What’s that one thing in your life that you’ve always wanted to do, but never got around to doing? Maybe you’ve always wanted to surf, or ride a motorcycle. Maybe you wanted to travel to Asia or run a marathon. We all have our own mountains to climb. The mountain I tried to climb over and over again was learning how to play the guitar.
I have been an on and off guitar player for years. And by on and off, I mean mostly off. I’d pick up the guitar, play for a few days, maybe a week, and then get discouraged or distracted and stop playing for weeks or months or years. Then I’d get inspired, pick it up again and start the cycle once more.
But something happened last September that changed my entire perspective. I read an article about a 100-day challenge. The author challenged himself to ask for something he wanted – something he really wanted – every day between September 23 and Dec 31 – 100 days. His challenge was to make serious requests of other people.
I have heard of such challenges before without ever considering doing one myself. But something clicked for me when I read this article, and I decided to take on the 100-day year-end challenge. My challenge to myself was this:
Take on playing the guitar, for real. Play every day for 100 days. See if you can really do this. It’s hard, your fingers will hurt, and you may still be a terrible guitar player after 100 days. But try anyway. Commit to it. And do it.
And that’s exactly what I did.
I played the guitar every single day, for 100 days. I played through travelling on busses, vans and airplanes. I played when I was travelling between cities and countries. I played through laser eye surgery, and being sick while at the same time taking care of a sick child. I played through Christmas dinner and holiday parties and a million excuses not to play. I played when my fingers hurt and when my nose was stuffed up and my throat was sore. I played when it was 1:30 in the morning and all I wanted to do was sleep. I played when I thought I was getting better and I played when I thought I would never get better. I played every day for 100 days.
And now, this instrument that was so foreign to me 100 days ago is beginning to feel very familiar in my hands. Now, I can play the guitar.
But I learned something so much more valuable in those 100 days than how to play the guitar. I learned that if I put my mind to something and really give it an honest effort, I can do it.
This sounds like such a simple, benign concept. It’s a lesson that has been taught to us a thousand times over, from our earliest education. Try hard, practice, and you can succeed. But I never really took it to heart until I took on this exercise.
I’ve lived my life being good enough at enough things that I never really bothered with things that were difficult. If I wasn’t good at something the first few times I tried it, I didn’t do it. It’s why I studied physiology and business, instead of calculus and physics. It’s why I played the piano and not the saxophone. It’s why I’m a singer, but not a dancer. And it’s why I kept putting the guitar down again every time I picked it up.
What was missing was not desire nor determination, but grit. Grit is something I didn’t have a lot of in my past life. I would give up easily. I would say things were too hard, or pretend that they were no longer important, or find a million excuses not to do them. I would stick with what I knew, but I wouldn’t push myself to see how far I could go, and what I could accomplish with a little perseverance and a lot of elbow grease.
I started this 100-day challenge not being able to play even three chords very well on the guitar. Ultimately, this exercise not only gave me the space to learn how to play the insturment, but it gave me the time to form the habit of playing the guitar every day. When the 100 days ended, I didn’t stop playing the guitar. I’ve continued to play almost every day, and am now taking my guitar to local bars and performing with it in public. Completing this exercise pushed me into new realms that I never imagined were even possible before.
Finishing the 100-day challenge wasn’t just important to me because I wanted to learn to play the guitar, but I wanted to show myself that I could finish something I started. I wanted to prove to myself that I had the grit to get it done. And so I did.
Let’s talk in the comments below. Have you ever taken on a 100-day challenge? If you were going to do it, what would you do for your 100 days?