caesar hurry slowly guitar

Augustus on Getting Things Done Quickly

Tuesday Quotes are short explorations of music, life, and the daily endeavor of practicing classical guitar. Find more here. Enjoy!

“That which has been done well has been done quickly enough.”

Augustus Caesar (Roman Emperor)

Being in a hurry – this has been a human tendency for millennia. In the course of our everyday, we can easily feel hurried. We can feel the press of things undone. We smart at the pinch of time.

There are many reasons for this. We may not be discerning in what we agree to do. We may not organize our time and work well. We may avoid certain tasks because we don’t know the next small step.

Whatever the reason we rush, we often don’t realize there is any other way.

In the Alexander Technique, there is a concept called “end-gaining.” When we end-gain, we ignore process and the means whereby. And instead, we do whatever appears will get us to the outcome fastest.

This creates problems. For example, say we’re running late. We speed in the car. And in doing so, get a ticket or worse, making us even later.

Or we hasten to put on a shoe, and don’t untie it first. And so over time, we crush the heel and wear out the shoe faster.

There’s a saying: “Lazy-man’s load.” This is when we try to carry too much at once, instead of making two trips. And because we’re overloaded, we drop things or get sore muscles.

We tell ourselves we’re “working smart”, but really we’re working inefficiently. We’re trying to avoid the second trip. And in doing so make even more work for ourselves, and cause unnecessary damage.

In guitar practice, we may play too fast and lose accuracy. We may ignore mistakes and embed them deeper. We may fail to organize our work, and so not realize the gains that occur over time.

We’ve fallen into these same traps since the days of Caesar and before. The Roman historian Suetonius wrote “De vita Caesarum”, biography of the Caesars. He insists that Augustus reminded himself of this often.

“That which has been done well has been done quickly enough.”

Another similar phrase favored by his great-uncle, Julius Caesar, was “Hasten slowly.”

Before each practice (even the short practices), we have the opportunity to pause. We can choose to release any sense of hurry or haste. We can look at the work ahead, and create a rough or detailed outline of how we’ll spend the time.

Then, in each moment of practice, we can take as long as it takes to do things well and right. We can make the “means whereby” more important than the goal.

And in doing so, we reach the goal sooner, and at a higher level than we would otherwise.

Allen Mathews

Hi, I’m Allen Mathews. 

I started as a folk guitarist, then fell in love with classical guitar in my 20’s. Despite a lot of practice and schooling, I still couldn’t get my music to flow well. I struggled with excess tension. My music sounded forced. And my hands and body were often sore. I got frustrated, and couldn’t see the way forward. Then, over the next decade, I studied with two other stellar teachers – one focused on the technical movements, and one on the musical (he was a concert pianist). In time, I came to discover a new set of formulas and movements. These brought new life and vitality to my practice. Now I help guitarists find more comfort and flow in their music, so they play more beautifully.
Click here for a sample formula.

I practiced your system for three days, and it solved the I-M alternation problem I had been struggling with since I undertook classical guitar three years ago.  Many thanks!


~ Johnny Geudel

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