Paul Virilio on Risking Failure in Trying New Things

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

“The invention of the ship was also the invention of the shipwreck.”

Paul Virilio

When we set out to make any change or addition to our lives, the odds are against us. Our habits and patterns are a powerful force striving to keep everything the same. Our innate systems want only the safety of the known.

This is one of the reasons that any great endeavor brings with it the risk of failure. We struggle not only with the task itself. We also swim upstream against our own homeostasis. We may try to sabotage our success in the hopes of preventing pain or embarrassment.

And we know this.

We know that new habits are an uphill journey. And this is why we usually put them off for “later.”

Even in our guitar practice, we may avoid forming habits we believe would benefit us. We may continue the way we’ve practiced in the past, just because it’s comfortable.

Perhaps we’ve wanted to start a practice journal. Or we would like to improve our right-hand technique. Or reading music, memorizing a piece, mastering nerves playing for others… There are myriad areas for exploration.

We often have these in the back of our minds for years, and still we resist starting. It’s work to start something new. There are so many things we don’t know. We’re almost guaranteed to misstep somewhere.

But the upside is worth the risk. It’s worth the effort. Even as we bridge the foggy hinterland this side of competence, it’s worth it.

We may well fail. We may have false starts or become distracted. Ships may sink. But this doesn’t mean we should abandon sailing.


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

This is the ideal starting position for me. As a relative beginner with no teacher this is helping me enormously in developing good technique and not falling into bad habits. I no longer feel (A) That it's a struggle to learn a new piece and (B) That I am alone in my endeavors. My advice is to try The Woodshed program. It is fantastic and will not only bring up your playing but his explanations of musical concepts as you go along put things into perspective.


~ John Andersson

-John Andersson

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