively participating in music in the way that reflects your creative interests.  You will have written or recorded this music vision which then gave you ample opportunity to list your potential accomplishments and then sift them to form 3 general goals.

Part 2:  Get Specific – Define your Goals by zooming in on the details. 


Magnifying Glass Photo by Steven Wright on Unsplash

In Part 1 of this series we gave attention to imagination, visualization, and formulating 3 general goals for ourselves. Now we will move from general to the specific by putting our energies into taking a hard look at our chosen goals, deconstructing them, and looking at all the details that are necessary for their accomplishment.

Considering all of our possible goals was a very necessary starting point in our process of crafting a music vision. But, realistically, Ideas, imaginations, and possibilities do not hold the same weight as actionable goals because they don’t yet require anything from us. Goals require action, energy, and the spending of our personal and tangible resources. Fine tuning your focus onto the nitty gritty details of your goals is the next crucial step to realizing your music vision. Zooming in on the details will help to increase your level of intentionality towards reaching your goals. It will also increase the value of your chosen goals and your willingness to commit your time, resources, and energy towards their fulfillment.

Tuning in to our limitations

There is wisdom in becoming increasingly more cognizant of our limitations when we consider new goals.  As we strive towards our vision we eventually are forced to realize that:

    • We have limited time
    • We have limited energy
    • We have limited resources
    • We have limited focus.

These very real limits force our hand to make hard choices – What we say yes to, and what we say no to. This became very real to me when I was studying music in college. I really believed it was possible for me to work almost full-time while also pursuing the dual goals of jazz studies and classical guitar. After about 8 months of being sleep deprived and stressed out I realized I had made a serious miscalculation. It finally dawned on me that, due to my limitations of time, energy, money, that I could not meet the practice and time demands that classical guitar required while also trying to keep up with all of my jazz studies classes. A new found respect for the classical guitar emerged out of this experience. I also made a clear decision to consolidate my focus towards being a better jazz guitarist and gave myself permission to relinquish my study of classical guitar. So my takeaway from this was that goals require our intention, energy, and focus. They ultimately push us to say yes to a few things and no to many things.

Does the boot fit?

Hiking boots on the trail by Tim Foster

Hiking is one of my many active interests outside of music. When my wife and I bought into the vision of taking more hikes together it became clear that we would need decent boots for our travels. Finding the right boots required time and multiple trips to R.E.I. to get good information and to try on as many pairs as possible. We had to factor in our specific foot size and whether or not the boot’s in-sole, mid-sole, and out-sole would be a good fit for our specific pair of feet. In a similar fashion, you will want to invest a reasonable amount of time and focus towards your general goals to make sure they really fit your available resources, and who you are fundamentally as a person. If you do your homework you will find goals that are a good fit for you and have a much greater chance of being held onto longterm.

Task #1:  Break Broad Goals down into sub-goals/steps

In order to ensure that your goals are a good fit let’s spend some time deconstructing your 3 general goals and breaking them down into a list of 3 sub-goals.  These sub-goals, as I will call them, are smaller scale goals that need to be accomplished in order to reach your broader objective.  You could begin by recalling the actions and accomplishments that you described in worksheet #1.  Give yourself time and space to think further about all the possible micro-level actions and considerations related to your 3 goals.  You can use worksheet #2 to write these down.  For simplicity I am going to pull 3 sub-goals from each goal.  However, you can add more as you see fit.  Here is what my previous goals will look like after this process:

Worksheet 2 subgoals for goals 1 and 2

Worksheet 2 subgoals for goal 3

Task #2 Transform your broad goals into S.M.A.R.T. goals.  

The acronym of S.M.A.R.T. goals were introduced by George T. Doran back in 1981 and is an acronym for goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-related.  I have found this acronym very helpful when trying to dig deeper into my goals and refine them further so that I can craft a very well articulated goal that can be clearly communicated to others and understood and acted upon.  Goals spelled out through this acronym also have a better chance of being much more effectively evaluated in terms of their completion after we have spent a good chunk of time working on them.  

Practical Application:

So, now let’s get to work and reframe your 3 goals through the magnifying glass of S.M.A.R.T. goals in worksheet #2.  Use the sub-goals you recently came up with and place them accordingly into each sub-section of this acronym.  Here is what my goals look like from this perspective:

Smart Goals Worksheet 2 Example

Smart goals applied to goals 2 & 3 from worksheet 2

Task #3: Locate Music skill-sets needed to reach your goals.

Let’s try to make your carefully curated goals a bit more real and specific to making music.  Take another look through all of the details of your goals and start to think about what music skills you will need to develop in order fully participate in your goals and vision.  Don’t worry too much about using proper music terminology.  Instead describe those skills using words and descriptions that make sense to you based upon what you already know about music (you likely know more about how music works experientially than you think).  I will help you along with this process with this general list of music skill sets you could use as a starting point.  If you would like more information on general music skill sets this please check out the Music Teachers National Association article, “Essential Skills for Promoting A Lifelong Love of Music and Music Making”.  You also might want to check out “Basic Music Theory for Beginners – The Complete Guide”.

List of Music Skill Sets

Practical Application:

List as many music skills you think you will need for each of your goals in worksheet #2.  Think through your sub goals, actions, and accomplishments as way to help you along with this exercise.  Consider pulling some of the details you created when trying to reframe your general goals as S.M.A.R.T. goals too.  Here is what I came up for my goals below:

Music Skill Sets Example worksheet #2

Part 2 Wrap Up

If you have followed through on the action steps of worksheet #2 you will have 3 general goals that have been deconstructed into smaller sub-goals.  You also will have further processed your goals by reframing them through the lease of S.M.A.R.T. goals.  We also made these goals a bit more realistic by putting forth our best efforts to link necessary music skill sets to them that we will need for their completion. 

Focusing in on the minute details of your goals is an actionable step that helps you effectively channel your brainpower, focus to the end goals you truly value above all others.  From my perspective daily living is complex and requires much from us.  We have limitations – One of which is attention and focus.  It’s highly unrealistic for us to consider a wide array of potential goals and outcomes and expect to actually complete many of them.  Goals that you deem most valuable are worthy of your focus.  The outcome of your goals will depend upon the care, attention and thought you invest towards their attainment.  

Thank you for reading this guide and working through worksheet #2.  Next week in Part 3 we will draw upon the details of your goals and use them as ammunition as we are getting dangerously close to a confrontation.  Goals create inertia and energy.  The positive energy of these goals will elicit very personal and real conflicts with ourselves and others as we address our personal fears, objections, and perceived obstacles that stand in the way of our vision.  

Part 3 – Using your fears, objections, and obstacles to your advantage.

We have created a very positive momentum from all of our efforts and work in Part 2 which has helped us to really focus in on the specifics of our chosen goals. Now we inevitably come to the stage in this process where we need to tune into our feelings surrounding those goals – positive and negative. These feelings will often point to thoughts, objections, and perceived obstacles that will require our attention, introspection, and persistence. If left unattended, we might move on goals for a short-time frame only to be stymied by our thoughts and feelings and abandon or efforts. Let’s move ahead by exploring our feelings, thoughts, objections. We will then clearly identify and record them. Upon doing so we will use them to our advantage as helpful information that might be used to refine and reframe our goals. They also can provide opportunity for us to advocate for our goals and come up with some additional thoughts, arguments, and ideas to talk back to that which might be irrational and limiting to us.

Importance of tuning into the feelings that arise from your goals.

As you may already know, the music skills of listening and being in tune are very important to the success of a successful music performance. One of the first tasks of my performance routine is to double check the tuning and intonation of my instrument. This requires me to pause and listen to the waveforms of each guitar string to make sure they are playing at the correct pitch. Along similar lines I think it’s valuable for us to listen to our emotions as we ponder and plan our chosen goals. If my emotions are out of tune with my goals then there might be a problem that will require a pitch correction where I will have to modify my goals or “fine-tune” my expectations or perspective on those said goals.

You want me to, um, gasp, sing?

To be honest, my head hurts a little bit when I anticipate the possibility of goals that require me to access skills or information that I don’t currently possess. Or, I feel anxious when anticipating the struggle that will be required of me to grow, change, and step into new avenues that I haven’t tried before. Let me illustrate this with a story from my own life.

For as long as I can remember I’ve had an aversion to singing in front of others. I never had a problem singing in a choir or with a group but stepping out from the crowd to sing, with nobody to hide behind, really frightened me. During my grade school years I managed to do quite well with a vocal role in a school musical but soon drifted back into the shadows of group singing. Solo singing was a huge risk for me. Some of my feelings were fear, dread, shame, and anxiety. I took voice lessons numerous times but would never really follow through to apply what I learned. I had opportunities to sing in bands but used the excuse that I should just stick to playing guitar because there were already enough qualified singers in my band.

Choosing to not sing and avoid the uncomfortable wasn’t a winning strategy for me. I still felt that I was not fully engaging my potential which had its own set of uncomfortable feelings. Eventually, I decided that it was really important that I develop vocal skills. I had to overcome feelings of frustration for not doing so earlier and I had to confront my embarrassment of possibly singing badly in front of others. I started voice lessons a third time. While I was taking voice lessons I started to gain a grasp on the thoughts that fed my feelings. First, I had the unrealistic expectation that my singing efforts should be perfect at all times and not stink a little while developing my skills. Second, I realized that I believed that my self-worth as a person was dependent on being consistently competent in music. Third, I had an unrealistic expectation that my vocal skills should be on par with my guitar skills and I shouldn’t have to struggle with this new skill.

Taking inventory of my feelings and thoughts around public singing helped me to turn the corner and push through on my singing goals. It didn’t make things easier for me but the understanding of my internal world helped me live with some of the discomfort that I felt while still moving ahead on my goals. Eventually, I said yes to an opportunity to sing in my current band. I first just provided backing vocals. Then during the first year I stepped up to take lead vocals for one song. Eventually, I became less anxious when singing this one song in front of audiences. I was then able to move ahead and start taking on a few more songs with lead vocals.

At present I really enjoy singing with my band and will keep moving forward on trying to grow my vocal skills. I am very grateful that I eventually came to an understanding of what my barriers were. By understanding my internal feelings and thoughts was able to label them. This allowed me to think of ways to move past these feelings and old thinking habits and start doing things that I didn’t think I was capable of. It’s easy to drop goals and short circuit the process if we don’t face our affective world. This kind of work is required of us if we really want to grow into our potential. Now you have an opportunity to work on this with the following applications.

Take an Inventory of your Feelings and Thoughts.

We will jumpstart this process by using Worksheet #3 and our investigative skills to try and create an inventory of both our positive emotions and our negative emotions. We will then take this a step further and try to take a closer look at what thoughts, ideas, or realities might be leading us to feel the way we do. Before we move on to the worksheet let’s take advantage of some emotion mapping resources. My kids grew up with a refrigerator magnet emotion vocabulary chart that had a whole bunch of faces that corresponded to a particular emotion. That way they could just point to the face and give what they were feeling a name. Feel free to use that as well as a lists of emotion words or “feeling words from a – z” to help you with these exercises. In fact, take a moment to peruse the many words that label feelings from these resources. Then think about your current goals. You will then be ready to get to work on these next couple of practical exercises.

Practical Application: List positive emotions and corresponding thoughts surrounding your goals.

Take some time to go over the formation of your goals that is a result of your work on worksheets 1 and 2. See if you can provide an inventory of all the positive emotions you experienced when initially writing down your rough goals. Also, consider any new emotions that arise as you take a second glance at all that you have recorded regarding all the specifics of your goals that we distilled in part 2. I found it also helpful to look at the list of emotion and feeling word resources I just mentioned. Sometimes scanning a list of words or images helped me identify more hues of my feelings.

Once you’ve listed your emotions take the next step and see if you can identify any thoughts, expectations you have of yourself, or present realities that you suspect might be connected to those feelings. While it has taken me some time to figure out a connection, or even identify my feelings generally a fairly logical reason will emerge as to why I’ve been feeling a particular way about a situation or potential goal. For example, I often feel calm and relaxed when anticipating my upcoming scheduled lessons with students. The reason or thought behind that is that I really value structure and generally know what my plan will be for any number of questions or scenarios that may present themselves in my teaching space.

I’ve taken the liberties to write out my own emotions and thoughts for worksheet #3 below.

2020 Vision - Friendly frets guide to crafting your musical future


Practical Application: List the negative emotions surrounding your goals.

Listing your positive emotions and related thoughts has been a helpful practice to help you dig a bit deeper and apply the same process to your negative or less comfortable feelings. As you’re ready, go ahead and take another glance at all the information you’ve put together regarding your chosen goals. Take a look at the list of emotion words (or feeling words) and see if you can identify anything your feeling about your goals that is of a darker hue or making you feel uncomfortable. I realize this may be easier said than done and you might need to take more time to follow up on this application.

(Let me add just one more twist on how you could work this exercise: Reverse the process and write down any thoughts, objections, or obstacles that seem to stand in the way of your goals. Then see if you can attach an emotion to that thought.)

Here is what I came up with regarding my hypothetical goals:

2020 Vision - Friendly frets guide to crafting your musical future

Practical Application: List Corresponding thoughts/objections to negative emotions.

Go ahead and start to list that you might be thinking, believing, or perceiving about your particular situation that elicited the emotions you’ve just listed. Don’t think too hard about this. If you are stumped, then move right on ahead to our next application.

Here is what I came up with for this exercise:

2020 Vision - Friendly frets guide to crafting your musical future

Practical Application: Give yourself a deliberate pause in this process.

Recently, I had a conversation with a student about the purpose and role of rests in music. In short we both agreed that rests were important to a melody line because they created rhythmic variation and they gave the vocalist a chance to breath (so they don’t pass out onstage). There is natural wisdom entrenched in music and I can’t think of a better example at the moment other than music, and life requires us to pause and take breaths and be silent. Sometimes our brain’s and our feelings start to churn a frenetic hamster-like pace on the treadmill that is analogous to our problems, or goals. So we must pause. Let’s do that right now. After you get to a natural stopping point in your emotion/thought investigation decide how you will pause the process. Write that down in one sentence. You get to decide how long you will pause your work and how you plan to pick it up again. The most important being to renew your efforts. Here is what I put down on my worksheet below.

2020 Vision - Friendly frets guide to crafting your musical future


Shifting roles from forensic accountant to defense attorney.

Forensic accountants can be described as the “special forces” of number crunchers and spread sheet reconcilers. They are called in do conduct surgical strikes when a business sense they might be victim to fraud or subtle embezzlement. Very similar to a S.W.A.T. team forensic accountants are called in to determine if there is a crime occurring in the books of a business and then collect that information slowly, cautiously, and in a detailed fashion so their work can withstand the rigors of the courtroom in a trial. (If you’re interested visit this web page that describes their work in detail).

Practical Application: Point/Counterpoint – Respond to your stated objections, fears, and obstacles.

Similar to forensic specialists, you’ve taken time to create a record of what is taking place. Now we will pick up where we left off and take this information into our own “courtroom” and we will switch roles from being accountant/prosecutor to that of now being part of the legal representation for the defense. We will evaluate each of our thoughts, beliefs, real obstacles and take time to respond to them.

So, now take time to think of ways you can provide a counter-argument or thought for each item you came up with in the previous exercise. The Baroque music of J.S. Bach is replete with multiple examples of musical counterpoint that contain independent melody lines that work against each other by moving in opposite directions. This melodious counterforce produces very beautiful music such as Bach’s D Major Fugue.  Similar to counterpoint, treat each of your written down thoughts, beliefs, obstacles as melodic lines in the musical composition representing your future. See if you can find creative ways to craft contrasting melody ideas that counter the original thoughts. Have fun with this. Here is what I came up with below.

2020 Vision - Friendly frets guide to crafting your musical future

Sometimes it’s wise to listen to our internal critic.

I really applaud you for reading my article this far and surviving the battlefield of your inner critic whom has recently dumped a deluge of rational objections, obstacles, and negative feelings upon your cherished goals and music vision. It is my hope that you have found some encouragement and garnered some more motivation to move ahead on your goals by giving your inner critic a generous volley of your best counter arguments. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though. Sometimes our inner critic is our friend and has our best interests in mind. Sometimes our inner critic actually presents some good feedback that we might want to take to heart. Only you can decide if you wish to agree with your critic. If it turns out that your goal didn’t hold up to your critic don’t give up hope. This is simply an opportunity to refine and adjust your goal to the reality called your present life.

Practical Application: Reframe and Rewrite your goals as needed.

For our last practical application go ahead and give our inner critic some credit and take time to acknowledge the value and wisdom that has emerged from your internal dialogue. Take some time to review your careful responses to all of the application opportunities I’ve given you in Part 3. Reconsider your three chosen goals and decide if you will need to modify them based upon any insights you have gleaned from our work. Here are my refined goals that I’ve modified and refined below.

Fighting Fire with Fire

Refining and reframing goals is hard work. Upon completion of this exercise it’s possible that a few outcomes could have emerged for you:

  • This process confirmed the plausibility of your goal since it withstood the gale force of your internal objections.
  • You come to realize that your goal might need to be refined or modified based upon new information. Or…
  • You possess a sound goal. You might need to rethink your initial time-frame you had in mind for it’s completion. No problem. Time is our friend.
  • You might have a really good goal but you discover that it’s fulfillment is dependent on you reaching other smaller goals before it. For example, I need to first buy a bass, take lessons, and then I can audition for bands.

All of these outcomes are good news for you. They are the result of your best thinking, feeling, and evaluating. From my perspective, any goal worth reframing or modifying is worth keeping. Additionally, I believe it is not a loss, if after undergoing this work, you have to say no to a particular goal. If you’ve read my guide this far you know exactly how to develop new goals to replace any you had to discard.

Part 3 wrap-up

We really do want to pursue goals that are sticky and embrace the reality of who we are and our current circumstances. The work that you’ve engaged in for Part 3 is comparable to prescribed fires that are set by the Forest Service to mitigate a much worse wildfire. Once we’ve burned away all of the consumable and detrimental aspects of our goals we have a greater chance of producing goals that we can own for the long haul and withstand the pushback and rigors of daily living.

Part 4 – A is for Ant and Action — F is for the friction of friends.

Introduction: Consider the Ant

Ants, while seemingly small and insignificant, made literal inroads into one of my previous homes when I was living in the East Coast. I noticed these black things on the kitchen counters and floors on moving day. There seemed to be no lack of ants in my newly acquired home despite efforts to clear them away hourlAnts on a green leafy. Eventually, I had to plunk down some of my hard earned money to remove them. The kind and unassuming pest specialist informed me that I would be needing his services every Spring because Ants lay pheromone trails which serve as a highway for their swift return. He was correct. Those ants were persistent and required me to spend more money every year after that. Let’s just say that my respect ants grew over the years.

King Solomon extolled the virtues and wisdom of ants in Jewish wisdom literature. If he was sharing his exposition on ants today He might say, “Take a hard look at Ants you slacker! Consider her ways and be wise!” “Those ants are tiny and can be easily squished, yet they never have to order take-out for dinner because while you were watching reality television, they stocked their refrigerators full of food!” (My take on the King James version of this text).

My takeaway from the wisdom of Solomon is that we should never underestimate the power and potential of very small actions, especially when they are replicated on an exponential level over and over again. Similar to ants: Our small decisive actions carry the potential to have sizable impact on our goals, vision, and overall life trajectory. There is value in approaching larger tasks with very small, achievable actions. These actions may seem insignificant at the outset but given time and repetition they can have a sizable impact on our large scale goals.

Here is what you will learn

Parts 1-3 of this guide have focused on equipping you with many different ways to process, plan, and think hard about goals. We also even challenged the structural integrity and “stickiness” of your chosen goals by thinking hard about the internal and external roadblocks that could stand in way of their completion. Part 4 is all about acting on our goals, which is perhaps, the hardest task standing between us and our goals actually becoming real and not just a wish or theoretical possibility. We are now going to press ahead and investigate all the possible small and insignificant ways you can nudge yourself to begin to act on your goals.

In addition to action we will discuss the importance of social support and how it can positively bolster and sustain our resolve and tireless efforts we expend on our goals. Ants engage in small actions but they coordinate their efforts as a group. Our goals often require us to grow beyond the confines of our current perspective and capabilities. There is often a reason why we haven’t yet reached our desired goals otherwise we wouldn’t even be thinking that hard about them. Our goals require something from us that we might not yet possess whether it’s an internal perspective or a very practical skill such as learning how to record your music, edit a video, or build a website. We will use practical applications from worksheet #4 to help you find viable and valuable sources of social support that will help to bolster and sustain your long-term commitment towards your goals. Let’s get work as we take a moment to compare ants to musical notes.

The wisdom of Ants applied to Music

2020 Vision - Friendly frets guide to crafting your musical future

From my perspective ants and music note-heads almost look identical. They consist of these rather bland looking black dots. However, when combined in small categories they can be employed to create a melodic fragment that becomes identifiable to the listener. That small, yet simple melody line can then be used as the essential ingredient to craft entire symphonic works or the hooks in pop songs. Take a moment to listen to and consider these music examples:

In all of these above examples, something quite profound was woven from just a small smattering of music notes. These melodic fragments small, black, note-heads created a growing aural impact from their repetition, variance, and transference to other voices or instruments. They seem to operate in a similar fashion to the small cluster of ants who successfully managed to make my kitchen uninhabitable.

Application: Pick a song and identify it’s musically identifiable hook.

I want to give you an opportunity to engage with music as a way to stir your creativity and divergent thought before we think hard about action-inciting nudges towards goals. Take a few moments and see if you can come up with a song or music work in your memory that begin with a melodic fragment similar to the examples I just shared with you.

Why do this? This is an attempt at distracting ourselves momentarily from the confining constructs of our logical left-brain. It is my hope that this little exercise will indirectly help to prime your creative capacities that you will draw upon as you work on our upcoming exercises in worksheet #4. So, go ahead and pick a song. Then try to identify and describe the signature melodic fragment that is associated with that song. Here is what I came up with below:

2020 Vision - Friendly frets guide to crafting your musical future

Don’t overlook the potential and power of small actions.

I’m a firm believer that music and art reflect life. Small melodic fragments were used to shape large musical landscapes. Just like notes and ants, small micro actions combined with social supports can help to spark momentum and achievement of our cherished goals. Let me share how a very simple plan and some temporary business cards managed to propel me towards my desire to play music professionally.

In 1993 I undertook a rather risky and huge personal and musical adventure. I had a vision of working as a musician on the East Coast and was willing to let go of the comfort of family and friends in Seattle. Other than my in-laws, I didn’t have any musical contacts to hit up when I arrived in Upstate New York. I simply had a very simple plan and a stack of pre-printed music cards. My plan was to simply visit every single music store in the area and scour the area for paper notices announcing bands needing a guitarist (This was before the luxury of the internet). My business cards were printed from my computer and left my contact info blank so I could scrawl my phone number by hand. Not very professional, yet by grace, it was a plan that eventually worked.

Upon landing in Albany NY I went ahead with my plan to visit about 5 different music stores. I managed to scour an ad wanting a guitarist for an Aerosmith cover band which completely bombed out. There were stores where there were no ads and the staff ignored me. However, there were at least two conversations I had that day that eventually were the initial events which led to me joining two different bands. I managed to play music with one of those bands for 10 years. I also handed out multiple business cards to anyone who I met. One morning I shared my story and card with a guitarists whose brother played in a wedding band. I eventually got a call from that other brother and ended up playing in that band for my whole time in New York. That particular band made it possible for me to help support myself and my family as a working musician along with my teaching jobs. Additionally, that band pushed and stretched me personally and musically because I was the youngest and weakest link in that band and had the most to learn. So, my point is that my simple little plan and a few rough business cards were the small nudges that sparked a whole decade of friendships, rewarding performances, and significant growth to me professionally and personally. Not a bad payoff!

Taking the initiative – Searching for handles when moving large furniture.

My New York story, hopefully, has successfully illustrated how two small actions eventually caused the gradual momentum that resulted in some of my cherished goals being eventually fulfilled. My music store visitation plan and rough business cards could be described as personal initiatives that incited action towards my goals. The noun, initiative, is an apt descriptor of the nudges I have in mind relative to goals. Initiative is defined by the merriam-webster dictionary as: an introductory step, energy or aptitude, a procedure, or the right to “initiate” a legislative action. Another way to experimentally conceive of initiative is the act of looking for a handle on a situation which is the entrance for my next story:

Moving Sofas as a Favor

My family has literally been on the move this past year. In a few months I managed to help move four family members to new residences and I also downsized and moved as well. The items I absolutely hate to move are bed mattresses and couches because they are soft, heavy, and hard to wrangle in tight spaces or doorways. In order to avoid injury I needed to literally find a “handle” or a place I could firmly grab hold of so I could move this rather large object up stairwells or into moving trucks. The absence of a good place to grab the sofa or mattress resulted in me dropping the item. So think of initiatives similar to a place where you are going to get a firm grip on your goals and wrangle them under submission so you can literally or figuratively move a rather large object.

Application: Small beginnings – think of 5 small actions that you could take to get the proverbial ball rolling towards your goals.

So let’s try to find some micro sized nudges that you could use as a point of initiative to motivate action on your 3 goals. Look at the specifics of your goals when you framed them from the vantage point of smart goals in Part 2 (Worksheet #2). Take a moment to review all of the details of your 3 goals. See if you can generate potential handles that allow you to take small achievable actions that are currently in your power to appropriate. Try not to think too hard about this and just write down as many ideas that come to mind. Here are some of the ideas I came up with below:

2020 Vision - Friendly frets guide to crafting your musical future 2020 Vision - Friendly frets guide to crafting your musical future

Application: Organize your chosen actions/initiatives

Let’s take this a step further. Take another glance at your list of small actions. Organize them into hierarchy based upon their chances of achievement within the shortest time frame. You could arrange them by how long it would take for you to take action. Or, you could organize them based upon your assessment of your own power or ability to complete those actions. Here is what my list looks like:

2020 Vision - Friendly frets guide to crafting your musical future

Application 3: Pick your top two Initiatives

This won’t take you too long. Once your nudges have been placed in a respective order take a moment to pick the top two choices from your list. These will be two actions that you could follow through on in the near-term and also are the most likely within your own power and available resources. Here are my top two below:

2020 Vision - Friendly frets guide to crafting your musical future

We can Schedule It! – Harness the raw power of the tried-and-tested calendar nudge.

Two of my all-time favorite Portlandia sketches are “Put A Bird On It!” and “We Can Pickle That”. If you have a moment take a moment to watch both of them to gain some context around this next simple thought. The calendar is one of my most potent goal setting weapons that I still reap countless benefits from. From my perspective, an action that does not have a time-frame attached to it is just a well intentioned idea or theory. A desired action is meaningless unless you place it in the context of time. Therefore, if you want to initiate a strong nudge just schedule it. It’s simple.

Application: Schedule it!

Now it’s your turn. Put a time-stamp on your top nudges related to your goals. Decide on a day/time that you will take action. Don’t forget to set-up reminders before that date to prep you for taking those steps. Here is what my items may look like below:

2020 Vision - Friendly frets guide to crafting your musical future

F is for the friction of friends – Utilize social supports to strengthen resolve and sustain your efforts.

Let’s consider one more aspect of ant wisdom. Ants manage to accomplish goals as a community by spacing out the distribution of work to various members of their colony. They coordinate their efforts as a group as whole. Like ants we can accomplish much more when we allow others to be part of our goal-setting efforts. Sharing our goals with others is a very effective way to garner confidence and support that will keep us on track towards completing our goals. Sometimes we run out of fuel and need the encouragement and wisdom of others that will help us push through the boredom and difficulties that are all part of the goal-setting life. Stepping outside of ourselves and focusing on others can provide a refreshing change from the usual clutter and “furniture” that is in our brains. We have opportunity to pause and give our brains a chance to be refreshed and reset.

The social support of friends also helps to nudge us to action by generating much needed tension and accountability. If you plan on sharing your goals with others then you’ve set up a potential precedent for them to check in on your progress. I know that I’m motivated to make progress on shared goals when I anticipate my friends checking in with me to see where I’m at with my efforts. I don’t want to let them down so I press forth. However, to balance that out, I also stand to benefit when I share my failures with my friends as well. When I share where I’ve fallen behind then I truly own my setbacks and will then dig deeper to figure out ways I can move forward.

Finding Support within Music Lessons

I have garnered a great deal of musical progress on guitar through my experience with private lessons. At the outset, my foray into learning guitar was completely self-directed through the use of songs and ideas I picked up through guitar publications. Finally, at age 17, I began taking private lessons and noticed a big jump in my growth. Honest feedback on my technique and practice approach was a missing ingredient when I was teaching myself. When in lessons I had to let my teacher observe what I could do on guitar and then listen to his pointers on what I could change and improve upon. This was really frustrating at first because I had to undo multiple technical habits that my teacher alerted me to. However, given time, and ongoing accountability, my playing improved as a result of making those suggested changes to how I played guitar.

Through lessons I also was able to realize several of my goals and also catch a much wider vision of future goals that i wanted to attend to. Initially my teacher helped me develop a beginning proficiency with classical guitar, rock guitar, and being able to improvise solo lines. He also helped me start to frame an initial understanding of music theory which equipped me to be able to write my own music. But, what was even better, was that I eventually opened my music filters to include wanting to learn jazz guitar so I could participate in my college jazz band. I would not be the guitarist I am today without that 5 year stretch of lessons with my first teacher. Private lessons were a safe space to learn, get inspired, and then become more effective and accountable with my practice efforts. It exemplified the social supports that you can also tap into and use as an effective nudge towards action.

Social support you should consider:

I cited my guitar teacher as a key support person. However, there are quite a number of different support sources you could consider for your own goal-achieving journey which I will list below:

  • Specialists related to your area of interest: Teachers, professionals, people involved in your trade of interest.
  • Groups that are formed around common hobbies or interests related to your goals.
  • Anyone who has a pulse and seems like a safe person to share your goals and aspirations with.
  • Influential people that you don’t personally know but wish to emulate (for me that includes musicians and public figures l hold in high esteem)
  • Spiritual support from an established religious disciplines, authors, or just the perspective that we live in a universe that is older and larger than ourselves.

Application: List your social supports.

Now it’s your turn. Take some time to think of all forms of social support you could tap into as you step forward with your goals. Again, don’t think too hard or edit your process at the outset. Just list as many ideas that come to mind. Here is what I came up with for this exercise.

2020 Vision - Friendly frets guide to crafting your musical future

Talk about it – Find safe ways to verbalize and share your goals with others.

Giving voice to your goals is another great way to nudge yourself into action. Deeply thinking about your goals is a good initial and necessary step in the process. However, you create even more inertia towards action when you verbalize your goals to sympathetic and supportive ears. In fact, you will create even more energy if you share those goals multiple times with different people. It forces you to really crystalize and refine your own thoughts and volition. If an aspect of your goal is still fuzzy and opaque then you, or your friend, might notice that and then you will be forced to further clarify what it is you intend to start working on. Use the next few applications as a forum to communicate and share your goals with your chosen support community.

Application: Create a 1-minute elevator speech.

Application: Videotape yourself giving that speech.

Take some time now to craft your 1 minute elevator speech about your goals and vision. See if you can keep it fairly brief and oriented towards the specifics of your goals. It might be helpful if you review what you wrote down regarding S.M.A.R.T. goals in worksheet #2 as well as the reframed goals you crafted in worksheet #3. Once you have a rough outline of your speech practice videotaping yourself describing your goals. Or use a voice recorder as an alternative.  Here is what I came up with for this exercise below:

2020 Vision - Friendly frets guide to crafting your musical future

Application: Schedule a face-to-face meeting to share to discuss your goals.

Use the nudge of scheduling to set up a face-to-face meeting with a chosen friend or social acquaintance to share your goals and give them voice. You could preface this meeting by saying that you have done a lot of thinking about your musical endeavors and wanted to borrow their ears to hear you out and offer their thoughts and feedback. If you don’t feel like taking a direct approach like this consider looking for a web or social media forum that would be a natural avenue for you to communicate your goals to the public. Here is what I planned for my hypothetical goals below:

2020 Vision - Friendly frets guide to crafting your musical future

Gift yourself with the Nudge of Evaluation:

One of the risks we face on our goal setting journey is getting off course or even lost. Veering off course or ending up in an unfamiliar place is a part of the human condition. We all have stories of how we set out from point A with the best of intentions only to not make it to point B. So plan on getting off-course and even lost from time to time. We can proactively build in a course correction in our overall efforts by clearly crafting a way we can measure and evaluate our progress. In the next two applications we will create an evaluation back-up plan and we will reach out to our chosen support people to share our progress with them.

Application: Write out a plan on how you will evaluate and tweak your efforts. Keep it short to about 3 sentences.


Application: Schedule when you will set up time to meet people to share the progress of your goals.

Take the time to come up with an evaluation plan to keep track of your progress trajectory. Keep it simple. Then use the power of scheduling and put a date on your calendar when you will contact your social supports to give them an update on your progress and set-backs. Here is what I wrote for these exercises below:

2020 Vision - Friendly frets guide to crafting your musical future

2020 Vision - Friendly frets guide to crafting your musical future

Part 4 Wrap-up

Thank you for taking the time to read my guide on crafting your music vision for 2020! This took much longer than I anticipated so it you’ve read my article all the way through I applaud you for your earnest efforts to learn about goal setting and vision. We’ve covered a great deal of information on goals. Let me tie up this article by emphasizing these takeaways:

  • Goals worth writing down and likely worth acting upon. Writing down your goals is the first crucial nudge you can take to act on them.
  • Process your goals from multiple angles. Think through your goals using the S.M.A.R.T. acronyms we discussed in Part 2. Think through all the possible setbacks, issues, and contingencies that may arise from you engaging those goals.
  • Be on the look out for small initiatives that are within your power which you can grab hold of to nudge yourself to act on your goals.
  • Seek out social supports and resources outside of your own knowledge base to help you with your goals. We have to take individual time to formulate our goals. After that we should look for people we can communicate and share those goals with.

My intent, though the worksheets, was to give you multiple ways to process and think about your goals. Goals that you think deeply about for a prolonged time-period are likely goals you will hold onto for the long-term – even if you sometimes take a break from them. Also, Goals that you deeply process and struggle with are ones likely worth holding onto and persevering with when things get rough.

Back to Ants – The gift of humility.

We are much like ants trying to make our way in a universe that is much larger than us. We have talked about ways we can put forth our best efforts to craft and complete our goals. Despite our best efforts sometimes the Universe will present different events that we don’t have the power or insight to control. It is my hope that this guide will help you on your journey. However, It is my hope that together, in community, we can foster humility by cultivating a deepening respect for the expansive universe we live in and do our best to keep asking questions, consider new vistas, and respond wisely when things don’t always go our way.

Following up on your vision

I hope that my thoughts on finding a 2020 vision have been helpful. Contact me if you would like to follow up on these concepts or further discuss what your music vision for 2020 will look like. As a teacher and I can provide you with active listening and feedback on your own music growth work. I can further support your efforts by formulating specific musical skill sets that would be relevant to the accomplishments of your specific goals and help you get to where you want to be going.  Thanks for reading!

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