Bruce Lee guitar practice

Bruce Lee on Why Goals Matter in Guitar Practice

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

“A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.”

Bruce Lee

They say that travelers on foot on snow-covered plains will throw a stone in the direction they want to go. Then they walk toward it. When they get there, they throw it again.

With the white stretching far in every direction, they could easily veer off-track and not know it. The stone gives them a respite from wondering.

Instead of making a new decision with every step, they navigate only when they throw the stone.

In a land with no real landmarks, they create their own.

On guitar, we have infinite destinations for which we could aim.

But we often veer off-track before arriving. We become distracted by the next piece, the new exercise, the shiny new technique.

When this happens, we become confused. We sit down to practice and aren’t quite sure what to do. We dabble with this, then that, all the time wondering if we’re making any progress.

Bruce Lee put it bluntly:

“A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.”

Pieces of music, target speeds for scales or exercises, a formal method or program – these all give our practice structure. These goals serve as landmarks to keep us on the path and moving forward.

But what if we don’t finish the piece of music, or reach the target speed? It doesn’t matter. We still benefit from focused practice. And when we know what to do in advance, we can settle in and put our best attention on our work.

And attention and focus are the mechanisms by which we grow as musicians.

The Human Drive to Freshness

Of course, the daily experience of practice and progress is the reward. But we may still get antsy and crave some novelty.

It’s hard to “be good” all the time. So the tendency for many is to start a new piece or find a new exercise online. Especially if it feels like we’re on a plateau.

But this veering off-course cuts short the compounding effects of focused practice toward well-set goals.

So we find ourselves in a tug-of-war. One side pulls for staying the path. The other side pulls for exploring something new.

Here’s the secret: Instead of exploring wide, explore deep.

It’s been shown that anything we observe closely we tend to find interesting. So look closer at your current work.

Get curious about ever-finer details in your current pieces. Pay even more attention to your form, positioning, and movement. Listen even more raptly to each note – rhythm, tone, sustain, connection.

Exploring deep instead of wide keeps us on track. It directs our efforts to where they are best used for learning and growth.

That’s why, in The Woodshed® Classical Guitar Program, we focus on fundamentals first. And then we deepen into these fundamentals as a way of expanding.

It works extremely well for members. And it can work for you.

If you’re interested in being organized and strategic in your practice, and always knowing what and how to practice, it may be a fit for you.

Click Here to Learn More about The Woodshed® Program and Set a True Course Forward.

Regardless of your previous experience, age, or time available, you can enjoy more progress and more fulfilling practices.

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.

As I said before, I think your site is outstanding. I have spent my life teaching adults difficult stuff that they really wanted to learn but didn't have the time to learn at the speed we teach university students. Thus I understand only too well how many hundreds of hours you must have spent perfecting your lessons to make my learning as quick and easy as possible.


~ Mike Barron

-Mike Barron

Hi, Allen! I am so excited to have gotten started on your program! I just upgraded to a yearly membership. Thank you very much! You do such great work!


~ Linda Hansen

-Linda Hansen

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