How to stop negative self-talk

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If you can only spare three seconds, read this:

Identify and challenge the thoughts that you currently consider to be true, about the thing you can’t do…

If you have five minutes, and want some potentially very helpful context, read this:

Does this statement sound true:

I can’t do ‘X now because I don’t have enough money/time/experience/expertise… and this inability makes me unhappy.

Let me tell you my story

In 2015 I was living in the UK, renovating the first house I ever owned. It was a 2-bed detached house in a small town in Staffordshire. I chose this house specifically because

1. it was stupidly affordable compared to the south of the UK where I’d lived the previous ten years, and

2. it had a separate, part-finished building at the end of the garden that was ideal for a home drum studio.

My best friend Murph and in the background, the drum studio!

My goal was to build a home studio that would enable me to play drums without compromise – at any time of day, without any complaints from the neighbors.

As someone who was striving to be a full-time musician, having this space would be THE change I needed to realize everything I ever wanted – or so I thought!

So, I built the studio.

It took a few months, all of my money, and a load of hard work. I finished it just in time for my delicious DW Collectors Maple Mahogany kit to arrive.

At this point, I had an idea forming…

Now that I had the perfect home studio and the kit of my dreams, I could finally make professional-looking and sounding drum videos! I could make drum lessons and build a website to host them!

So I wrote out a plan for the first three lessons, called ‘Three simple rules‘. I spent weeks preparing and shooting the content.

However, upon watching the finished lessons, I was convinced that they weren’t good enough to show to the world – SO I NEVER RELEASED THEM.

I told myself that I needed to invest in better gear, I needed to be a better teacher, a better drummer, I needed better ideas, etc…

The problem here is that these thoughts weren’t based on truth. It was all negative self-talk.

This is a clip from something I never posted – my lessons have come a long way since this… but even so, it may have helped a few people if I’d released it back in 2017

This type of growth doesn’t happen overnight

We don’t gain a huge amount of knowledge, or make a profound leap forward with a skill in a single day – instead, with intention and practice, it compounds over time.

Specific to my journey with drum lessons, we also don’t research and buy all of the ‘correct’ equipment and software in a single day either – it’s a process of learning and gradually upgrading.

Like the vast majority of humans, I was struggling to see past the future I desperately desired vs my current reality.

I wanted pleasure, skills, and ideally some money in the present – not maybe at some point down the road if I continued to work hard.

So I procrastinated for a couple of years, unsure of a direction

Then – a big life change – I relocated to America with my wife.

We moved into a small rental property in the center of Austin TX. I had no way to play my acoustic kit at this house, so I decided – reluctantly – to sell it to fund the purchase of an electric kit.

I’d always told myself that I wouldn’t be able to practice properly on an e-kit and that no one would take my drum lessons or videos seriously. It had to be an acoustic kit or nothing at all – no compromise!

Well, here I was with no choice but to compromise

So I invested in a Roland TD50kv – the single best equipment investment I’ve ever made.

The kit took a little while to arrive so in the meantime, I decided to get a head start – I began posting ‘Ten Minute Drum Teacher’ videos on YouTube. I didn’t even have a drum kit for these! I was literally sat in my empty home office, demonstrating techniques and patterns on a drum pad, or initially, using just my drum stool as a surface!

I muted the negative self-talk – that inner voice telling me that all the conditions and equipment needed to be perfect. Instead, I just went for it with what I had available.

This is one of those Ten Minute Drum Teacher lessons.

These short simple videos, shot very quickly and simply over a few weeks, got me more traction and engagement than anything I’d released in the previous years. They especially moved me forward more than the ‘Three simple rules’ lessons I’d spent ages working on, and never released!

Over the next couple of years, I got my setup dialed in and began hosting live streams.

This grew my confidence and ability to talk to a camera.

Through this process, I learned a lot about camera settings and software too – and optimized my setup to the point where I could hit one button to have four cameras and audio all recording simultaneously.

This removed a huge obstacle for me – having the time and enthusiasm to set up and edit footage every time I want to record a lesson. It can be done with ease these days with an optimized setup.

Fast forward to my current situation – I run a drum lesson website that I could only dream of back when I had the ‘perfect’ home drum studio.

I have 100+ Masterclass students under my wing. I’m making a living almost exclusively from drum lessons at this point – and it’s all under very different circumstances to those I was convinced of a few years ago:

  • I don’t have an acoustic kit set up at home
  • I only practice on my e-kit for both TesseracT tours and recording sessions
  • All of my drum lessons are recorded on my Roland TD50kv inside my house – I don’t have a separate fancy studio.
  • I can shoot, edit and publish a drum lesson in as little as a day now
Home studio 2023

A helpful exercise for anyone reading this: Identify and challenge the thoughts that you currently consider to be true, about the thing you can’t do.

This skill, this business, this THING that you want, that you don’t think you’re ready to do yet… are you making assumptions and excuses based on negative self-talk (like most people) – or are you ONLY considering facts?

Quite often, the thing we want is perfectly achievable – you just need to consider the different angles and especially, practice hitting the mute button on the unhelpful chatterbox in your head.

We are at the same time our worst enemy and best friend – and both voices don’t always speak at the same volume.

You hold the power to decide who to listen to and act on though. Choose the voice that is based in truth and fact – not the one chatting brain-spaghetti-fiction.

The most helpful practice I follow to de-clutter my mind and arrive at the truth is stream-of-consciousness writing:

I open up a notepad on my PC and I just start typing.

I type even when I have nothing to type. I’ll literally type ‘I don’t know what to type…‘ – just keep the flow going and allow your thoughts to spill out onto the page.

When they do spill out – question them.

Is this a good idea? Why? Pros and cons. Will this decision affect others? Is this based in fact, or is it something I’m assuming? etc.

I have followed this process for some of my drum lessons – I’ve had a basic idea but felt stuck, so I fleshed it out in a writing session.

If you found any of this helpful or if the story resonated with you, please let me know. And please share it with anyone you think may find it helpful for their own journey.

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