Dreaming of becoming a rock star? It’s been said that it takes ten thousand hours before you can fully master any skill. So learning to play an instrument, likewise, takes a whole lot of practice. Moreover, finding the motivation to put in the hours every day can be an arduous task. So how do you stay motivated? Since it’s Jamuary, this is our gift to you.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes


What does it take to become a real pro? Some say ten thousand hours of practice. That’s a lot of hours… Luckily for us humans, we live around seventy years. That’s about 613200 hours that we can spend on whatever we want. So what’s ten thousand in comparison to that?

But mastering a skill is not only about taking the time to learn something, it’s mostly about commitment. The hours spent on practicing a skill are the result of something called routine. Because if you have to rely on motivation, you’re not going to make it. Motivation is a dopamine enhanced kickstarter, a primal mechanism in the brain to get you started. It’s not something that can be maintained for long.

easy songs


If motivation is not going to work, what is? That’s simple, it’s something that you don’t need to get motivated for, something automatic like having lunch, checking your phone, or taking a few minutes for yourself to wake up in the morning. That something is called routine. Routine can be built up. Once it’s there it keeps you going, instead of the other way around.

Set yourself up to win

The benefits of creating a routine are tremendous. The bad news is: you have to put some time into it. Not ten thousand hours though, but let’s say a tenth of that. Actually, research shows that the time you need to build up a routine depends on the routine that you want to create.

The good news is: it doesn’t take a lot to get you started. All you need is to plant a seed in your subconscious system. You do this by setting yourself up to win. How? Easy, just pick a goal and strip it down to the bare minimum. Or as we like to call it: a mini habit. Below you’ll find five steps for how to do so.

Credits: Ronald Zijlstra

1. Create a goal

It all starts with a goal. What is yours? Is it learning a particular song, or a whole new instrument? Maybe you want to expand your setlist, or become the next Elton John. Whatever it is, write it down. Only this way can you revisit your goal, even when the motivation starts to wear off.

2. Be honest

If you want to learn the guitar like Jimi Hendrix, and become a rock star, then you have to keep in mind that those ten thousand hours are the threshold. What if you have kids to care for, other hobbies you love, or a job from which you come back totally wrecked during the week?

All those elements should be taken into account, and you have to be honest. Are you willing to give up stuff so that you can work on your goal as written down in step one? Be realistic, manage expectations, and remember why you started in the first place: because you really, really want it!

3. Mini Habits

The term ‘mini habit’ was introduced by Stephen Guise in 2013. He states in his book “Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results” that committing to something big like practicing one hour a day mostly leads to failure. Why? Because an hour is a really big chunk out of your day.

Guise says that if you create a task that is so small, so efficient, something that you just can’t make any excuses for not doing, your chances of success increase significantly. So instead of forcing yourself to play ukulele, guitar, or the keys for an hour a day, you can set a mini goal: playing three chords every day. This is something you can do even before going to bed.

4. Nothing is set in stone

Once you’ve committed to a mini habit, it doesn’t mean that it’s set in stone. You can always tweak it, make it better. For example, if you want to play three chords a day, but the goal is so easy that you always procrastinate until the last moment, just set a nicer goal. How about: jam song X at least one time.

It’s important to acknowledge that the real goal is to create a routine in which you incorporate playing your instrument on a daily basis. You can change your mini habit whenever you want, as long as you keep jamming, working towards your main goal.

5. Don’t beat yourself up

There are a lot of success stories out there of people that do amazing things. When you scroll through Reddit and see a super cool drawing with the subtext “Tried drawing manga for the first time”, or an eight-year-old kid playing Led Zeppelin better than Jimmy Page himself, don’t beat yourself up thinking you’re a good-for-nothing person because you can’t play “Stairway to Heaven” in the first week that you picked up a guitar.

Here’s a fun fact: talent will give you a head start, but consistency will make you a winner. If you keep doing your mini habit every day, magic will start to sparkle around you. Not like wizard magic, but close. You’ll see that those three chords you aim to strum will turn into a half hour jam, sometimes maybe longer. As long as you keep your promise to invest in yourself, you will reach your goal.

How to read ukulele chords

Get started with the Jamuary channel

Now that we’ve given you the pep talk, it’s time to get you started. Here’s a nice goal to set as a mini habit: play along with one song from our Jamuary channel every day of the month. We have enough cool tracks in store. Happy jamming! 

Photograph by Ronald Zijlstra

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