The Biggest Lesson I Learned In 2011


In episode 14 of the STG podcast (available to STG All-Access members), I talked about the process I used to review the previous year and set goals for the new year. One part of that was reviewing the top 5 things I learned in the last year. I thought I’d take a minute and share the #1 item on that list with you, because it made such a HUGE positive impact on my business and in my life.

The biggest thing I learned in 2011 was how to identify and deal with the negative “tapes” that keep playing back in my head…those “voices” that try to keep me afraid and stop me from living the life I dream about.

I know…I know…you’re probably thinking “Wow, Donnie’s hearing voices again!” The truth is that we all have this problem to one degree or another…psychologists call it “negative self-talk”. Alanis Morissette even wrote a song about it. It’s almost like there’s some kind of ENEMY sitting on your shoulder (or even living inside your own head), whispering self-defeating things into your ear, trying to undermine the bold actions you want to take to be more successful. I’m sure things like this sound familiar to you:

  • “I SUCK at being a guitar teacher!”
  • “Who would ever want to pay ME for guitar lessons?”
  • “I know if I try to start a business teaching guitar lessons, I’ll just FAIL, so why should I bother?”
  • “I can barely PLAY the guitar, much less TEACH someone else!”
  • “When a guitar lesson doesn’t go well, it’s always because I SCREWED UP!”
  • Etc.

These stupid, negative voices are just like “tapes” looping over and over in our heads. They got recorded way back when we were kids, and each one is a customized message designed to keep each of us from reaching our full potential in life. I know for me, the same tapes are still playing in my head that I used to hear on the playground when I got picked on as a kid…over 30 years later! I don’t know exactly WHERE they come from or WHY they exist in the first place, but I learned this past year that DEALING WITH THEM means the difference between success and failure in my life.

The good news

The good news is that the things on those tapes ARE NOT REAL and ARE NOT TRUE! Some of you really need to read that again, because the real damage is done when we BELIEVE that stuff. If you can’t tell the difference between the truth and the negative tapes playing in your head, you tend to believe the tapes…and you never take the risks that can open the doors for success.

For example, what would you do in your teaching business if you KNEW YOU COULDN’T FAIL? Would you start teaching group lessons? Would you expand your teaching business into a new location? Maybe hire someone to work for you? Whatever that cool thing is that you dream about doing, but have never had the guts to attempt…there’s probably a negative tape playing in your head RIGHT NOW trying to talk you out of it.

How to turn off the tapes (or at least turn them down)

I’m not a therapist or anything like that, but what worked for me was to start with just RECOGNIZING the negative voices for what they are. It’s not a valid fact about who I am or what I do…it’s not a feeling I need to act on…it’s not a helpful suggestion from my subconscious mind…it’s just a stupid TAPE. For me, realizing that simple fact is half the battle.

Once I realize this and understand that what I’m thinking and feeling isn’t REAL, I can choose not to believe it…not to act on it. I can dispute it with the TRUTH. And then, I can TAKE ACTION in spite of it! In the words of the late, great John Wayne, I still feel the fear, but I recognize it for what it is and choose to saddle up anyway.

Of course, I’m not suggesting that any of you do something stupid just because you’re afraid of it…make sure you keep your brain engaged in this process and seek out the wise counsel of people you trust. But in my own experience (and in the experience of MANY of the people I know and talk to), this is the single biggest thing that keeps us from being successful. We simply talk ourselves out of it…

 The difference between successful and unsuccessful people

I also learned that doing exactly what I just described is the real difference between SUCCESSFUL people and UNSUCCESSFUL people! It’s not about your money, your education, your connections or even dumb luck. The primary thing that separates SUCCESSFUL people from UNSUCCESSFUL people is that successful people refuse to listen to the negative voices in their heads and they ACT ANYWAY.

So, here’s my challenge for you: start making an attempt to IGNORE those negative tapes playing in your head and take some bold ACTION that can propel you to a whole new level of success in your teaching business in 2012. Yes, you will hear voices…yes, you will feel some fear…you’ll probably even call yourself “crazy”…just recognize those thoughts and emotions for what they are and let them go. You deserve to be successful, and the only thing holding you back is YOU!

A guidebook for the journey

I’ve been working on my thinking for a long time, but the process really sped up this past year when I started reading a book called “The 6 Pillars of Self-Esteem“. If you’re interested in working on this stuff, I would highly recommend picking up a copy for yourself. Special thanks to Jay and Sterling over at Internet Business Mastery for turning me on to this amazing book. And EXTRA special thanks to Kat Lessin, my Lifestyle Design Coach, for the guidance and inspiration to help me walk it out.


So for me, at least, the biggest lesson of 2011 was the realization that I’ve spent most of my life living in an imaginary prison made up of my own fears, and that those negative “tapes” are the prison guards, trying desperately to keep me there. If I stop listening to them, I can walk right out and be free.

What about you? If you’re ready to make some changes, then here’s your first assignment: leave a comment below and tell me a little bit about the negative tapes playing in YOUR head!


The Biggest Lesson I Learned In 2011 was last modified: November 24th, 2012 by Donnie Schexnayder


  • Daniel

    This was a well written and very important post. I think it’s probably the most common block to success. The mind tapes, aka egoic mind chatter, have made many a life miserable and many dreams unfulfilled.
    Another book I highly recommend that covers exactly what you are talking about, in a very in depth manner, is: Excuses Begone!: How to Change Lifelong, Self-Defeating Thinking Habits by Dr. Wayne Dyer. He calls these mind tapes “memes” and the book really covers the why and how of them, and how to eradicate them for good.

    Amazon usually has a copy for $2 or so. I would also highly recommend two other Dyer books: The Power Of Intention, and Inspiration. I know from experience that when applied, the lessons in these books will change your life.

    Thanks for all your good work Donnie.

    • Thanks, Daniel…I haven’t heard of the Wayne Dyer books, but will definitely check them out!

  • I couldn’t have written this better Donnie! Fantastic!

  • Stephen

    Good stuff Donnie! Thanks for the encouragement!

  • I love that analogy!

    It really is like this tape being recorded when you’re young and susceptible to negative conditioning.

    I’d say my biggest negative tape is that I’m not creative because my parents weren’t artists (I know, ridiculous!) and I didn’t draw, paint, act, or play music growing up. I’ll never be a great guitarist or musician because I didn’t start playing at a young age, I chickened out of going to school for it, and I’m not screwed up emotionally enough to play with passion and originality.

    I’m just a boring nerd who only played video games and dreamed of being a hero someday.

    What a bunch of BS. I took a magnet to those tapes.

    • Very cool, Kyle! I can definitely relate to most of those “tapes”…great job recognizing those and sending them where they belong. :)

  • Brandon

    I’ve def. had this issue to a startling degree until about 2 years ago. It was then that I decided to work on improving myself in many different ways. I’m still nowhere near complete with my ideal, but when I look backwards I think about how much I have accomplished and feel faithful about continuing.

    I’d say my career is something I’ve become very concious about recently, and am very fortunate to have done so right about the same time you started this website. I feel that you’re an honest person that I can always rely on for help and advice. I’m so glad to be a part of this community and wish you all the best with your endeavors.

    I have some good tips related to this post, btw. I remember reading the chapter on Auto-Suggestion in ‘Think and Grow Rich’ a while back. Realizing that it’s extremely easy to let negative beliefs and emotions dominate the mind, I wanted the opposite.. To allow only positive emotions and beliefs to dominate my mind.

    First figure out and create a list of the top 10 or so things that’re really important to you in life, then think of the most positive beliefs you can for each of these areas until you start repeating yourself. Google some info on creating affirmations to be safe, because how you state things to yourself is pretty important. The next step is to record your voice stating your new beliefs in a positive, energetic way. You can also have fun afterwards and use EQ, compression and effects. You don’t neccessarily have to be recording savvy to this, have someone help you or hire an engineer. There’re loads if free recording software and plug-ins too.

    Once you’ve finished your recordings, you then have a positive tape to replace the negative tape. Just make mp3s and transfer them your smart phone or i pod and listen to them a couple times a day. This is something I’ve recently discovered and so far it works well. When the bad thoughts come in you can quickly replace them with the good ones. Your mind will eventually accept what’s being given to it, good or bad and this is just a fun auto-pilot kind of way to help you get better results.

    • Great advice, Brandon! Thanks for that…I did something similar last year that really helped me.

      I wrote out what my best day would look like 5 years from now, describing everything I could think of about what I wanted it to be like…then I recorded myself reading it and listened to it every day for several months.

      I had forgot about that until I read your comment…I need to pull it out and start listening again!

    • Think and Grow Rich. Nice! I got hung up on the chapter about sexual transmutation haha. Good idea for the recording. I just wrote out a prayer-like mantra to recite.

      • Yeah, like every book, you have to “spit out the bones”…take the good stuff and leave the rest. :)

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  • I’ve certainly experienced this in more places than just running a music teaching business. It crops up in my personal life, in my music career, even in seemingly small things like deciding what to eat for dinner some nights. More specifically, I’ve experienced doubts with professional competency in writing, playing, and teaching music. Even though I’ve been teaching professionally for more than 6 years, I still feel the fear of asking people to pay me for the services that I offer. I know intellectually that what I give has massive value for my students, but whenever it’s time to talk turkey, I just feel uncomfortable; I’ve learned to push past this, but it’s still there even to this day.

    No matter what I’ve achieved, no matter how far I’ve come, these voices always seem to be there putting me down, heckling and spreading their lies. Some days they are quieter than others, but I can always hear them in the background. The idea of accepting them and doing it anyway is so true.

    For any of you out there that perform live music on a regular basis, know that by doing this you have already conquered the voices in one aspect of your life. Now all you have to do is bring that over to the other areas and you will be unstoppable.

    • DonnieSchex

      I still deal with this stuff, too…it never completely goes away. Successful people learn how to recognize the “head trash” for what it is and keep moving forward anyway. Unsuccessful people accept it as reality and never attempt anything to the contrary.