voltaire courage practice

Voltaire on the Most Courageous Decision Each Day

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

“The most courageous decision that you can make each day is to be in a good mood.”


Learning guitar can be like taking a part-time job as a punching bag.

We seek challenges and strive to meet them. And this means constant difficulty and failure.

The difficulties are chosen, and the failures are small. But we still have to contend with them.

If we’re not careful, we can slip into patterns of negative self-talk. In our heads, we may whine and grumble. We may pine and woe. We may argue and fuss.

And these responses feel safe. They bolster our egos. After all, it’s not “me” at fault – it’s “my hands” or “my mind” or “my ________”.

When we criticize, we take the high ground and feel superior. We point the finger and somehow feel better.

So all the inner cussing is a defense mechanism for our egos.

But what other option do we have? After all, everybody does it, right?….

Perhaps a more useful attitude is: “Wow, this is harder than I thought.  Yippee!”  We embrace the challenge and know that success is (eventually) inevitable.

Author Brené Brown says that joy is the most vulnerable emotion. And to be vulnerable, even alone in a room with our music, takes an element of bravery.

This is why Voltaire calls optimism courageous. And he also names being in a good mood a decision.

Trial and error are necessary parts of the learning process. It’s a package deal.

But we get to choose our moods. We get to decide – in each moment, with each new repetition, with each new note.

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.

Allen Mathews was recommended to me as somebody who could help me expand my guitar vocabulary. Allen started me on a really fun cycle of lessons and practice. He is a very good and very enthusiastic teacher, and I feel that I'm on the road to learning. I couldn't be more pleased with my experience.


~ Peter Buck (r.e.m.)

-Peter Buck, R.E.M.

Hi Allen, just wanted to provide some feedback. Since I've started doing the exercises [in The Woodshed program] my guitar is sounding a lot better, with fuller sound, less effort. Its as if I bought a new guitar or got a new pair of hands (or both). Amazing my friend. Thank you!


~ Nusret Aydemir

-Nusret Aydemir

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