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Ayn Rand on Getting Scared in the Learning Process


To learn a musical instrument is to know failure. Each and every practice, if it’s a good one, we try and fail over and over again. This is just part of the game. That’s why it’s called “practice”.

And as we explore new music and new challenges, as we discover new possibilities of movement and expression, we constantly face the unknown.

Many times, we don’t even know what we don’t know. We’re not yet aware of what “could be”, so it’s not an issue. As we progress in our music, we find more and more that we don’t know. Every time we get to the top of one mountain, we see more and bigger ones before us.

There is a period of time between discovering what we don’t know, and the point where we know it (or at least how we’ll go about looking for the answer). It’s in this interval – this no-man’s land of confusion and conscious ignorance, where we know we don’t know – that we face fear and uncertainty.

Here, we don’t know what the best next move is. We don’t know what to try. We may not even know what to research or who to ask to get started. We’re just “at a loss”.

This is where we must be courageous. We only need courage in scary places. That’s what makes it hard.

In our music, in our daily practice, growth happens as a result of challenge. We learn most when we ride the razor’s edge between hard and too hard.

When something is too hard, the answer is simplify. When we’re in the dark, we can feel around for one little bit that we can work on. And from there, we may find another little bit. Eventually, things become clearer and we understand what’s needed.

But to work through this process, we must embrace the unknown. We must become comfortable being uncomfortable. We must form habit of courage and a willingness to experiment until something seems promising.

In this way, inch by inch, we conquer first one unknown, then another. Until eventually, discovering new unknowns moves from bringing fear to inviting exhilaration.


“If you don’t know, the thing to do is not to get scared, but to learn.”

Ayn Rand









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 stellar teachers – one focused on the technical, 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.

Hi Allen, I am a Dutch guy who plays classical guitar (solo and together with a flute player). Unfortunately I have been suffering from focal dystonia since begin 2016. Of course I tried physical therapy which didn't help… But I tried some of your [technique] lessons (I had teachers before but I was never taught your techniques) and to my big surprise the nasty feeling in the back of my right hand which pulls my index finger upward was gone! So now I practice your lessons. Anyway, I am very happy to have found you on the internet. Thanks very much!


-Arnoud Reinders



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