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Lee Atterton of AuthorityGuitar: “Make a clear decision of what you’re going to do, and do it”

Make a clear decision of what you’re going to do, and do it. Complete it and you’ll gain major satisfaction in achieving that. Keep rewarding yourself mentally. That’s the key. As a part of our series about “How Anyone Can Build Habits For Optimal Wellness, Performance, & Focus”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lee, Founder […]

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Make a clear decision of what you’re going to do, and do it. Complete it and you’ll gain major satisfaction in achieving that. Keep rewarding yourself mentally. That’s the key.


As a part of our series about “How Anyone Can Build Habits For Optimal Wellness, Performance, & Focus”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lee, Founder of AuthorityGuitar.com


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

From around six years old I remember my parents playing a live album by Jimi Hendrix. The swirling feedback and dive-bombing guitar sounds literally changed my life forever.

One day, My mother finally found me an electric guitar. I used to plug it in and slide an old lightbulb down the strings in an attempt to make those incredible sounds. Since that period in my childhood, I haven’t stopped playing. I’ve now been playing guitar for over 25 years (and I still can’t play like Jimi :/ ). I play every day and couldn’t be without it. This experience was a real turning point for me.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

Like a lot of musicians learning their trade, I had heroes I would play over and over. My parents once said they don’t listen to The Rolling Stones anymore, as I’d played it so much from my bedroom I’d ruined it for them. I’d try to emulate sounds from Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’, I loved the sound of Neil Finn’s voice (Crowded House) and the power of The Beatles songwriting. The way in which Keith Richards and Slash looked when they played a guitar, I was in awe. I had to learn, there was going to be no way on earth I wouldn’t. I was hooked.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

Years ago I worked as a musician in a Hotel in Egypt. It was stunning. Holidaymakers from all over the globe would visit.

I was the resident solo singer and guitar player. I would rehearse material during the day with backing tracks, at night I’d play in various locations within this luxurious 5 Star Hotel. As you can imagine the main bar was full of happy energetic holidaymakers.

I’d recently decided to throw an absolute classic into my repertoire. ‘Jolene’ by the great Dolly Parton. I mean, who wouldn’t like to hear that tune after a few cocktails on a Saturday night?

The obvious issue is, Dolly’s voice is way higher than mine. I had the software to lower the key of the backing track. I must have spent three hours trying to decide on the key to sing it in. Every time I moved the key, I saved the backing track file onto my laptop. I used the laptop to play the backing tracks through the hotels P.A when performing live.

The night quickly approached, I was playing in front of hundreds of happy holidaymakers, the bar staff and the hotel manager were also watching. I attached my capo onto my acoustic guitar in the key I’d chosen previously that day. I pressed play on the laptop and burst into the song in the completely wrong key. I wanted the ground to swallow me up. It sounded like a cat being strangled at best. Do I stop dead or carry on and hope nobody notices that horrific noise coming from the speakers?

After dying several times i finally stopped and launched into another file, again the wrong key, my voice was all over the place. RIP me. I’d never been so embarrassed in all my life. And, in front of hundreds.

The life lesson here applies to all musicians and people from all different walks of life. Sometimes you have to make (huge) mistakes to truly learn from it. Be prepared, and be prepared again, never take any situation for granted.

The funny thing was, the second time I stopped the backing track, one guy actually clapped…everybody laughed. He saved me.

The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?

It’s all about your mindset. Teach yourself good habits. We all have habits, every one of us, even bad. There is no big secret. There is a helpful process of creating habits, and sticking to them.

They are….

The Cue:

The Cue or Trigger is the stage when you take some kind of action,’ I’m going to look for a guitar tutor’

The Action

This is the part where you book that guitar lesson or buy that acoustic you saw in the shop window.

The Reward

This is the section of the habit loop where the brain is rewarded for taking the desired activity.

These tips sound easy, yet a lot of people don’t complete ‘The Action’ and fail.

Get yourself to the Reward stage. You’re more likely to succeed in creating a new habit if you try these essential tips.

The human brain is a very powerful tool. Use it to your benefit.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

‘The Power Of Habit’,

By Charles Duhigg

I loved this book. It brings to the forefront the power of the subconscious mind.

You can spend a lot of your life in auto-pilot, performing behaviors without ever being conscious of it.

One way we can enhance this power is to repeat something positive over and over again. Then it becomes second nature and the mind takes over.

This was inspiring to me and really hit home as this fitted perfectly with me and learning an instrument. Now I can play with my eyes closed (and in the correct key!).

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

“What’s money? A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in between does what he wants to do.”

-Bob Dylan

Dylan has so many quotes worth mentioning but this one hit home with me. Money and material objects are irrelevant in life unless you’re doing what you want to do. A pretty simple message, but so true.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people

I’ve been an engineer for 12 years. Recently I decided I wanted to do something I have a real passion for. I’ve just started my own guitar site helping others to pick up and learn the right way. I feel it’s a dying art, myself as a musician needs to pass on some principles. If I can get five people to start playing through knowledge of my own, then I’ll be happy. I’m very excited by the challenge, as it’s something I love and I want to share the satisfaction I get from playing guitar with others.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. This will be intuitive to you but it will be helpful to spell this out directly. Can you help explain a few reasons why it is so important to create good habits? Can you share a story or give some examples?

Good habits are a way of improving yourself or learning a new skill.

You may be wanting to learn a new language for a job role or educating yourself on a new habit to improve your health. We all have moments in our daily life when we’re feeling stressed, anxious, or in pain. When the body and mind senses a threat, cells in our body produce chemicals in response. We can counteract this series by learning how to deal with difficult times by creating a ‘good’ habit.

As a youngster, I was a professional footballer (soccer). I have always been very sporty and energetic. The pressures of the sport were taking their toll on me, especially when it becomes your job and you have to perform at a certain level twice a week.

Learning the guitar was an escape for me. It is a form of meditation for sure. I needed that time to switch off my brain and go somewhere else with music. It’s amazing that now it’s a huge part of my soul and I can’t be without it. I couldn’t recommend it more.

How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?

I would say the meditative part of learning guitar has taken me away from the stresses and strains of life. The habit of sitting down and deeply concentrating on producing music is a form of relaxation and meditation. I’m no doctor, but I’m a product of 25 years of meditation as such. It doesn’t matter what background you’re from, what you are striving to achieve. Any form of self-improvement is positive improvement. I can almost guarantee if I’m going through a rough time, I can pick my guitar up and everything is forgotten about within that time I’m playing. It’s truly magical.

Speaking in general, what is the best way to develop good habits? Conversely, how can one stop bad habits?

Good habits and bad habits are created in the same way. It’s just that a lot of bad habits are constructed subconsciously.

The way to grow a new habit is simple, do not give yourself an unrealistic goal. Start with a goal that’s so small you cannot fail.

If you’re learning guitar, an example could be:

Sit in the correct position with the guitar, hold your pick, and strum all the strings. Get a feel for it.

Break Your Task Down. Keep The Tasks EASY

If your goal is to learn the E minor shape, start with memorizing where your fingers need to go. What fingers are you going to use? What work is required?

Arrange A Schedule

Get yourself a calendar and write down your schedule. This is a visual reminder that’ll help, especially if you hang it up in the kitchen, or somewhere you’ll see it often.

Create Your Environment

Make it easy to walk straight into your environment with no need to set anything up. Have everything in place to start within seconds of sitting down. Try not to store the laptop in a cupboard or a guitar in another room. Make a place for you to get down to work instantly.

Let’s talk about creating good habits in three areas, Wellness, Performance, and Focus. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum wellness. Please share a story or example for each.

It’s imperative to have some kind of good diet to assist the body and the mind. If you expect your brain to perform at the top level, you need to be eating for the brain. Healthy food, healthy gut, and ready to go fully functional cells. Eating poorly results in the body performing at a much lesser level. You are what you eat is the old saying.

Ideas for ‘brain food’ can be found quite easily on the internet. My favorite are smoothies. I tend to have one a day around 9 am. Whatever fruit is left I manage to make something. I love the taste of most fruits so I don’t mind mixing and matching with vegetables.

My number one go-to smoothy is made up of all sorts: Kale, spinach, avocado, coconut milk, and banana. It gives me the brain energy to write every day and feels good.

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

Reading through the process of creating new habits is easy. Like I’ve mentioned above, you can achieve it in three easy steps. The Cue, Action, and Reward. But wait, let’s be honest, life sometimes gets in the way, people do find creating a habit a ‘chore’ due to looking after the kids or long working hours.

This works for me: Before I go to bed I prepare my smoothie. I chuck lots into a little mixer and put it in the fridge. It takes two minutes at most. So every time you feel it’s time to retire for the night, go to the kitchen and prepare your drink. Once you’ve completed three nights in a row, you’re well on your way to creating a positive habit. The next morning you get up to a freshly made ice-cold smoothie. It’s underrated, you should try it. It’s only a small step but i guarantee you’ll feel more alert within 7 days.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal performance at work or sport? Please share a story or example for each.

Understand what is the best time of day for you. Generally speaking, people are at their best in the mornings, but you may be a night worker. Find the time when you’re feeling your best (possibly after waking up).

Are you a person who can concentrate for longer bursts? Do you work slower? If so, your productivity rate will lessen if you don’t focus for long enough. This is me!

I get straight out of bed and start working for a good five hours. I then stop for over an hour. I eat, watch some TV, then start again and bang another four hours out. If I need to tie things up later that evening, I will. This works for me, I have tested a few scenarios. I cannot seem to work at short snappy intervals. My productivity plummets if I spend long-drawn-out periods of writing all day.

If you’re a fast worker, your productivity period may be halted by focusing for too long on one task. People like this can work efficiently on shorter bursts throughout the day. Even a coffee break now and again can assist these kinds of people.

This is only a guideline, which most people fall into. My advice would be to try a few out and see what you benefit from. Mental fatigue is a real killer for productivity. Everybody’s different, see what works for you.

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

This is a technique I used when learning to play guitar:

I set myself a goal to learn something every day. A minimum of 30 minutes a day. I kept my guitar on a stand next to the TV or in a place i could always see it (i still do this now). The more energy it takes you to turn the TV off, walk into another room, get the guitar out of its case, tune it, find a pick… the less likely you are to do it.

Keep some kind of reminder in a place you visit every day. The fridge is a favorite. Leave a big piece of paper on the front of the fridge reminding you to do your task. My acoustic guitar was in my work van for 12 years. So i played it every lunch time

Reward yourself at the end of 7 days. You deserve it. Easy huh?

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal focus? Please share a story or example for each.

Tie up loose ends. That’s something I live by. Learn to start a task and expect to finish it on the same day. Leaving various tasks undone can result in you imposing a strain on yourself to complete them. I find having three or so articles undone really confuses me of what I should be doing next. It’s wasting valuable time deciding what I should do first. I never leave a piece of work undone overnight or for days on end.

Keep your meetings to a minimum. Gather all the vital information you require before a phone call. Make sure the meeting time is spent productively. Again, have a time limit in mind.

On the flip side to that, having drawn out long unplanned meetings only creates boredom for people. Well, it does me!

Ideally, focus on one task at a time. Give that one task maximum optimal focus. For me concentrating on three tasks at once reduces your overall productivity.

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

Use reminders. you can dot them around the office or workplace where you sit. If you’re always being reminded, your subconscious will take this in.

Start small. Use the smallest task, one that you cannot fail. There is your starting point. Don’t go jumping in the deep end if you can’t yet swim.

Make a clear decision of what you’re going to do, and do it. Complete it and you’ll gain major satisfaction in achieving that. Keep rewarding yourself mentally. That’s the key.

As a leader, you likely experience times when you are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a state of Flow more often in our lives?

Flow can be achieved through completely immersing yourself in what you do.

Going through life not really challenging yourself or mentally rewarding yourself won’t result in success.

Try not to spend all your time nailing every little piece of work. Knowing what to execute first is far more important. What’s the point in spending all your efforts on something that didn’t need to be done in the first place. Take an outside look in before you start anything.

Once you become the master of executing small meaningful tasks, you will feel the benefit of flow. One after another you’ll be knocking them down because you’ve done it 1000 times before. That’s why you see these truly gifted sportsmen and women continually reaching such high standards, they train every day and it becomes second nature. They master the small things first.

Give your chosen task in life full focus. The real key is, you have to enjoy what you do. But you have to work hard at the finer details first.

Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Learn an instrument! If everybody could spend 30 minutes a day learning an instrument, the health benefits are paramount.

From toddler to senior, it doesn’t matter what background you’re from. Jimi Hendrix once said ‘music is my religion’. You can see why with the calm and peaceful effect it has on people. A truly beneficial art form everybody needs to experience

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

As I mentioned earlier, I was really inspired by Charles Duhigg book on the psychology behind the Power Of Habit. I find this kind of subject fascinating. To pick his brains over breakfast would definitely be so beneficial.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

I’m the founder of authorityguitar.com, my site has just been born so come say hello.

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.

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