An Ikigai Example – Steve Vai on the Joy of Reaching Your Goal

In this Guitar Center masterclass guitarist, Steve Vai talks about success and how to achieve it as a musician. He touches on the importance of knowing what you want, practicing with visualization, the joy you can experience of reaching a goal and achieving a state of flow. All these elements relate to the concept of ikigai.

Steve is an inspiring example of someone living their ikigai.

Identify What It Is You Really Want

There’s three things usually that I find that are the most burning questions that young musician – one is: how do I make it in this business? How do I make a record, get it out there and get people to hear it and become successful?

I think the first thing is we need to identify with what it is that we really want because whatever it is, you really want, that’s what’s going to come out.The thing that you’re most comfortable with that you do the best because that’s what you’re going to do. For me, I’ve got strengths and weaknesses. I don’t work on my weaknesses. I ignore them and I cultivate my strengths.

Have a Vision

The level of achievement that we have at anything is a reflection of how well we were able to focus on it because the only thing that’s holding you back is the way you’re thinking.

Pick a song in your head that you’d like to be able to play, something that’s within your reach. Imagine right now that song, picture yourself playing it. That’s the first part of the exercise in achieving it. Now, as you’re picturing yourself playing it, imagine what it sounds like. Perfect. See and hear yourself playing it elegantly, beautifully. Whether it’s an aggressive metal track, whatever it is, but see yourself playing it from beginning to end perfectly with confidence. The more you’re able to crystallize that vision, the more you’re going to become a self-fulfilled prophecy.


Let’s talk about practice and let’s talk about spending time to reach your goal. Because I know the complaint. We have obligations in life. We have responsibilities. We have so many other things we have to do.

How do we find time to play the instrument?
I recommend that you pick a time that’s yours, a time where you shut off the cell phone, shut off the telephone, turn off the Internet and sit and focus on your goal. Whenever you get discouraged, go to the big picture. Go back to that place of excitement. That’s how you get to through it. You go to the big picture. If you go to the chief aim because it’s so crystallized in your head that when you know, when you feel like, “I can’t do this”, you go back to that picture, and you can see yourself doing it.

It’s Not Work. It’s All a Joy

Now you got to put the work in. It’s not work. There’s no work involved because it’s all a joy because you know you’re reaching your goal. You know what I’m saying? I never worked a day in my life in this business, I mean, with the guitar. I never struggled, honestly. I’ve had a lot of challenges. I’ve been through a lot, but when it came to my feelings about what I do and my success so to speak, he never struggled with day of my life because for me playing the guitar is my juice.


For me, playing guitar is my juice. – Steve Vai


Becoming the Music

So you break it down piece by piece. And if it’s a classical song, you go one bar at a time, then you go to the next bar, the next bar. Eventually you’ll be able to play through this piece of music. You won’t play it great, but you’ll be able to play through it. That’s when you got to stick at it, stick at it, and keep playing because at first, it’s getting your fingers and shape. It’s getting all that. Then once you own this piece of music, then it flows. Then, it’s like this whole other thing comes over you – it’s this ability to become the music.

ikigai example

About Steve Vai

Steve Vai is an American guitarist, composer, singer, songwriter, producer and three-time Grammy Award winner. He has recorded and toured with Alcatrazz, David Lee Roth, Whitesnake, and many other artists. For the last three decades, he has focused on his solo career.

Steve is a highly individualistic virtuoso guitar player, and is considered to be one of the great rock guitarists of all time. He has sold over 15 million records and is a brand ambassador for Ibanez guitars.