Epictetus on the Role of Talent and Staying the Path

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

“Even if I lack the talent, I will not abandon the effort on that account…. We do not abandon any discipline for despair of ever being the best in it.” 


For the lion’s share of us, the guitar is a hobby.  We do it for fun.  We start because we’re curious, inspired, and believe it’s possible for us.  

But fun can be serious.  Like a child at play, we may make it personal and real.  Fun doesn’t always wear a smile.  Meaningful work is not always pleasant.

Most of us find obstacles and challenges on the journey of daily practice.  We hit plateaus.  We feel we’re spinning in one place without forward progress.  We may wonder about the long-term prospects of this pursuit.

And this is where the mind may work against us.  We may think perhaps we have some type of deficiency.  Surely other people have an easier time of it.  Should we change direction? Stay the current path? Stop altogether?

In these moments of confusion and possible frustration, it’s easy to forget the play.  It’s easy to forget our purpose and deeper motivation.  

For a rewarding long-term musical habit, we must make the daily engagement the number-one goal.  Regardless of how we feel we’re improving or growing (or not), the prize is in the moment.  

In any practice, we have the opportunity to set our chattering mind aside.  We have the chance to focus in on something specific and work to improve it.  

And this remains the daily goal, even if we don’t feel like we succeed.  In fact, we learn more when we fail.  The feeling of frustration triggers a release of the brain chemical norepinephrine, which primes the mind to learn faster.  

In truth, few of us will grow our musical abilities to a world-class level.  Most people at the highest level started when they counted their age on their fingers.  Getting to that level is not the point.  A satisfying, meaningful daily practice is more rewarding over time.  

When we abandon the need to meet a preconceived notion of success and instead immerse in the small daily challenges, we do improve.  But more importantly, we learn – about music, about ourselves, about the guitar.  And this is worth the effort.  

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.

These warm-up and stretching exercises are helping me a lot! Because I’m a software developer I have to stay 8 hours typing on a computer keyboard, so I use my hands a lot during the day. At night, when I have some time to practice the guitar my hands and arms are usually in pain because they have been working a lot during the day, but I’ve found that doing the warm-up/stretching exercises in The Woodshed releases me from this pain and I’m then able to practice after doing them.

You are building a very interesting and working guitar course, because for what I’ve seen so far it really works!


~ Ulysses Alexandre Alves

-Ulysses Alexandre Alves

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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