Marcus Aurelius on Fostering Focus

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

“Be tolerant with others and strict with yourself.”

Marcus Aurelius

Ideally, we only apply our ideals to ourselves. When we expect others to abide by our ideals, we are often disappointed.

As we study and learn our music, we create a system of ideals. We adhere to a set of beliefs and norms.

We subscribe to certain types of movements. And we avoid others.

We learn to play our music in certain ways and for certain reasons. And we come to prefer these.

But as we see and hear other players, we may see the opposite of our ideals. We may see high-level players doing things completely different than we do. Or different than our teachers tell us to.

Who is right?

It doesn’t matter.

These players have created their own set of ideals, and work to abide by them. They have the habits and movements they do because they have learned from the teachers they have. They have their own musical experience and history.

What matters is that we seek to understand and clarify our own habits. What matters is that we practice with intention and direction.

It’s been said that everyone is fighting battles we know nothing of.

The high-level player we attempt to copy may have serious hand issues. She may be struggling to change aspects of her own playing. We cannot know the whole story.

When we see other players, at any level, it’s tempting to judge them based on our own current knowledge and ideals. This is folly.

Do we know the principles behind what we see? If not, we will never successfully emulate the high-level player.

Or we may be right – someone else may well be better off if they did it our way. But this is not for us to say. If and when they want to change, they will, and not before.

It’s much more productive to direct our attention and focus to our own work. And allow others to do the same.

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.

Hi allen, it amazes me how good and precise your teachings are. The best thing I ever did was to download a piece of music from you and to listen to your videos. The enjoyment I now have from playing is ten fold. Thanks!



~ Tony Christopher

-Tony Christopher

I have to say after over 12 months of one-on-one training with a teacher before joining The Woodshed, this is the first time that I feel I’m making technical progress.


~ Nusret Aydemir

-Nusret Aydemir

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