Learning a New Skill? Don’t Make This Novice Mistake

If you skip the basics, you’ll never get good

Mike Goldberg
3 min readJan 12, 2022


Photo by Jefferson Santos on Unsplash

Don’t let a failure of vision derail you.

When I was 18, I decided I was going to learn to play the guitar. I bought a Fender Strat copy and began taking lessons down at the local music shop.

I started with the basics, first learning open chords, picking techniques, and to keep me interested, my instructor would teach me a simple riff or two, like the beginning of “One” or “Ain’t talking bout Love”.

So far, so good.

I came in one day wanting to learn “Rock You Like a Hurricane.” Instead, my instructor said “I’m going to start you on scales today, because that’s slightly more important. Otherwise, all you’ll be able to do is play ‘Rock You Like a Hurricane’ on a street corner.”

He was right, of course.

But not long after, I heard a song on the radio called “Cliffs of Dover.”

I’m sure you’ll agree that in terms of guitar playing, the word “ridiculous” would pretty accurately describe it.

“That!” I thought to myself. “I want to be able to do THAT!”

To complicate matters, I discovered guitar magazines would publish tablature to several songs every month. Tablature is easy to understand, showing what fret to play on which string. Anyone can do it.

And as I perused the magazine section of the supermarket, that month’s featured tablature just happened to be… Cliffs of Dover. (Mind you, this was long before the internet existed, so you can imagine my elation upon finding this.)

So I made the fatal newbie mistake you knew was coming. I concentrated all my energy into learning this song. To say it was hard is an understatement. It was so far over my head, I had absolutely no frame of reference. It was beyond frustrating, and yet I couldn’t get myself to wait to tackle it until I was ready for it.



Mike Goldberg

3x Top Writer | Traveler | Real estate investor | Storyteller | Occasional columnist | I talk about personal growth and seizing opportunities.