Seth Godin on Hard Work vs. Long Work

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

“Hard work is frightening. We shy away from hard work because inherent in hard work is risk. Hard work is hard because you might fail. You can’t fail at long work, you merely show up.”

Seth Godin

Learning guitar is what Seth Godin would call “long work”. It’s something we do over time.

We may have enthusiastic sprints now and again. But for the most part, it’s an ongoing personal study.

At first, it may not seem that way. If we’re just beginning – for the first time, or starting back after a break – guitar can appear a daunting hill to climb.

Likewise, at the outset of a new piece of music or a new technique, the road can look hard. And like Godin said, “Hard work is frightening” because we sense the possibility of failure.

Luckily, the journey is the reward. It’s the daily encounter that counts. It’s the regular chance to meet small challenges, to grow and improve.

There’s a saying: Mt. Everest never looks any better than it does from the bottom looking up. In other words, the payoff to tackling the obstacles isn’t some external reward. The prize is the personal endeavor.

The long game of guitar allows us to hone and polish our minds and bodies. We get to strive.

Liane Cordes once wrote, “Continuous effort, not strength or intelligence, is the key to unlocking our potential.”

It doesn’t matter whether we’re in our first year playing guitar or our 70th. The work feels very much the same. It’s always a matter of focus and attention. We set ourselves challenges just beyond our current abilities. Then we work at them.

Some days we rise and meet the challenges, some days we don’t. Doesn’t matter. It’s long work. Sure, we want to triumph every day. We do our best. But that’s all secondary.

Success is simply showing up – sitting down, picking up the guitar, and pointing our attention to something specific.

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.

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

Hi Allen, I am thoroughly enjoying your website and I find it is just what I need in my renewed passion for classical guitar. I have rediscovered a great love for this instrument and the music I can learn and play and it has changed my life for the better dramatically! Thank you for facilitating this process.~


~ George Rogers

-George Rogers

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